This week see’s the 25th Showman’s Show at Newbury Showground, Etherlive will be exhibiting on two stands (one indoors in the warm and one outside) demonstrating some of the latest event technology solutions. Press release follows:

For further information contact:
Becky Martin-Jones / Mark Hook
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk
T. 01454 629 741 

Cashless payments and next generation wireless infrastructure hailed as priorities for 2011 event technology

October 2010 – Etherlive is hailing cashless payments and next generation wireless infrastructure as the key innovation priorities for the 2011 events season.

The event technology specialist, exhibiting at this year’s Showman’s Show[1], is exploring new opportunities to introduce cashless payment systems.  This follows a pilot scheme this summer at WOMAD, which replaced paper-based crew meal tickets with electronic cards.  In addition, Etherlive is currently planning trials of next generation wireless technology in advance of next year’s festival season.

Tom McInerney, event director at Etherlive explains, “We’ve had a busy 2010 season providing core communications technologies to some of the UK’s most prestigious events.  We are now dedicating some significant time to delivering continued value and innovation by trialling new technologies including our 4G offering.  Having a secure technology infrastructure with extended coverage means that event organisers have a sound foundation for new services like CCTV, off site sound monitoring and audience interaction.

“Working with festivals such as WOMAD has shown us how effective cashless payments can be and we’ll be looking at new ways to apply this technology. RFID technology is ready to be deployed in volume at festivals and the installation at WOMAD was a first.

“These are exciting times for the event sector – technology has so much potential to make a difference to user experience, and the bottom line of the event organisers.”

Etherlive will be exhibiting on stands 67 and 168 at Showman’s, which takes place on the 20-21st October at the Newbury showground.

About Etherlive

A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, Etherlive is the one that makes IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, Etherlive makes connectivity simple.

http://events.www.etherlive.co.uk

[1] Showmans, 20-21st October – http://www.showmans-directory.co.uk/theshow.asp

WOMAD

At WOMAD in 2010 over 3,500 attendees used the Wi-Fi network, a 300% increase on 2009

Providing Wi-Fi access to crew, traders, exhibitors and production teams at events is pretty much expected these days from the smallest to largest events, but providing access to attendees is only now becoming a hot topic.

Even just a couple of years ago the technical challenges of providing large scale Wi-Fi were great enough to make it financially unviable. Couple that with the fact there was no demand as no one had Wi-Fi devices and it’s easy to see why the idea was in the backwaters. This, however, is all changing very quickly.

Three years ago the number of Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones was around 3%, by the end of 2010 this is expected to be around 20%, and within another year or so it is expected to pass 30%. These figures represent all mobile phones, if you focus on certain groups such as  the 16-30 age group or the more affluent then the figure is much higher. Alongside this there has also been massive growth in other Wi-Fi enabled devices such as iPods, iPads, Nintendo DSs and Sony PSPs. Factor in the demographics of individuals who attend different types of events and you find that at many events over 50% of attendees could have a Wi-Fi enabled device at an event within a year or two.

Wi-Fi enabled devices though are only part of the story. The other huge change is the growth in mobile Internet use. The smartphone growth driven by the likes of the iPhone and Blackberry is changing our use of the Internet at an incredible rate. In the US mobile data usage has already surpassed mobile voice traffic and the UK is expected to follow very shortly. More and more people now use the Internet primarily through a smartphone or ultra mobile device rather than a laptop or desktop computer and that trend is accelerating, with predictions of a 25x increase in mobile data volumes by 2012.

The Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are well aware of this growth and it’s causing them great pain because their networks were not designed to deal with the volumes of data predicted and scaling the network infrastructure would be very costly. Evidence of these issues is commonplace at any larger event where the mobile networks struggle to deal with voice calls let alone data. Placing temporary mobile towers onsite can assist for voice calls but it barely scratches the surface when it comes to data. What’s changed more recently though is the approach, a couple of years ago the MNOs were scared of Wi-Fi as they thought it would impact their revenue streams and so resisted any move to integrate it as an alternative to 2.5G and 3G. That has now all changed, with MNOs positively encouraging people to use Wi-Fi whenever possible to reduce the data load on their networks.

