There was a time when “convention center” was just another name for a building spacious enough to hold large groups of people. People gathered, shared ideas over PowerPoint, networked and parted ways. Cut to 2016: Today, convention centers are anything but conventional! They have evolved into “smart” spaces that work just as hard as the people who gather under their roofs.
Gartner estimates that there are 6.4 billion “connected things” in use as of 2016. This is up 30 percent from last year. Convention planners and participants are no different. All stakeholders—attendees, exhibitors, event planners and management—interact with each other virtually before and during the event. They do so using a variety of digital devices.
Smarter Building Management
Convention centers everywhere would like to bring down the costs of Building Management Systems (BMSs). Cloud-based smart building applications use sensors and filters to collect information regarding HVAC, chillers, thermostats, lighting controls, sensors, switches, and video cameras. A platform then connects this data to cloud-based services and applications for business intelligence (BI), analytics, dashboards, and other related applications. A simple IoT application that can collate data to the cloud can mean huge savings. For example, controlling energy costs is a high priority for most setups. Connected energy solutions can save precious dollars spent on peak demand charges to utility companies. Similarly, IoT-enabled HVAC systems can collate weather data, analyze it, and forecast energy usage.
Gone are the days of CCTV cameras monitored by a guard in a far outpost. Today, surveillance cameras are accessible via mobile devices, making for quick response to threats. In areas such as boiler rooms where safety is of utmost concern, placement of sensors helps in notifying building maintenance when temperatures or moisture levels become too high. An IoT-based app can create heat maps that track the quick movement of the occupants of a building so an alert could go out if, for example, several people are running away from a particular area in response to a threat. By placing RFID tags on equipment, management can keep track of movement of equipment, minimizing the chance of theft or misuse.
Inventory maintenance can benefit from an IoT upgrade. Embedded chips in everything from equipment to vehicles can enable managers to track their locations and take care of restocking and maintenance. Over a certain period of time, the collection and analysis of data could enable the streamlining of routine tasks, wherein sensors can automatically alert related departments such as the repair shop, tech store room, housekeeping, etc., which could then to pick up, replace, or replenish as needed. For the Food and Beverage department, this would mean an inventory of the kitchen, including refrigerators, cabinets, and pantries, thus providing chefs and managers with up-to-the-minute information on what’s available and keeping both attendees and exhibitors well fed and happy!
“Smart” Facilities for “Smart” Attendees
Right from the minute when attendees come to the venue, they can use their choice of digital device in many ways. These include getting directions, locating specific in-venue events, purchasing and use of admission tickets, e-wallet transactions, conference alerts, and participation in polls.
Foot Traffic Flow and Room Management
Exhibitors and managers can benefit from embedded sensors in lighting, signage, security, and crowd control. Sensors in meeting rooms enable the monitoring of parameters such as temperature, Wi-Fi connectivity, lighting, or seating, and these parameters can then be adjusted based on attendance. Systems can also be put in place for instantaneous back-up if problems are detected during a conference.
A study of foot traffic can help identify areas that people find more enjoyable in the convention center or paths that people are more likely to take between places. This in turn could help plan for services such as benches, information counters, and water fountains. Convention centers could analyze traffic throughout the trade show floor and set up booths accordingly.
For event organizers, this information could be valuable for advertising and product placement. Since Smart Lighting could be set up in any color at varying intensities without using too much energy, a convention center could conceivably “color” the exterior of the building with the exact show colors using connected LED lighting.
The integration of smart IoT technology can make convention centers attractive and profitable for event organizers and managers, while at the same time raising the value for attendees and exhibitors who look for a streamlined and productive experience.