GDPR, CCTV and EventsIs this yet another GDPR article? Yes, but before you click on past, this article is a bit more specific, focussing on Event Organisers and a few important aspects relating to them.

If you have somehow managed to miss the basics here is a quick recap (otherwise skip the next two paragraphs). GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, comes into force on May 28th 2018 and is as dull as the name suggests but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. GDPR is, in effect, a beefier version of the Data Protection Act and there are some significant aspects which have changed.

First off, the fines if you are found to be breaching the regulations could be huge – up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover (up to €20 million). Secondly, the onus with GDPR is focussed much more on how and why, with supporting documentation – no more simply ticking a box to say you comply. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, with GDPR there is much more appetite to enforce, along with more resources to audit.

Nearly all of the material currently circulating is focussed around the more obvious areas of customer, supplier and employee data; everything from email addresses to bank accounts and the harvesting of information from websites, social media and direct mail campaigns. This is all valid and needs to be considered seriously, however, for events there are some additional areas which could too easily be overlooked.

CCTV

CCTV is not necessarily something that initially comes to mind when it comes to GDPR but it is very much part of it. The holding and releasing of CCTV footage is already well controlled but the new regulations go much further requiring information on camera placement, field of view and reasoning for coverage needed, coupled with proof of deployment and signage. This is a significant uplift for events compared to the current approach and will need to be factored into planning and deployment from the start.

It is also important to note that ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), drone and body-worn cameras will all need to be assessed too.

In practical terms, we are now expecting all temporary CCTV installations at events to undergo an audit during the build phase documenting the camera locations and reasoning for those locations. Field of view into public areas external to the event is especially important.

Agreement on how long footage is held for, the release process and who can receive the footage will also need to be under much tighter control.

Public Internet Access

Many events allow public access to the internet on an event Wi-Fi network after a ‘splash page’ which may capture details such as an email address to be used after the event to send marketing information. In the future this information is more controlled and must use explicit ‘opt-in’ clauses before the email address can be used.

Even the logging of an IP address (the identifier used when a device connects to the network) coupled with the user information is governed by GDPR, however, this information is required to be stored under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (aka the Snoopers’ Charter) so the way it is stored and who has access to it is very important.

For events which offer public internet access the method of access and what information is captured and stored will need to be reviewed, with likely changes to the Terms & Conditions and opt-in statements.

Supplier & Volunteer Registration Systems

Employee and customer data is called out in nearly all GDPR overviews but it is important to remember that GDPR covers all data including anything recorded for suppliers and volunteers. Any system (paper or electronic) which stores personal information must be assessed including aspects such as what information is stored, where it is stored, how it is stored, how it is used, how the owner can remove it and who has access.

Visitor/Attendee Information

Any personally identifiable information gathered on attendees, such as an email address falls under the same regulations – this could be via initial ticket purchase, attendee registration or at the event itself. Particular attention must be paid to any direct marketing as the attendee must explicitly opt in to any future communications and have means to update or remove their information.

Many of these areas are likely to require a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), this is a new tool and process which must be used when new technology is used or when there is high risk to individuals.

The new regulations also broaden the scope of ‘personal information’ to cover just about everything from a name, email or social information through to genetic, economic and cultural information. The holding of this information has to be shown to have positive, clear consent from the individual using ‘plain English’ type agreements.

An individual must be given the ability to view and update information, and importantly has the right ‘to be forgotten’, which means complete removal from all systems.

These changes may initially look very onerous, however, a lot can be covered by a sensible review and improvements to existing processes. The important thing is not to ignore it – the changes are coming and a lack of preparation will not be a defence if you are found to be in breach.

For events we work on we will be working closely with organisers to assist and make sure all aspects are covered, providing templates and guidance wherever possible. If you would like to discuss any aspect of GDPR impact on your event then please contact us and we will be happy to help.