This leaves event organisers in an interesting situation as with more and more users and more and more event related applications and content, attendees are getting increasingly frustrated at the poor mobile service at events. If you look at the reviews of many of the festival and event applications the common theme is complaints about them not working at the event itself. Realistically the only way to improve the situation is to deploy public Wi-Fi as extending mobile capacity to the levels required is generally not feasible. Even next generation 4G is looking unlikely to resolve the high density issue and 4G is many years away from becoming mainstream.

So should organisers deploy public Wi-Fi? Technically it is a lot more feasible than a few years ago and providing a good quality Internet connection to users will improve their online experience considerably which is especially important if you are promoting an iPhone or Android application for example. However, there is a much bigger play to this as mobile users are sharing information and commenting all the time through social media like Twitter, Facebook , Tumblr, email etc. By providing public Wi-Fi controlled by the event organiser this interactive element can be shaped and utilised, offering new opportunities for marketing, sponsorship and revenue streams. Rich content can be delivered directly to attendees, coupled with online purchasing and increasing the opportunity of developing a ‘sticky’ relationship. It even becomes a crowd management tool enabling organisers to send targeted messages to the attendees delivering everything from emergency messages to ‘secret’ rumours.

In the large scale pilots we have run the data gathered backs these trends with significant usage and very positive feedback. At the festivals this usage has been widespread across the arenas and campsites throughout the day (and most of the night! ) and represented somewhere in the region of 80%+ of the enabled devices. It’s not all just about Twitter and Facebook (although they are at the top, accounting for three quarters of a million hits at WOMAD this year), there is the practical side too – news, bus, train, coach, weather, car share information etc. all of which help to spread the load of information dissemination. Couple that with event applications and premium content and the bundle becomes very attractive.

There is no doubt the mobile revolution is well established and nowhere more so than at events, for event organisers there is an opportunity to grab this area and shape it to their benefit.

For further information contact:
Becky Martin-Jones / Mark Hook
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk
T. 01454 629 741

Reliable Connectivity Makes Hot Air of Balloon Fiesta Safety Concerns

27 September 2010 – Etherlive has helped organisers of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which attracts over 500,000 attendees, to successfully manage their onsite telecommunications and broadband services.

Richmond Event Management (REM), lead contractor for Europe’s largest Hot Air Balloon event, had concerns over the communications systems used on the site. If disrupted this could raise security issues, or threaten communications between organisers and those working on balloons flights, posing possible public safety risks.

Chris Green, managing director at Etherlive says, “With the Balloon Fiesta attracting more and more people each year, the organisers wanted to safeguard their necessary communications to ensure the safety, security and organisation of the event.

“We were able to do this through the provision of wireless internet access and VOIP handsets to the core crew managing the fiesta. We also installed a back-up service in case of a power outage, and remote phone lines so organisers could relocate to the event and not miss vital calls or messages.”

Ben Hardy of REM, explains, “Dependable comms has become crucial to the success of a large outdoor event like the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. In the past we tried a variety of solutions, like fully installed phone lines, but these were expensive.

“We approached Etherlive, and its guarantee of a trustworthy system proved accurate, enabling us to fully control operations and ensure reliable communications between staff and those at flight control and our media centre. Etherlive’s approach was also more cost effective than in years previous”.

Chris Green summarises, “We’re pleased to have been able to help the organisers manage security and communication issues successfully for the events duration, and that our efforts aided to the smooth running of this year’s Bristol Balloon Fiesta”.

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, Etherlive is the one that makes IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, CCTV, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, Etherlive makes connectivity simple.

https://etherlive.co.uk

A well connected media centre goes a long way to keeping journalists happy at events, but all too often I see comments in blogs and on twitter about poor Wi-Fi, slow connections and network meltdown. We operate and support connectivity for many media centres during the year ranging from small rooms with only a few users to large centres catering for hundreds of simultaneous users, so I thought I would share our approach to delivering an excellent experience.

