Mobile and wireless technology will have an enormous effect on the meetings industry. This change will likely be as great as computer, Internet and web technology have had so far combined.

This article will cover the routes that we will see wireless technology work its way into our lives especially as it applies to the meetings industry.

The paradigm shift – where is the power?

The heart of this shift will be where the processing power lies. The processing power will not be in the computers we are carrying around – it will be to the vastly more capable computers we connect to over the Internet.

A great example is with voice recognition. Voice recognition technology has existed from the 1970’s. However, one would have to stand beside a room full of computers to make it work. With high-speed wireless access, we will essentially be carrying the power of this “room full of computers” in the palms of our hands.

With this high-speed connection to the “computer in the sky” a vast array of new options open up. Options such as voice recognition will greatly increase the ease of use.It will lead to ubiquitous computing where your computer digital assistant will be able to help at nearly every turn. Options such as two-way portable video conferencing, geo-positioning, and micro and mobile payments will fundamentally change how we do business and conduct our day-to-day lives.

The impact for the meetings industry in enormous. Here are how they are emerging.


BlueTooth enabled devices are starting to be shipped in computers and a wide range of peripherals. Intended primarily to eliminate the need for wired connections between electronic products and accessories, it has a limited broadcast range of about 30 feet and is fairly fast (1 megabyte per second transmission speed). Typical applications will include:

  • wireless headphones connecting to a cell phone
  • wireless synchronizers between your computer and PDA
  • internet links from you notebook computer via your cell phone
  • printing to a Bluetooth enabled printer without connecting cables
  • enabling devices to serve as remote controls, keys, tickets and e-cash wallets.

Applications in the meetings industry will include:

  • the ability to easily set up a small local area network for room full of PDAs or notebook computers
  • the ability to exchanging files, business cards, calendar appointments, etc. with groups of Bluetooth users
  • Connecting to localized content services in public areas

Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity or the IEEE 802.11b standard)

This is where much of the action will be. Wi-Fi is a wireless communication standard that is very fast (11 megabytes per second – 7 time faster than a T-1 line) and has a range of 100 to 300 feet.

Airports, hotels, convention centers, and even Starbuck’s are beginning to provide Wi-Fi access. Meeting planners are starting to “Wi-Fi enable” their events at relatively low costs (a wireless network is so much easier to set up than a wired one).

Individuals can currently make their notebook computer Wi-Fi capable for less than $70 by sliding in a wireless network interface card into your PC card slot.In the next two years, it is likely that most notebook computers, handheld computers, and even cell phones will be shipped Wi-Fi enabled.

Wi-Fi provider networks are being established around the country linking together providers allowing Wi-Fi users to roam to different locations, log in and pay a small access fee to do so.

The applications for the meetings industry are huge:

  • As with Bluetooth, there will be the ability to almost immediately set up a local area network for room full of PDAs or notebook computers. With the great broadcast range, in fact, this will be the more likely channel to do so.
  • Audience polling and response systems will allow meeting attendees anonymously vote or give feedback to speakers or show organizers.
  • Real time conference messaging (and instant message systems) will be set up for meetings.
  • Dynamic, customizable program agendas and appointment scheduling will also be available.
  • A significant new trend for meetings enabled by Wi-Fi is“blogging”(short for “Web logging”). Audience members with Wi-Fi no longer remain passive listeners. Using their notebooks computers or PDAs, they can ask the speaker questions, or make comments (a log) about the presentation that can be shared real time with others in the audience or out on the internet. With high speed web access at the seat, attendees are able to check the Web to verify and challenge presenter statistics in real time.The potential for increasing audience interactivity is greater.

3-G (Third Generation of cell phone technology)

3-G is spreading around the world in Japan, Korea, and Europe. We are starting to see inroads in the U.S. as well. With connection speeds of 10 to 100 times faster than today’s cell phones (at the minimum, twice as fast at the best modem phone connection today), this will be another way of gaining mobile high speed Internet access. What the Web did for the Internet, 3-G will do for the cell phone adding color, pictures, sound and multimedia. We are already seeing convergence of hand-held PDA/palm devices and cell phones now. It is likely that these new devices will also become Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.

Eventually, we will see a convergence of all of these technologies and devices. Our cell phone and PDA will merg. It will have access to multiple signals – 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and new, even faster emerging standards. These high-bandwidth internet-enable palm/cell devices will change all of the rules and will be one of the most significant technology trends we have seen in decades


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