No Wi-Fi HereAnother week, another big event, another twitter stream full of complaints about Wi-Fi. Rightly or wrongly Wi-Fi is touted above food, toilets, queuing, decoration and just about everything else as being critical to an event. It’s been the same for several years now with seemingly little progress, how can that be the case?

The first response is typically to blame the technology and there are certainly plenty of cases where poor designs and implementations are part of the problem. Building an effective, reliable and performing wired and wireless network is complex but not impossible. These days the main issues tend to lie elsewhere.

The first issue is cost. Delivering a true high capacity, high density network requires significant investment with a large chunk of the cost down to the internet bandwidth required. The price of low quality consumer bandwidth like ADSL and FTTC may be at an all time low but high capacity business quality fibre circuits are still very expensive, especially for short term use. The usage patterns of the attendees have also changed over the last few years with current demand as much about upload as download which, coupled with richer content, all continue to drive demand for more bandwidth.

You can provide the best Wi-Fi on the planet but if it isn’t backed up by the appropriate internet bandwidth then users will have a poor experience. There is no magic here, if you want 10,000 users to have a good experience you need multiple high capacity business grade links, yet most organisers see the cost of this bandwidth as top of the list for cutting, well above other items which ironically users complain far less about.

The second problem is particularly significant in the exhibition and conference areas – rogue Wi-Fi. The Achilles heal of Wi-Fi is its unlicensed nature, which on one hand has allowed Wi-Fi to become pervasive across the globe rapidly but on the other hand is slowly killing it. Wi-Fi currently operates at two relatively narrow frequency bands – 2.4GHz and 5GHz. These two bands are divided into a number of channels which are shared by all Wi-Fi (and some other) devices. The problem is there are not enough channels available, especially at 2.4GHz so in a high density environment managing the channels which are available is critical to success. That in itself is hard enough but now add in all the exhibitors who have brought in their own Wi-Fi access points, then all the Mi-Fi devices and to top it off all the Bluetooth noise (which also operates at 2.4GHz) and you end up with a large conference hall with thousands of devices all shouting at each other to the point no one can be heard because it is just a mass of interference.

The idea that all of these devices can share the wireless spectrum effectively is simply not true in a dense environment. To make matters worse it’s a vicious circle – the more often an attendee or exhibitor has a bad experience the more likely they are to bring their own device next time further adding to the problem. Even worse is that every new Mi-Fi device has a little more power and those with their own Wi-Fi think more power and more access points will make things better raising the interference and noise further.

Those who work in this area have known for some time that 2.4GHz as a client access frequency at an event was a lost cause and the only hope was to move people to 5GHz as laptops, tablets and smartphones increasingly supported it. The extra channel capacity at 5GHz, no Bluetooth interference and fewer 5GHz Mi-Fi devices made for ‘cleaner’ air, unfortunately that is rapidly changing and soon 5GHz will be as crowded as 2.4GHz.

There are only a couple of solutions to this problem, the first is long term and probably unlikely. Wi-Fi needs more spectrum and there are various discussions and proposals for increasing the spectrum available but it also needs to be managed – separating consumer type devices away from lightly licensed professional frequencies so that each has its own space. This will not happen quickly and would take many years to trickle down through devices but it could be the long term nirvana to truly offer a reliable Wi-Fi service.

The second solution is not really technical at all, it just requires event organisers to listen to and take seriously what event IT companies have been saying for years – the Wi-Fi spectrum at events must be managed. In the broadcast arena spectrum management has been taken seriously for years and it works very well. If we want event Wi-Fi to work then the same approach must be used. That means taking a hard line when an exhibitor wants to use their own device – it has to be pre-approved with specific parameters or rejected, and the agreement has to be enforced. No more rogue Wi-Fi it ruins experience for everyone.