The Sky Media Centre had a main room and several breakout & broadcast rooms

One example I will drawn on is the media centre we operated for Sky News for the Election Debate Broadcast earlier this year which had some interesting requirements. It was an unusual event in that the centre was only to operate for about eight hours in total but during the peak hours around the debate it was expected that the room would be used by over 400 journalists, politicians, television and radio crews simultaneously. The brief also required that all access was to be wireless and that various ‘network throttles’ had to be used to block certain types of transfers and maintain fair usage across all users. Although this event was larger than the average media centre the same principles apply whatever the size, the main aspects of which are as follows:

1. The Right Internet Connectivity

This may sound obvious but the wrong connectivity lets down a significant number of media centres, you may have the best wireless on the planet but if the internet connectivity is not good enough the users will be frustrated. The most common problem is using a broadband/ADSL line for connectivity which for all but the smallest of centres is likely to be totally unsuitable. The usage in a media centre is different from typical internet usage in that uploading of data is more important than downloading data. Broadband/ADSL lines are designed primarily for downloading and have a very low upload speed, typically only about 400kbps. The second issue with broadband lines is that the vast majority of providers use a high contention ratio on their service, this means that even if the connection says it’s 8Mbps, at the exchange the connection typically is then shared with up to 50 other users. The busier the exchange the worse the experience becomes.

So what options are available instead? There is no straight forward answer to that as it depends on location, requirements and budget but the key thing is there are different options and with some up front planning the right solution can be put in place which can make a huge difference to the users experience. For the Sky Election Debate we had a 1Gbps fibre link with a second diverse routed failover link providing a typical wireless upload experience of 20Mbps per user (this varied based on the client device, an 802.11n client typically had 80Mbps). I’m not suggesting that all media centres need to offer that sort of speed but it shows it can be done.

2. Wi-Fi / Networking Equipment

Connect up a wireless access point, put it in the corner and off we go…which leads to a favourite Dilbert cartoon of mine.

Dilbert.com

Delivering a good wireless experience is not ‘plug and play’, but it is a lot less painful if the right approach is used. Firstly never use consumer or low-end business wireless products, they will not deal with the simultaneous usage and throughput required, it needs high-end business wireless products to deliver a good service and even then capacity planning is critical. Wi-Fi is a shared medium meaning that if your client is connected at 54Mbps (and unfortunately although 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi is promoted as having a speed of 54Mbps in reality this is closer to 20Mbps), that is a best case assuming no one else is using the network at the same time.  As soon as another user connects the available bandwidth is shared between them. Put 25 users onto one wireless access point and each user may only see 800kbps!

Providing good bandwidth to lots of users therefore requires multiple wireless access points, which can be achieved in several ways, but it requires careful planning otherwise choas results with all of the wireless access points interfering with each other. This area is complex and will make this blog way too long but a truly managed environment is the only way to deliver this successfully and that requires:

  • 2.4 GHz & 5GHz 802.11n Wireless Access Points – to maximise throughput and share load across the wireless spectrum
  • Air Time Fairness – to stop older wireless clients slowing down and hogging the network
  • Beam Forming – this is a technique that focuses wireless signals on the client that is ‘talking’ giving better performance and reducing the impact of interference.
  • Band Steering – to balance wireless clients between the available frequencies
  • Load Balancing & Roaming – to ensure wireless clients are evenly and seamlessly distributed across the wireless access points
  • User Throtling – the ability to limit the maximum speed of a client connection
  • Client Isolation – the ability to stop one wireless client ‘seeing’ another wireless client on the network

The wireless portion then needs to be backed up by good switching and routing, typically all running at gigabit speeds. For critical media centres redundancy in terms of network design and power backup also come into play. Other factors include authentication (username and password, shared key, etc) and breaking the network into mutliple ‘virtual networks’ so that different services can be offered to different user groups.

3. Network Management

Once the network is designed and implemented it would be nice if it looked after itself but in a busy media centre there are still more challenges. The most common issue is interference, particularly in the 2.4GHz frequency range (which is the most common one for wireless clients) as many other items use the Wi-Fi frequencies too – bluetooth, DECT phones, ad-hoc wireless networks, RADAR, microwave ovens (yes I’m serious, particularly industrial ones) and various pieces of broadcast equipment such as video senders. These sources of interference can wreak havoc on Wi-Fi networks. A managed Wi-Fi network can automatically deal with some interference by switching channels and power output but in a busy media centre there is often no option but to use a spectrum analyser to constantly scan and identify interference sources so that they can either be eliminated or avoided. During the Sky Election Debate 113 sources of interference were identified and dealt with!

