After some extensive investigation Ray Shaw says meeting app makers are all on the wrong path.

BY RAY SHAW
ray@im.com.au

 

 

No I am not being flippant – lots of events are spending huge money on developing proprietary apps and ignoring a major new trend – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

First we must recognise that an app should not be about the device. There are many BYODs – iOS (Apple iPad/Phone), Android (like the Samsung Galaxy phone, phablets and tablets), Windows XP/7/8/RT/Phone (notebooks, tablets and Nokia Lumia/HTC and other smartphones), and BlackBerry (BB10 O/S and earlier Playbook).
The new and right approach is to develop a universal app in the form of an HTML5 ‘container’ (for want of a better word) that runs all things via a standard mobile internet browser. I was heartened at the MEA 2013 conference in Darwin adopting this approach by Crowdcomms (www.crowdcomms.com.au), and as far as I am concerned it’s game over for app makers who don’t go this way – or it should be.
The following are wish list items for the ideal app – and in truth all of this can all be done right here, right now on tablets and smartphones (apologies for any techie stuff but some will appreciate it):

Step 1 is for the venue to provide a good Wi-Fi connection (802.11G/N/AC) via a local proxy server. Using a proxy means there is a ‘local’ intranet server and this reduces external internet traffic (this is a vital but usually missed step and avoids issues like the internet being down). Of course this means the end of the traditionally crappy free Wi-Fi but delegates need more anyway – venues must up the ante on the speeds and services they provide.

Step 2 is to “geo-fence” the venue which simply means defining intranet precincts by room or area. Once this is done different services can be offered in different places. For example, it could track which sessions you are in. This gets over tedious barcode scanning and allows for great audience interaction i.e. the speaker knowing who is asking a question and that profile helps the speaker to respond in a more targeted way. Then extend that to the exhibition where the exhibitor knows what you want and can avoid spending your valuable time if you are not a prospect.

Step 3 is to push everything, information and services to the local (proxy) web – things like live presenter audio/video feed, slides, CV and papers. Savings on audio-visual equipment alone could pay for this i.e. no need for complex large video screens, audio speakers, microphones, mixers, etc.

Step 4 is to use the mobile device as a two way communication tool – i.e. a video camera, microphone (replacing roving microphones), messaging service (to ask questions instead of using Twitter), voting unit, auction bids, and to allow more interaction with the speakers and even delegates in that room.

Step 5 is to gamify the app making it fun, interactive and educational instead of just an information piece. Crowdcomms is well down the track there in increasing audience engagement by allocating points for answering questions and reinforcing presentations.

Step 6 is to extend the app outside and after the conference to include ongoing moderated comment boards, post event analysis, establishing likeminded communities or special interest groups, building content and ongoing information for the next conference.

As smartphone hardware and software gets smarter even more functionality will come:

  • Handwriting recognition and stylus will replace the on-screen keyboard
  • Voice command and gesture control will replace the mouse
  • Printing anything will disappear (all items will be digital)
  • Near Field Communications (NFC) chips will allow it to be a credit card and proof of identity as well as an attendance monitor at sessions.

GPS will allow geo-tagging (marking photos with location), geo-locate (find nearby shops and restaurants), navigate traffic as well as track your movements so that opens up new networking opportunities. Imagine that this Nokia HERE City Lens Photo had delegates instead of restaurants and hotels.

Everything I have touched on here can be done today. It is held back by slow internet and even slower Wi-Fi.

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