This is easy to say, it requires trust that an official provider is going to deliver a good service and I appreciate it is hard to enforce requiring support from all levels but it can be done (we have examples) and the difference it makes is considerable and everyone gets a working service. It doesn’t fix everything but unless something is done across the industry to support this approach then paying money out for Wi-Fi is pointless and frustrates users more than if there was no Wi-Fi at all.

As the events industry continues to compete in challenging economic conditions, our session on leveraging technology to create new revenue opportunities created a lot of interest during Confex last month. Over 50 people attended, hoping to understand how they can maximise the use of what, in most cases, they already have.

We started the session discussing the event ‘Jenga’ tower – this simple approach helps organisers understand the importance of the foundation and building blocks before adding revenue related solutions. Without the stable foundation blocks of connectivity and networking in place – just like Jenga – the tower is likely to fall when you add more weight (or in this case products) to the top.

We presented that the best ways to get a stable foundation include asking the right questions of a venue (see our 10 critical questions here), talking with experts on the actual requirements and placing orders early (often saving money).

With a solid foundation in place the opportunities then breakdown into several key areas:

Maximising content – If your event involves presentations or discussions, stream the content for free over services such as ustream or for internal events check if the organisation has a method to allow sharing of video. Publishing the content for free can be done with advertising subsidy but if you want to charge that’s also possible. Either method will allow those who can’t travel to join in.

Increasing exposure for sponsors – In addition to the normal sponsor opportunities technology can add more exposure and record those who use it. For example offering a free Wi-Fi hotspot to attendees for their email and a few other key bits of information (like post code) allows the collection of data for providing a service. A hotspot in one specific area will limit the investment needed.

The Smart Event

The Smart Event

Cashless/Contactless technology – Contactless systems allows payments to be processed quicker. This could be a ‘closed loop’ system like a token or loyalty system which enables the event to offer reduced rates and therefore collect data on what’s being consumed. ‘Open loop’ systems such as those with Visa or MasterCard enable reduced transaction times and drive up spend.

Exposure to social media systems – Allow attendees to check in to locations or use QR codes to download content immediately. Linking with social systems enables free exposure to the attendee’s networks such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn enabling your event to be exposed to people who may work in similar industries or have similar interests.

Smart applications – Apps continue to be expected for many events, allowing access to speaker’s biographies, voting functions, live Q&A and pretty much anything that can be imagined.

The audience at Confex asked good questions, for example; how much are things like splash pages worth to sponsors? Which of course depends on the exposure and type of audience. There was also interest in what information is available to help with new technology topics. A great resource is the ESSA technical guide available to all members.

A $500 million event that happens once a year watched by 111.3 million people, supported by some of the world’s biggest sponsors, is put on hold for 30 minutes by a power outage. When this kind of failure can happen at the Super Bowl it’s not surprising that those who run and support events are kept awake at night worrying about what can go wrong – you only get one chance to get it right.

Power outages can happen to the biggest and best events, no matter what the location and with just about everything relying on power to some degree it’s important to look at how to mitigate any issues if the lights do go out.

The first step is to identify what power you have and the risks associated with it (it’s very easy to take for granted especially when in a permanent building), closely followed by identifying what services rely on it. From a technology point of view this list can be very long – access control, internet, telephony, two-way radio boosters, ticket systems, CCTV, Wi-Fi to name a few.

Each service should be reviewed for impact and with this information decisions made on whether to employ mechanisms to minimise risk. It’s also important to understand the interdependencies, for example a decision may be made to have a back-up generator for Event Control but if the phones and radio communication cease to function due to power loss elsewhere on site then the operation could still be impacted.

These days box offices and entrances struggle to operate without power as they rely on real-time ticket scanning and electronic payment. In these key areas it’s important to not only have a power backup plan but also a contingency plan to continue operating if the power plan fails – even if that involves manual checks over the radios or using runners.

