Home sweet HomePod

Clemi Hardie, Noodle Live
Technology
22.10.2017 15:22

Apple’s Latest Tech is Big News for #EventProfs

Over the last few years, Apple fans have had their patience tested to the max as the tech giants have repeatedly failed to unveil any significant new tech products. Finally, 2017 has broken the mould, and the impact on the events industry could be significant.

At September’s press conference, Apple announced a brand new luxury iPhone called the iPhone X. They claim it will be significantly different from all previous iterations of the handset and that it will set the bar for the future of smartphones. 

Earlier in the year, the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference saw the tech giants break with tradition and unveil another piece of new hardware – the HomePod. Rumours of an Apple smart-speaker with Siri installed had been circulating for weeks, so it was no surprise that this was the biggest announcement of the June keynote speech. But what will all this new tech mean for #EventProfs?

Following Amazon’s release of the Echo speaker in June 2015, the race was on for Apple to release their own smart-speaker. The Echo’s virtual assistant, known as Alexa, has become the tech industry’s go-to artificial intelligence agent. At CES in January, Alexa was incorporated into cars, fridges and even alarm clocks, so Apple, who have been developing Siri for several years, were unlikely to sit back and miss out on the action.

Apple’s HomePod isn’t available until December. In essence, the HomePod is a speaker that can play music, podcasts, news, traffic updates and sports. It can also read out or create reminders and text messages. But to understand the real significance of the HomePod, you need to look a little deeper.

Sitting on any surface in your home, smart-speakers such as HomePod and the Echo could become central control devices for a whole host of other tech products. Heard of the internet of things? The growing tendency for our devices and products to be online and have a life of their own results in the need for a central control system. It’s likely that Apple and Amazon hope their smart speakers will become just that – indispensible control systems that are hooked up to a range of other accessories, allowing us to access all our tech products and devices through simple voice commands. For Apple and Amazon, this is a battle to become the biggest provider for an entire ecosystem of connected products – not just a single speaker.

There’s a lot at stake here, and not just for the tech giants. If Apple and Amazon get their way, our physical environment will become a computerised world of its own. That has huge implications for the events industry.

As event tech providers, our team at Noodle Live supply RFID and NFC enabled name badges or wristbands for the live events industry. Once a wristband or name badge is enabled with RFID or NFC, delegates can simply tap various physical touch points to perform various commands. There are loads of really useful actions you can perform using an RFID or NFC enabled device. They include check-in, gathering session notes, swapping contact details and many more.

These actions make life quick and easy for delegates, but there are other hidden benefits too. Every time a delegate taps their badge they are supplying really useful data to help the event organiser gather insight about what was happening during the event eg. how many people attended each session or how many people interacted with a certain exhibitor.

In many ways, the tech we use aims to replicate a connected environment. Once the internet of things becomes even more of a reality, the whole process will become a lot easier. Effectively, it will be turned on its head, so instead of supplying delegates with NFC enabled badges, they are likely to be able to use their own smartphones to tap at physical objects and perform actions.

As well as the HomePod, at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference the company revealed their plans to allow third-party developers to begin using NFC capability in their apps. Android have allowed developers to do this for years, but Apple’s move towards opening up the new functionality marks a significant shift towards a more connected world. It’s still unclear whether the iPhone X will play a central role in this development, but we’re willing to bet it will come preloaded with all of the tech it needs to tap into connected environments.

At Noodle Live, we’ve always had a really clear policy around asking people to supply their data. At the moment, data privacy is a hot topic especially in the EU where there are some major legislative changes on the horizon in the form of GDPR. Data is one of the most valuable assets we own. As a result, you have to be really cautious about how you approach asking for people’s data. It must always feel like a two-way street. Personally, I don’t mind giving up my data, if I am getting something compelling in return. I give a lot of data to Facebook and Instagram, including all of my photos etc. because they give me a really useful service in return. That’s a fair exchange. Data is my bargaining chip.  

It always has to be a two-way street. That’s the same for events. We must never start asking people to give us their data simply for our own benefit. At every data point we set up, we must offer something in return. For example, if you want people to tap as they enter a session so you can monitor attendance levels, you should offer to email people session notes or the speaker’s contact details in return. You’ll find that people are more than happy to give you data in return for services that make their life easier.  

Don’t be fooled! Apple’s HomePod and iPhone X aren’t just cool pieces of desirable tech. They could be gateway devices that allows you to tap in to a more connected world.

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