Over the past five years, event apps have evolved from digital lists of exhibitors, speakers, and sessions into multi-faceted navigational tools, social networking platforms, and productivity solutions. In 2015, mobile app developers will continue to refine such features and functionality for attendees, but they will also turn even more of their attention toward addressing some specific planner challenges.
Facilitating event operations. Eliminating the paper binder is at the top of the event planner’s wish list, but it’s not the only wish. In the coming year, more and more tasks performed by planners—project management, room scheduling, speaker management, food and beverage coordination, budget/financial reporting, audio-visual equipment ordering and contractor management—will be addressed with mobile apps.
Dealing with data. A number of mobile app developers are keenly aware of the critical importance of event data to planners. A few use data collection and analysis as the leading value proposition of their platforms. In 2015, event organizers will evaluate mobile apps based on their ability to collect and analyze information, as well as how they integrate with non-mobile (legacy) databases.
Tracking attendee behaviors. Bluetooth low-energy (BLE), beacons, Wi-Fi fingerprinting and mobile device signal tracking are among the technologies that app developers will be able to leverage more effectively on behalf of event organizers in 2015. Knowing where attendees are, how long they stay, and how often they return to specific locations are data points of extreme interest to event organizers, both from a programmatic perspective and from a revenue-generation perspective.
Providing security. With hacking, malware, and security breaches of all kinds in the media on a constant basis, event mobile app developers (especially those targeting the enterprise event market) will be required to possess significant security credentials in order to be considered by organizers. For events that sell merchandise or educational opportunities via mobile applications, privacy and security will be of critical concern in 2015. Fortunately, leading developers are ready to address those challenges.
Choosing among apps. At the very least, event mobile apps fall into three categories: conference directory apps that offer event organizers a variety of features and benefits; stand-alone apps (event check-in, room setup, technology site selection) that solve very specific problems; and mobile extensions of legacy event management systems (registration, booth sales, lead retrieval). In 2015, the entrants into all three categories will increase in number driven by advances in cloud technology and the popularity and availability of personal mobile devices.
As 2015 kicks off, mobile applications have become a significant component of the event ecosystem. While they were introduced as enhancements to the attendee experience initially, they have the potential to evolve into critical planning tools for the event organizer as well. The question going forward is whether conference directory app developers, those that have an existing foothold in the market, will add more features and benefits for event organizers or stand-alone app developers will emerge to address the opportunities making the choices for buyers even more numerous and difficult.