Successful trial results of several COVID-19 vaccines have stimulated optimism and shone a glimmer of hope in the events industry professionals. This breakthrough is very promising for event professionals, but hosting events and conferences in a world affected by COVID-19 will require major adjusting. The ‘new normal’ for the event industry is a complex one but one thing that the global pandemic has taught the world is the importance of digital readiness, and like other sectors, the events industry has also started to take the innovation path to offer safe live events. China has been one of the first countries to bring back live events since the pandemic took hold of the global economy and event professionals are watching closely to see what kind of preventative measures are needed to put in place to protect attendees and keep them safe at live events.

In this round-up, we look at some of the latest technologies and trends that will support the in-person events in the era of COVID-19.

  • Thermal Scanning

Thermal scanners are sophisticated devices composed of heat sensors with the capacity to spot fevers and temperature anomalies. During the outbreak of diseases like SARS and Ebola, these devices were widely used at airports to scan all incoming and outgoing passengers for higher temperatures.

Thermal detection is likely to become a mainstay in the new normal, including the hospitality and events industry. Event professionals will either need to bring their service provider on-site or select venues offering thermal scanning.

As per a report published by Eventoplus, IFEMA, the largest venue in Spain, has already implemented a thermal scanning system that generates an alert when someone with a temperature of over 99.5F (37.5C) enters the venue.

NobaTech group, a Québec company, has launched an event-specific Thermal Camera Body Temperature solution for scanning attendees at events, as part of COVID-19 preventative measures. Designed to be installed at key entry points at the venue location, the device can scan up to 300 people per minute, with temperature monitoring achieved within 0.2 seconds, to an accuracy of +- 0.3°C. The device also generates a sound prompt to alert the security of no facemask detection or abnormal temperature.

With solutions for venues and other live event locations, thermal scanning can at least indicate who is showing symptoms at the event and can be immediately quarantined.

  • Touchless Technology

Contactless technology and remote interfacing are now a top priority for everyone around the world. Big names like Nestlé, Dr. Pepper and Lavazza have rolled out touchless technology amidst COVID-19. Nestlé added a feature to its coffee makers that allows people to select their choice by holding their hands over the menu options.

Today event organisers want technologies that help in maintaining social-distancing guidelines and make their events as touchless as possible.

Ultraleap, an American company, is working on a technology that uses a combination of ultrasonic waves and infrared hand-tracking technology to create touchless interfaces that can be controlled by bare-handed gesture control including ‘wave to open’ motion.

Limelight, a measurement technology provider, has been working on contactless solutions, including ticketing, check-in, product and exhibitor interactions, all managed via QR codes. Another technology service provider, LG Business Solutions is offering health tech products, including wellness kiosks that offer touchless thermal scanners for temperature readings, motion-activated hand sanitiser dispensers, and slots to hold boxes of gloves or masks at events.

In facilitating a safe return to events, organisers can implement touchless technologies to minimise health risks, while also creating seamless experiences for attendees.

  • Proximity Alerts

Beacon technology, which has been widely used for engagement tracking and proximity alerts, is expected to play a role in promoting social distancing and, potentially, contact tracing during events.

These beacons send signals to the scanners to track the attendee’s movements. With access to real-time statistics, beacons even recognise hotspots and alerts organisers about locations that are overcrowded and more prone to violate social distancing guidelines. The advancement of beacon technology allows event organisers to automatically keep track of attendance, including sign-in, sign-out, and the length of time an attendee was present.

TraceSafe Technologies is currently working with a Toronto rugby league on wristbands equipped with Bluetooth chips for spectators when stadiums reopen. These bands will alert visitors when they’re not following social distancing guidelines or notify them via an anonymous system like a text message if they are in proximity of someone who later notified the stadium they had fallen ill.

This technology can help in streamlining on-premises accessibility and maintaining key social distancing protocols.

  • Digital Signage

Digital signage offers a “touchless” form of communication at events. Technology offering digital signage is already available in the global market and can be implemented at venues easily.

Communicating social distancing measures through displays or marking clearly where attendees will need to line up during the event increases the on-site safety. A new product, Safety Pois, has been launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The behavioural stickers by Safety Poisis is visual signage based on the principle of stoplights. These stickers help in controlling the flow of foot traffic during an event. It is based on a colour scheme that makes it easy for people to understand and follow social distancing guidelines. The green sticker indicates a walking area, where stopping is not allowed, yellow indicates that people may pause to briefly speak, or view products and red colour requires people to stop so that they can be served or attended. Safety pois provides an efficient way to direct attendees through an event venue and maintain a six-foot distance.

  • UV-C Purifiers

UV-C purifiers use short-wave ultraviolet light to inactivate airborne microorganisms and pathogens like bacteria, mould and viruses. The spectrum of light used by these purifiers has a shorter wavelength than ultraviolet in the A and B bands. When applied at optimal doses, it has been proven to kill SARS-CoV-2, also known as the coronavirus. UV-C purifiers can be installed at venues as one of the possible methods to eliminate the coronavirus that could be present in the air.

Brussels Expo, Belgium's biggest exhibition centre, has equipped its 120,000 m² venue with UV-C purifiers which use ultra-violet rays to kill bacteria and viruses. Denis Delforge, CEO, Brussels Expo, announced that the purifiers will be in operation everywhere. The exhibition halls, the conference rooms, the offices, the corridors, and backstage will be covered. When used along with other best practices including social distancing and wearing masks, these devices can complement indoor coronavirus precautions and provide an additional layer of protection.

The events industry has proactively begun its journey towards the tech-led transformation. From thermal scanning to digital signage, many technological solutions are emerging and coming into greater prominence that promise an enhanced and Covid-19 free experience at events. With technology functioning as the event industry’s lifeline under the given circumstances, it will continue to grow in the post-pandemic world as well.