Spot the wireless cameras - always a concern for Wi-Fi

 Active monitoring of the network is also important, this gives real-time information on the status of all the devices such as the wireless access points, the data passing through the network and how much capacity is being used. This facilitates making tweaks to the network before problems occur. It also has the benefit of providing a post event report with lots of data on usage.

4. Support

Having people to provide good technical support to users in the media centre is one of the best ways of keeping  journalists happy. For example the Sky Election Debate happened not long after the launch of the Apple iPad in the US so a number of people had imported them from the US and hadn’t got to grips with them yet, the support staff not only helped them connect to the network but also gave some basic usage assistance. That level of support is highly appreciated and tends to lead to favourable comments in the articles they write.

Delivering a good experience in a media centre is not without its challenges but those challenges can be overcome by using the right tools for the job, good planning and a technical team that know that they are doing. At the end of an event when journalists come over to specifically say “it was the best wireless experience I’ve ever had” then you know it was a job well done.

Etherlive approached C4L to provide a wireless leased line to support our backhaul connectivity for the Bournemouth Air Show where Etherlive provided free wi-fi access along the length of the beach to support an iPhone application launched for the air show this year. In addition Etherlive provided a number of organiser services such as VoIP telephony and internet access.

Extract from the C4L press release follows:

“C4L has set up a wireless point to point link between County Gates House and the Cumberland Hotel in Bournemouth in order to provide the Cumberland Hotel rooms, bar and pool area with Internet connectivity. Etherlive will be providing free Internet access to all attendees watching the Air Show from the beach, as well as giving the Air Show’s event organisers some key services, including a number of Wireless VoIP phones. This has been made possible by C4L’s Wireless Leased Line Service.

Matt Hawkins, Managing Director of C4L commented ‘When we were approached by Etherlive, we were more than happy to oblige to their request of our using our services to provide the Bournemouth Air Show with Internet connectivity. This is a fantastic opportunity for C4L to deploy our Wireless Leased Service to such a high calibre local event. The introduction of our Wireless Leased Line Service will provide the UK with an alternative connectivity option that can reach areas which traditionally have limited connectivity’.

C4L’s Wireless Leased Line service has been devised to address the ever increasing gap between broadband speeds in areas close to the telephone exchange, and those further away. The service has been developed via thorough research and by using C4L’s existing Internet Infrastructure. Wireless Leased Lines work by transmitting radio, microwave or laser technology frequencies to a receiver giving them a private, uncontended, high speed Internet connection. To provide a high speed wireless connection to the Air Show an antenna was deployed on the roof of the Bournemouth data centre which then links with another antenna on the Cumberland Hotel, allowing for connectivity within a three mile radius. C4L will be extending their wireless presence over the upcoming months to ensure maximum coverage across the UK.”

For further information contact:

Helen Stevens
www.ascentpr.co.uk
t
. 01454 629 741
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk

For further information contact:

Mark Hook / Becky Martin-Jones
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.ukT. 01454 629 741

Free Wi-Fi at WOMAD

21 July 2010 – Festival-goers will have free access to Wi-Fi internet at the annual World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) festival in July,  thanks to event specialists Etherlive.

Etherlive has enabled WOMAD to lead the way with introducing mobile technology to improve people’s festival experience. Free internet access will allow visitors to download a range of content and apps that have been made available by the event organisers.

Chris Smith, Festival Director, at WOMAD says, “We are constantly looking for ways to improve the festival experience for people and free internet access does that. It allows people to stream Radio WOMAD, keep up with the latest events on Twitter and Facebook and means that smart phone applications can operate well on the festival site.

“We are also offering a free WOMAD iPhone app which is available for download and offers features such as line ups and timings, maps to help you find your way around and the ability to buy music from featured artists.”

