The advent of the iPhone two years ago was a game-shifter. Rich mobile Web browsers with wireless broadband Internet access (in the iPhone and its multitude of clones) are now in the pockets or purses of most business travelers. This opens up a range of mobile applications for meetings and trade shows.
Here are just a few of the applications emerging in this hot technology area—and many more on the way.
ChirpE from a2z Inc.
ChirpE, a2z’s mobile phone application for attendees, just won the Trade Show Executive 2009 Innovation Award. Registrants can use their mobile phones to scroll through the exhibit floor plan, search for exhibitors or products, view conference sessions, create personalized agendas, and more with this fully mobile, Web-based application. Throw away the paper conference programs and exhibition guides—ChirpE will improve on those “last century” forms of data distribution.
FollowMe from Core-Apps
FollowMe does much of what ChirpE does as an iPhone application (an app for the BlackBerry is coming). Because the application information is downloaded to the phone, it will work even when mobile-phone coverage is not available. FollowMe includes a GPS exhibit hall mapping tool (integrated with MapYourShow.com), allowing exhibitors to offer specials to attendees as they walk by, based on the attendees’ profiles. Exhibitors and conference organizers can send attendees PDF files through the system. FollowMe also has substantial social networking capabilities, including the ability to share a personal agenda with friends and an extensive integration with Twitter. Costs to the meeting organizer can be offset by banner ads from local businesses and exhibitors, with a revenue-sharing mobile coupon bar-code redemption program.
VisionTree provides several mobile Web applications for meetings, including ones that facilitate mobile surveys, group brainstorming, and attendee messaging. Other apps allow attendees to submit questions during a presentation, read the conference agenda and speaker bios, and receive announcements. If attendees do not have a mobile Web browser, VisionTree will lend them one during the conference.
Snipp is a simple text-message application for meetings. If you want exhibitor product information, the conference agenda, speaker course notes, or just about any other paper distributed at events, just text message a customized ID code to the Snipp short-code (76477–S-N-I-P-P), and the document will be e-mailed to you, reducing the need for conference and exhibit brochures.
This mobile touch-screen application allows hotel guests to order food, drink, guest services, transportation, entertainment, wake-up calls, and more using an iPhone or iTouch device. If you don’t have one, participating hotels provide loaners. Eight hotels, all but one in California, currently offer the service.
Pathable is a Web-based social-network application for meetings, with Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook integration. The system allows users to participate in event discussion groups, set personalized session calendars, and connect with people of like interests, among other features. What sets Pathable apart from many conference networking tools is that many of its features, such as networking and the personalized agenda, can be accessed via a smart phone.
Mobile augmented reality applications have been in the research labs for at least four years. This month MARA became a reality for the public. Layar has just released this application for real estate sales in the Netherlands, but it will eventually have much broader uses. Layar uses mobile GPS, mapping data, and a phone compass to add an information layer on a mobile-phone camera image (augmented reality). If you want information on anything around you (buildings, monuments, restaurants, hotels, convention centers, etc.), just point your phone camera at the object, and MARA will add a layer on top of the image, identifying it and adding a mobile Web link for more information. To see it in action, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=b64_16K2e08. This holds great promise for enabling business travelers and meeting attendees to “browse the world.”
Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, is a consultant, writer, and speaker, focusing on events and meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity. He is the only person to have received both Meeting Professionals International Supplier of the Year and International Chapter Leader of the Year awards. He can be contacted at his extensive Web site.