Events don't have this option

Events don’t have this option

Many events now rely on a network for many of their systems – from ticketing & phones through to CCTV. That network needs to be designed with redundancy and power failure in mind. All key points should be protected by a monitored UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) – the monitoring is important so that central control knows if power fails how long the battery within the UPS can continue to operate for, especially as it can take some time for a power issue to be diagnosed and rectified on a large site. For critical areas, such as servers and core networking, the UPS needs to have a significant operational time which may involve the ability to ‘hot swap’ batteries to extend run-time indefinitely.

Modern VoIP telephones, CCTV cameras and other network equipment can be operated using PoE (Power Over Ethernet) which means they take their power from the network itself rather than a mains supply. The benefit of this is that the power required can be centralised and protected with a UPS so that the impact of local power outages in cabins and offices can be minimised.

Events will always have to deal with the unexpected happening – it’s part of the excitement and challenge of the live industry but sensible planning and preparation can minimise the impact.

Etherlive provide temporary telephony services for events using a mixture of VoIP (Voice over IP) and direct copper (BT) connections.

Direct copper phones are required by some events for emergency liaison teams but most other telephony can be provided using VoIP technology. When requiring traditional BT lines Etherlive’s provisioning team arrange orders, installation dates and work directly with BT Openreach ensuring everything is installed as required.

Photo of cups and string

Temporary telephony has moved on

VoIP at its simplest is a phone service delivered over a network and is the way nearly all modern installations are completed. By providing service over the site network and the internet, phone call costs are very low rate (or free in the case of national calls) and because the handsets are powered from the network they can be quickly installed or added as a last minute requirement. Modern VoIP phones also come with advanced features including speakerphones, ring groups, hunt groups,voice mail and provide a wired internet connection for computers.

Etherlive deploy two types of VoIP handset used for events; wired and wireless.

Wired VoIP phones are for those who wish to have a traditional desk or conference phone in a room or wish to assign a phone to a specific department. Handsets can also be fitted with headsets for those working on high call volume desks.

Wireless VoIP phones are based on the latest standards of business DECT technology and can therefore can roam throughout the event.  These handsets are splash proof and provide a good alternative for site & production managers who need to be on the move where the cellular network is not good enough to rely on a mobile phone.  The handsets communicate using the same system as the wired versions so internal calls are free and external calls are at a low rate.

For larger deployments a VoIP PBX (the modern equivalent to a telephone exchange in a small box) is installed onsite and can be linked between sites or to an existing office. This unit manages all calls, voicemail and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) features.

For more information please look at our VoIP page or contact us where we will be pleased to help you find the right solution for your event.

Since our last Gathering at Somerset House at the beginning of the year we have been keen to bring together a group of experts and corporate event organisers to discuss the latest experiences (good or bad) with technology at events.

This led to the Breakfast Event Technology Form which was held at the Guoman Cumberland Hotel with a group of 25 select attendees sitting discussing some key industry topics over a bacon role and cups of tea. We captured some brief notes from the discussions and links to the tools shown below. To keep the discussion about technology in events going we aim to keep the twitter hashtag #eventtechforum

Venue expectations:

  • A key element is appreciating the requirements from the customer. Why do they need the internet? Just basic email and web browsing? Cloud content sharing? Or streaming video? All these questions will drive the requirement with the venue.
  • A pre survey with relevant testing hardware (with the same laptops which will be used if possible) to see what the Wi-Fi signal is like and how fast the internet is.
  • Agree terms with the venue which specify what performance you need per device connected
  • Discuss what happens if something breaks, if it’s critical to your event would you want an engineer to attend?
  • Use cable drops for those who require service for demonstrations to reduce the risks. This should be part of the booking contract.
  • If required bring in an expert (in house IT teams or companies such as Etherlive) to give some advice on how to improve the onsite facilities if you need to. If budgets are tight look at the entire budget based on how important the internet services are

Etherlive Breakfast Event Technology Forum

Avoid getting bitten by IT

  • Many organisers get caught in the same trap – lack of understanding about what the event is trying to achieve, and thus fail to set appropriate expectations for services.
  • Ensure you have resource to hand should you need ‘IT’ type support. If budgets don’t allow perhaps one of the in house IT team may be able to support, or perhaps bring in an engineer just for the morning or during the critical presentation.
  • Spend time identifying key points of failure and plan for a redundancy. Just like any risk at an event this should be presented to the customer with options of what can be done to mitigate.
  • Be aware that some devices (laptops, smartphones) will work differently with Wi-Fi due to the quality of design and parts. Interference (such as human bodies and other radio based systems) may also impact Wi-Fi service.

