Improving technology access is a major issue in convention center design and management today, said Michael Winters, principal and director of design and interiors at Fentress Architects, particularly as meeting attendees become younger and more socially connected.

“With everyone carrying multiple personal devices, bandwidth is the key to satisfying the expectations of the delegates to a convention,” Winters said. “Visitors expect high-speed connectivity so that they can plug in and connect their devices, as well as live-stream seminars and events.

The Miami Beach Convention Center, which Fentress designed, is providing 10-gigabit-per-second broadband. It’s one of the strategies “to make the project the most technology-advanced convention center in the U.S.,” Winters said.

Technology can also be a tool to better understand visitors. Rob Svedberg, principal for the convention center practice at Tvsdesign, said event organizers are increasingly turning to data analytics to research visitors’ behavior patterns to shape their event experiences. Similarly, “we’re using data to inform the design of the buildings.”

At the Las Vegas Convention Center, Svedberg said, venue operators will be able to use information gleaned from cell phone signals to track where groups of people are in the building and how they are using the space.

“Say you have a hotspot in the concourse that shows up for certain types of events. That can tell you that that’s a good spot to offer a coffee station or a lunch grab-and-go,” Svedberg said. “So there’s two pieces to it: collecting the data and then interpreting what it means and how to use it.”
Smarter buildings also mean more energy-efficient buildings, said Todd Voth, who leads the convention center practice for Populous.

“There’s such a focus on creating energy efficiency, and these monster buildings can really use a lot of energy if they’re not appropriately monitored,” Voth said. “You’ve got to be able to measure what you’re doing in order to get the best results — the most efficient results — and the building management systems now are a lot more sophisticated than they ever were.”

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