Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making inroads into the events industry, along with a raft of other new technologies. Miguel Neves, event comms expert and founder of Social Media Chefs, highlights the nine innovations planners should keep on top of

1. Smart remote controls
The days of the wandering mic at conferences are surely numbered thanks to applications such as AnyMote, which can turn a smartphone into a microphone at the tap of a finger. Connecting to a venue’s AV system via Bluetooth or wi-fi, the app allows delegates to control the gain, volume and equalizer, while addressing the crowd. Other apps that have been improving communication at events include Interactio, which streams live language translations directly to your phone. 

2. Facial recognition software 
Facial recognition technology has already replaced border guards at many airports and Zenus Biometrics, a US start-up, is currently developing the technology for use at events. Lanyards, your days are numbered. This may alarm people who value their anonymity, but those who are happy to sacrifice this personal data will likely be pleased with the technology’s queue-cutting potential.

3. Voice activation 
Voice activation is slowly creeping into our daily lives, as highlighted by the increasing popularity of ‘personal assistants’ such as Amazon’s Alexa. ‘I can see event apps being voice-controlled within the next couple of years,’ says Neves. ‘The real magic with this one is when it starts to be combined with other tools for booking and searching.’ This, Neves predicts, will enable delegates to register for events, book appointments and reserve a hotel room without having to look at a computer.

4. Chatbots
Using similar AI technology to personal assistants, chatbots can answer basic queries about events, such as timings, location and whether or not there’s parking. These bots can be installed on websites or embedded within Facebook Messenger and relieve planners from having to repeatedly answer the same tedious questions during the run-up to events. There are numerous companies that will build event chatbots, including Eventumbot and Technology Valley.

5. Augmented reality 
Augmented reality (AR) slipped into the mainstream with the arrival of Pokémon Go and has many useful applications for the events industry. First, though, an explainer: AR is technology that superimposes digital information onto a real-life image as viewed, say, through a smartphone camera. This technology could spell the end of maps at events; delegates would instead follow virtual signposts on their smartphones. There is also huge potential for advertising and sponsorship opportunities with AR.

6. 360-degree video 
This technology has been around for a while, but the quality continues to improve and costs are tumbling. Consequently, more and more events are unlocking the potential of 360-degree videos, which provide opportunities for immersive and interactive storytelling. As well as being a valuable communication tool, the videos also present planners with an opportunity to create immersive content from the show for those who are unable to attend. This allows the event to live on.  

7. Smart data
Events generate huge amounts of data – through registration systems, mobile applications and other internet-enabled devices. However, artificial intelligence is making it possible to analyse that data in real-time, enabling planners to provide bespoke information to hundreds of individuals at once. This smart data also allows planners to analyse their event – or exhibitions within it – in real time, which enables them to make modifications to increase engagement. The new GDPR legislation is likely to have an impact on the use of smart data, but watch this space. 

8. Instant messaging
Commentators have been heralding the death of email for some time, but it endures as the go-to communication tool for most industries. However, that may be changing as more and more of us migrate to the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which are more informal and less clunky than email. Their ability to support chatbots also gives them another advantage. 

9. Inflatable event space
They’re a decidedly low-tech innovation, but inflatables are transforming the events landscape – both literally and metaphorically. Erected in minutes, these pop-up venues can be used as conference theatres, breakout areas and bars. London-based Evolution Dome has one inflatable theatre that can accommodate 800 delegates. The company claims such spaces can withstand winds of 55mph too.