Budgeting

  • Many events do not set a specific budget line item for technology services, however, many now think this should be a mandatory line item even if the Wi-Fi services are included within the day delegate rate
  • A good partner will be able to explain their pricing to organisers. If they can’t it may be overly complicated or at worse not considered. Technology can be complicated but the basic principles are simple to explain and present
  • Generally the elements that drive cost the most are connectivity and resource. Connectivity generally gets more expensive the later it is booked. Resource costs can often be optimised with setting up on the same day (perhaps avoiding accommodation etc.)

Innovation panel

  • Use social media to engage audiences and encourage those not in the room to join in furthering the events exposure and inclusiveness
  • Apps deliver content in a very set environment but other options, such as customised websites, can deliver similar content with reduced budgets. Consider what will happen to the content the delegate is looking at if connectivity is lost.
  • Free cloud services such as Google Documents can be used to share content including spread sheets, documents etc. allowing multiple editing, different rights and version tracking

Tools

 

In summary a fantastic day to network, meet new contacts and learn. We hope to run similar sessions again in the New Year for others who could not attend this time.

 

‘Cloud computing’ is one of the buzziest of buzz words. For many businesses it can bring benefits and for those working in the events industry it is particularly useful, facilitating simpler and more efficient ways of working for teams which are often at different locations and constantly moving from site to site.

In essence all cloud computing means is accessing data and programs from a central, secure internet location rather than from a traditional office computing environment. What makes cloud computing more interesting is that the services are generally provided with great cross-platform (PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc) support and a flexible pricing model (often free for the basic service). The concept is not new – many email services have operated in this way for years – but the move to storing all documents and applications online is more of a leap for users. So what are the benefits and potential issues:

Easy Sharing – Automatically share the latest versions of documents with whoever you decide. This could be internal teams or approved partners including suppliers and customers. This saves you from emailing out lots of updates which then get out of sync as others chip in. Some applications allow mutliple people to edit the content at once, providing a chat window to discuss changes as they happen. Services such as Dropbox, Box and SugarSync are popular and many also automatically keep a revision history.

Ubiquitous Access – A bonus of using a system based on the internet is your access point, be it your phone, tablet, laptop or friends PC can, assuming you have the appropriate credentials, access information. So if you find yourself completing a site visit with your phone in your pocket you can upload your photos and notes to a central system straight away instead of having to wait until you get home.

Scalable Software – Beyond documents and image sharing, software and applications can also be operated from the cloud. Event management tools, project management, expenses tracking, word processing and contract management are just some of the areas which have cloud hosted solutions. Accessing these systems from home, smartphones or tablet devices then becomes much simpler because devices only have to access information from one online location. Microsoft 360 for example is a full version of the Office suite and storage which immediately gives you the latest Office platform without having to remember to update whilst allowing you to access from whatever device you want.

Keeping it safe – Keeping information off site on a cloud server does have security implications which need to be considered. Highly private information should still be kept locally, but there is a trade off between security and accessability, especially when many people already store most of their information with a mail host online. When looking at cloud hosting you should consider the security they impliment and ensure it meets your requirements. Key aspects are ensuring that all information is transmitted encrypted (generally HTTPS) and most importantly ensuring people use strong passwords. It must be remembered that cloud systems are accessible by anyone on the internet so weak passwords (names, dictionary words, etc.) get cracked easily – it is essential the strong password rules are followed – non-dictionary words, upper & lower case, alpha and numeric characters and where the system allows special characters (!?*& etc.). Also the longer the better for passwords as some systems use the password to create the encryption key.

