Simon Clayton, chief ideas officer at RefTech, asks if the Internet of Things has practical applications for the exhibition industry
The internet of things (IoT) has suffered some bad press of late due to the current lack of any security standards. Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, recently documented his experience setting up a $55 JideTech security camera at home. According to Graham’s series of Twitter posts, his camera was taken over by the Mirai botnet and compromised in just 98 seconds.
Whilst it is interesting to see how quickly a completely unprotected device can be compromised, this tells us two things. Firstly, that some hardware manufacturers don’t really understand security. Secondly, firewalls are good, but in the real world I doubt most users could connect any device outside of their firewall – mainly because practically no home routers would offer that facility without an in depth knowledge of networking.
That said, I think the biggest problem with a lot of these news stories is that they can easily fall into the category of ‘don’t understand – never mind’ and the reader moves on.
Hacking someone’s internet connected security camera, or indeed their fridge, may seem a mildly amusing thing to do. But if the fridge is connected to the internet so that it can cleverly buy you milk when you run out, then it might have your credit card details stored somewhere.
But there’s no need to be overly concerned. Aside from lots of articles saying ‘IoT will be the next big thing in the exhibition industry’, has anyone actually seen any specific ideas for devices that might be useful? I can’t recall actually seeing a single example of an IoT device designed specifically for the exhibition industry, but if I’ve missed something revolutionary I’d be happy for someone to show me.
A while ago, we introduced barcode scanners with real-time data verification. They aren’t actually IoT, because they weren’t connected to the internet, but a similar device could be. Our scanners enable exhibition organisers to immediately see how many visitors are in attendance or in certain seminar rooms so that they can better manage their events and the flow of people.
But we found that most organisers don’t actually want a continuous stream of data. We can, of course, report on attendance figures any time an organiser wants, but we find they usually only want an update a few times a day. There are instances where real-time verification can be very useful, like if visitors have to pre-book attendance for seminars, but we don’t get asked for that very often.
Our industry runs events, and events involve getting people together so exhibition organisers are out there too. They’re on the floor witnessing first hand how the exhibition is going, seeing how busy it is, talking to their customers and solving problems that arise. In our experience, they don’t generally sit in the organiser’s office monitoring figures on a screen.
It is true that data can be an effective way to back up our experiences – to give substance to our observations and gut feelings. But many people still do have a quiet, underlying mistrust of technology. They may look at the data, but there’s no substitute for heading to the hall to see how things are first hand.
As with any new technology, before it is introduced an organiser must ask themselves “what’s the benefit? What’s in it for me”. Any new technology must offer tangible benefits that will impact on a company or its events – otherwise, there’s no point. The IoT may have an impact on our events in the future, but it’s not going to happen for a while – which is, I think a good thing because I don’t think our industry has a need for it yet and when we find a reason, we need to be really careful it doesn’t compromise data security!