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When it comes to selecting a meeting destination, the availability of technology to enhance programming and add interest on the exhibit floor has become important for groups in all markets. But for those in the technology segment, it's critical. To make these groups' short list, destinations must not only feature state-of-the-art meeting and convention facilities; they must also be hotbeds of development in this area with the infrastructure to match.
"Technology groups depend heavily on technology to present technology," observes meetings-tech expert Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES, of Corbin Ball Associates.
Wanted: Internet Connectivity
Stable, fast wireless Internet connectivity is key, Ball says: "This is especially important given that often, technology meeting and event content is streamed to locations around the country and the world."
Such connectivity is available at a multitude of meeting venues in Atlanta, including the facilities that comprise the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) campus: the Georgia World Congress Center, Centennial Olympic Park and the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (A Signia Hilton hotel is expected to open on-site in 2022.) High-speed Internet lines, dedicated bandwidth networks, custom wireless networks and fiber-optic networks, as well as other communications services, can be installed anywhere within the campus.
High-tech capabilities, including top-notch connectivity, will also await guests and groups at the Signia Hilton, slated to open on the GWCCA campus in 2022. With more than 900 guest rooms, the hotel will offer meeting planners and travelers an "elevated" experience that extends from technology to chef-driven restaurants, premier amenities, and more than 70,000 square feet of event space.
Garnering technology groups' interest as well, Ball adds, are next-generation audiovisual offerings, including large-scale translucent, interactive LED walls; high-resolution digital signage; and "smart lighting" that can, at the flick of a single switch, change colors to set different moods.
Linda McNairy, vice president of global operations and shared services, meetings and events, for American Express Global Business Travel, corroborates Ball's observations. She adds that for technology meetings, "virtual reality is exploding right now. Facial recognition is being utilized not only for traditional applications such as expediting check-in processes, but also for measuring audience response and emotional reactions."
Using advanced tools for technology events held at the GWCC is made possible in part through the facility's on-site audiovisual services provider. Projection mapping, a video-production trick that transforms any surface into an interactive 2D or 3D video display, is one example of such technologies. Mapping can create interactive displays out of any 3D shape. The provider can also configure LED video walls, as well as set up a variety of livestreaming services.
"Virtual reality is exploding right now. Facial recognition is being utilized not only for traditional applications such as expediting check-in processes, but also for measuring audience response and emotional reactions."
Linda McNairy, American Express Global Business Travel
Technology groups have been taking great advantage of these capabilities. For example, some exhibitors at Interwire 2019, a trade exposition sponsored by the Wire Association International Inc., in conjunction with its convention program and held at the GWCC in May 2019, used projection mapping to showcase wire and cabling technologies. A biennial event, Interwire will return to the GWCC in May 2021.
The American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics also harnessed the GWCC's video applications for its Gallery of Fluid Motion exhibit, which featured detailed video depictions of computational and experimental studies of flow phenomena.
Livestreaming also is one of the GWCC's fortes. Vertafore Inc., an insurance software provider, incorporated streaming technology during its Accelerate, Powered by NetVU users' conference, which filled the exhibit halls of the GWCC in May 2018. Similarly, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and its global arm, the International Society of Broadband Experts, harnessed the GWCC's video-streaming services for its Cable-Tech Expo 2018 event in October 2018. Panel discussions and presentations by cable operators, technology vendors and experts from a cross-section of industry associations — featured in an Innovation Theater on the exhibit floor — were available live on the association's website. The group also availed itself of the fast, flexible WiFi available at the GWCC for programming, such as interactive demonstrations in which attendees could participate via tablet devices.
Equally important to technology groups is the infrastructure of the destination itself; the more comprehensive it is, the better, say Ball and McNairy. Atlanta — now known as the "high-tech center of the Southeast," and as a world-class hub for technology and mobility that is leading the way in creating a national center for innovation and industry growth — fits the bill. The city is home to more than 13,000 technology companies, with established strengths in the telecommunications, cybersecurity and digital-media segments, as well as a thriving mobility ecosystem allowing attendees to get around town with ease.
These companies — including heavy hitters like Accenture, AT&T, Equifax, Fiserv, General Electric, IBM, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, NCR and VMWare AirWatch — employ more than 206,000 high-tech professionals. In fact, Metro Atlanta as a whole now has a robust technology-talent pipeline unmatched in the region, giving rise to a dramatic increase in the number of university and corporate innovation centers in the area as technology companies strive to leverage top-notch students and faculty talent.
Additionally, in its "Tech Cities 2.0" report, global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield named Atlanta to its list of the "top 25 tech cities in North America." And within the next three to five years, projections show, technology companies will invest more than $1 billion in Georgia. Such investments will cover a wide range of sub-categories, among them mobility technology, digital media and content, network security, financial transactions processing solutions, software development and engineering, health information technology, and smart grid technology.
Complementing this backbone are several notable organizations that can also serve as resources for groups. Programming for Interwire 2019 included an optional tour of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, a research and development center that is a joint venture between Georgia Tech, Delta Air Lines and Boeing. Robotics and other technologies were explored in depth during the tour.
Meanwhile, the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) is an engine for economic development for the state of Georgia. TAG's mission is to educate, promote, influence and unite Georgia's tech community and to foster an innovative, connected marketplace that stimulates and enhances the state's technology-based economy.
Similarly, Atlanta's Center of Innovation for Information Technology uncovers collaborative research opportunities and partners to connect, compete and grow on a global level. Under the umbrella of its services, technology providers in markets that range from health IT and medical devices to cyber-security and mobility can find industry experts who can help identify and resolve challenges, help them move into new areas of business, as well as help with new product commercialization and development.
Finally, the Atlanta Tech Village is an incubator and co-working space for a community of entrepreneurs. Members here have opportunities to share knowledge, brainstorm ways to overcome challenges, and connect to the ideas, talent and funding required for their ventures to thrive. The Atlanta Tech Village has been home to more than 300 startups that have created over 6,500 technology jobs and raised more than $826 million in capital. Among these are Bitpay, BetterCloud, CallRail, QASymphony, Calendly, and Rigor.
The Tech Mecca of Tomorrow: Atlanta
Home to a thriving culture of art, history, nationally acclaimed food, entertainment and transformational developments, Atlanta is also one of the fastest-growing cities for technology in the nation. Named by Forbes as the No. 3 American city poised to become one of tomorrow's tech meccas, this world-class tech hub is leading the way in creating a national center for innovation and industry growth.
Powered by the strength of more than 13,000 technology companies, Georgia’s capital city hosts an abundance of major technology conferences and events every year and is established for its strengths in telecom, cybersecurity, digital media and a thriving mobility ecosystem. Many tech companies have put down roots in Atlanta, including AT&T, Equifax Inc., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., General Electric Co., and many more.
Learn how to tap into this city of innovation and advancement. Contact Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau for more information or start your RFP today.