Connectivity – We all get used to having connectivity all the time and get frustrated when we lose connectivity but using cloud systems takes this to a new level as without connectivity most cloud systems cease to function at all. Also cloud systems will typically put more load on an internet connection as all activity is being synchronised across the network for all of the users. So fast and reliable connectivity is essential is you want to use cloud services.

Cloud computing continues to grow at a fast rate and has a role to play in many businesses and with the right planning it can lead to a far more productive team.

The statement above is the headline of an Inquirer story published on Monday 6th Feb based on information taken from a PDF distributed by London 2012 to help businesses prepare for the Olympics. The headline may be a bit sensationalist – ‘may cause internet access to be slow for some’ isn’t quite as eye-catching – but there are some valid points to take on board:

1. The main issue is the expected increase in volume of usage of the internet by locals and visitors alike. The problem though is not the internet itself (or more correctly the ‘backbone’ of high capacity links that form the network), it is the local broadband access via services like ADSL and cable which may become overloaded at exchanges and concentration points. Many of these services are based on a ‘contention ratio’, sometimes as high as 50:1, which relies on not everyone using their internet connection at the same time for good performance to be maintained. Business ADSL/SDSL services typically have a much lower contention ratio (around 10:1 or lower) and if you are relying on internet access during the Games it would be wise to check this for your provider. At events we operate at we typically only use services which have a 1:1 contention ratio to eliminate this risk. Services such as optic fibre and leased lines in general should also have a 1:1 ratio.

2. Exchange congestion is another concern as many broadband ADSL providers use BT infrastructure to provide their service. Again it can be the case that there is element of contention across the services leading to a slowdown. This area is harder to deal with but providers who are using an LLU (“Local Loop Unbundled”) service have more control over their capacity so should be able to manage performance better. Again at events we will always an LLU service wherever possible and in fact in many locations we do not traverse any BT infrastructure other than the ‘last mile’ copper pairs or fibre.

3. Site-to-Site internet links are a concern for businesses where they have multiple sites connected via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which traverses the internet, as any general congestion will also impact their site to site links. This is a deeper technical discussion based on needs but one approach is what is known as an ‘MPLS network’ which routes data between sites without it going out onto the true public internet. This is generally only possible if the same connectivity provider is used at all locations (this is an approach we use for larger and more complex multi-site events) which can have significant benefits.

4. Home based or remote workers will be another challenge as it is expected that far more people will work from home during the Games and many companies do not have capacity for everyone to be connected remotely on a VPN at the same time. The issues above may apply to the home based or remote worker but in addition it is important that the central location has enough internet capacity and infrastructure to deal with all these additional users.

5. We all know what happens to mobile networks at a large event and the situation is expected to be similar during the Games. Yes lots of additional capacity will be put in place but there is only so much the mobile operators can do so it would be wise to assume there will be problems. In the events area it will be much safer to deploy a standalone phone system (VoIP/DECT) which will operate outside of the mobile network. Another aspect to consider is any ‘chip & pin’ payment terminals as many of these operate using the mobile GPRS network which may have issues during the Games. The alternative is Wi-Fi/IP based units which operate over an internet connection – assuming the issues above have been considered!

In summary, it is wise to examine internet provision at locations and at home if it is a critical service as there could well be impacts but with the right planning and service provision these issues can be minimised. For events organisers, especially those organising events in London during the Games period, it is very important that internet access is considered as soon as possible and the right level of provision is made – where in previous years a normal ADSL line has sufficed the risk this year may make it wise to change this to a businesss service which does not have contention issues.

If you are concerned about internet access provision and performance during the games then contact us at 2012@www.etherlive.co.uk