Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

January 2014

How Location-Based Technology Can Take Your Event to The Next Level

By Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor

making it easier for attendees to network, navigate a convention, and learn, it can also add a fun element to their experience. TapCrowd once worked with a client to develop a “QRhunt.” “Given the current limitations of indoor navigation,” Haneca said, “we rely mostly on QR codes that we attribute to a certain location in a conference or trade show.” At this particular event, attendees could “collect” various codes by scanning them at the booths. “When 15 of them were scanned, attendees could participate in a contest and win VIP tickets for a Formula 1 race.” The alternative would be using GPS coverage and giving attendees the ability to “unlock” the codes by checking in at a booth, sans QR codes.

In addition to gamification, apps like Guidebook and Icons help attendees explore cities that are new to them. By utilizing location-based technology, these apps help identify tourist attractions and noteworthy restaurants and activities within the destination. “You just need to tap over the monument,” said Joanan Hernandez, creator of Icons, which guides users toward major tourist attractions in cities without using any maps, “and you get that information right away. It is not possible currently with a map, because it will become a book if you put in every single piece of information for a monument. That's what people end up carrying, a book.”

To give attendees a more “lightweight” experience, colorful dots within Icons indicate to visitors their proximity to major landmarks. The dots change size and color as they get closer. When Hernandez launched Icons in Barcelona two weeks before the 2013 GSMA Mobile World Congress, he immediately saw a peak in usage. And during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, he saw another peak in usage of the London Icons app, proving that large-event attendees are finding these location-based apps useful and fun. “When people are visiting [a] city,” Hernandez said, “they need to know what to see.”


Apps locating attendees’ whereabouts based on GPS coordinates are just the beginning, according to Haneca and Lextech's Bratton. “We believe that location-based technology can be a true driver of contextual information,” Haneca said. “This would imply that only functions are shown that are relevant for the location and context of the user.” For instance, Haneca said, when preparing for a trade show in advance, professionals require different information than when they are actually at the show. TapCrowd plans to release apps that send notifications to people based on their interests and proximity to meeting rooms, so prompts for attendees can be made in real time, making them easy to act upon.

“We're really going to see [more apps] geared toward not just expressing preference, but more ‘Here's what I'm in need of, and here's what I'm looking for,’” Bratton said. “More of an active engagement, like automated matchmaking services for buyers and suppliers, but we've only just scratched the surface.”

Bratton predicts there will be more “smart agents” built into apps that are more acutely context-aware — meaning that apps soon will know not only your location but who you're near and what those people's interests are, too. He hopes the app used at EOH in the near future will be able to provide recommendations to attendees when they are within range of a session that aligns with their interests. “Not advertising-based, but something they're personally interested in,” Bratton said. “I really think the power lies in how mobile helps us connect and build a community, in a world where technology can sometimes cause people to be more isolated.”

Do's and Don'ts of Location-Based Event Apps:

  • Do understand your audience. It's important to provide the specific information that you know individual attendees will crave, and not bog them down with push notifications that are irrelevant to them.
  • Don’t impose on your audience. Don't ask for too much personal information or attempt to hijack their social-media streams (à la NY Comic Con). Give attendees autonomy within the app.
  • Do state the privacy settings very clearly for attendees. Make sure they know what is being shared and what isn't. Be as transparent as possible.
  • Don't roll out a brand-new app every year. Lextech CEO Alex Bratton suggests updating your app each year — maybe a couple times per year — to “push interactivity.” Upending and redoing an app every year will become confusing.

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