2014 will be the most exciting year on record for event technology.
The event landscape finds itself at the intersection of several technology megatrends - mobile, social, big data - that promise to reinvent the category, and to bring software to all corners of the meetings industry.
Historically, software companies haven’t cared much for events. The extent of their interest has come in the form of ticketing or registration companies, as well as the misguided, 2008/09 vision of online replacing offline, in events and elsewhere.
This is changing quickly. As the smartphone, The Internet of Things, and eventually, wearables overlay themselves onto our real world lives, the physical world has begun to digitize.
The two largest, physical world institutions now at risk for software disruption are retail and live events. Both massive industries. Both with technology fundamentals rooted in a desktop first era. And both with obvious, non-trivial problems that mobile can solve.
The headlines are already starting to hit. Apple is implementing iBeacon technology in all of its stores, as is Safeway. Mobile payments company Square is valued at over $3B. Uber’s mobile car service overlay is growing historically quickly.
Software is coming to the physical world, and it’s coming fast.
In the event space, it will soon be more than just a handful of ticketing and registration vendors writing the software systems of record for the category.
There will instead be hundreds of software companies diving into opportunities from beacons, to augmented reality, to event CRM, to audience response, to payments. The scale of the opportunities related to software arriving in earnest to the event space is so massive, that no single vendor can hope to have the best product in every category.
Event tech vendors will need to work together to ensure that event organizers have access to best of breed solutions throughout the event technology stack.
This means that the best registration systems will need to integrate with the most elegant mobile apps, which in turn will need to embed best of breed commerce and augmented reality and audience response systems, etc.
So as we enter 2014, my hope is that each of the vendors working on event technology remain committed to a healthy ecosystem characterized by each event organizer with open and free access to their data. Vendors need to hold themselves to these standards, and event organizer customers need to keep them honest. You simply should not allow vendors to charge you for access to your own data.
One of the most amazing, dynamic aspects of the events industry is that no two events are alike. Events are an incredible opportunity to try new things, to mix and match different features and services… to mash things up. More than many industries, ours is made for API driven collaboration.
It is only by working together that we can reach our potential in marrying technology and events to the benefit of organizers, attendees and exhibitors. Let’s see if we can make this vision a reality in 2014.
Feel free to read more of my thoughts on topic on Conference News UK.