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, we are the ones that make IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, we make connectivity simple.

http://events.www.etherlive.co.uk

For further information contact:

Becky Martin-Jones / Mark Hook
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.ukT. 01454 629 741

Rock and wristbands beat paper at WOMAD festival

10 July 2010 – This month, Etherlive will be working with WOMAD festival organisers to provide the infrastructure for a pioneering pilot scheme that replaces paper-based crew meal tickets with electronic cards.

Based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, each crew member at this year’s WOMAD festival will be provided with a smart card, which allows them to collect food from the canteen once their card has been placed on a special reader.

Chris Green, managing director at Etherlive says, “The WOMAD crew were previously given paper tickets to claim their meals. The problem with this was that they would get lost or ruined, were hard to track and were open to duplication.

“The implementation of RFID cards for crew members will help to combat these problems by enabling WOMAD organisers to know exactly how many staff have claimed meals and who they are. The system will also help WOMAD to better manage their costs.”

RFID technology has yet to be successfully deployed in volume at festivals and represents a first for this year’s WOMAD event.

Chris Smith, festival director, at WOMAD adds, “A lack of reliable technology has stalled the success of RFID at festivals, but Etherlive’s commitment to providing permanent, reliable connectivity will supply the basis for success at this year’s WOMAD event.

 “WOMAD is an exciting test case for the deployment of RFID at festivals, and I believe it could soon be rolled out in other ways. This is the first step in the journey towards cashless events where festival-goers use their wristbands to pay for their drinks, goods and food.”

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to the Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, we are the ones that make IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, we make connectivity simple.

https://etherlive.co.uk

For further information contact:

Helen Stevens
www.ascentpr.co.uk
etherlive@ascentpr.co.uk
T. 01454 629 741

Showground to Extend Connectivity Services with Etherlive

The Malvern Showground, the home of the Three Counties Agricultural Society, is extending its onsite IT services for customers who exhibit and hire the facilities with help from Etherlive.

Malvern has rolled out a permanent Wi-Fi infrastructure for a number of IT services across the site to improve communications for events. The implementation, now in its third phase, includes a significant infrastructure for Wi-Fi internet, VoIP telephone lines, CCTV cameras, PDQ machines, and site wide access to the Three Counties electronic scoring system.

According to Nick Vincent, CEO at the Malvern Showground, the installation represents a first for this kind of venue.  He comments, “Showgrounds have long been in the shadows of large indoor venues when it comes to providing the very latest in connectivity and IT services for their customers – offering access to e-mail, secure phone lines and wireless payment systems are no longer ‘nice to haves’ for showgrounds, they’re necessities.

“Showgrounds are now waking up to the need for technology – and this recent investment demonstrates our commitment to providing permanent, reliable connectivity.  The team at Etherlive has supported us fully throughout the process with its expertise and practical advice.”

Tom McInerney, Events Director at Etherlive adds, “We have been working with the Malvern Showground since 2008 to establish the needs of its customers and the right technologies to support them.  The final stage of this installation will enable Malvern to differentiate itself from competing showgrounds, and offer event organisers the same level of connectivity and communications that they would expect from any first class venue.”

ENDS

About Etherlive
A successful event depends on great performances. From WOMAD and The Green Man Festival to Southampton Boat Show and the Three Counties Show, we are the ones that make IT work. Etherlive sits behind the scenes delivering reliable Wi-Fi internet, telephony, laptops, PDQs and interactive messaging. Whether in a field or a building, we make connectivity simple.

http://events.www.etherlive.co.uk

The Three Counties Agricultural Society is a registered charity working for rural industry, the environment and countryside life.
Committed to supporting farmers, growers and horticulturists in the region and developing understanding between urban and rural communities, it actively cultivates partnerships with the local and regional business community. Its work is firmly rooted in education at all levels, and it is quickly emerging as a facilitator and enabler of a variety of curriculum-based projects and effective teacher training placements.

The Malvern Showground home enjoys a panoramic backdrop in the shape of the famous Malvern Hills in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. It is a nationally recognized venue and welcomes more than a million visitors each and every year. Its own events include the national Malvern Spring Gardening Show (May), its flagship agricultural event, the Three Counties Show (June) and the Malvern Autumn Show (September).

For more information and a full diary of events, please go to: http://www.threecounties.co.uk