By George Cagle, General Manager – Minneapolis Convention Center
In today’s technology-driven world, it is a commonplace to see dozens of people interacting with their laptops, smartphones, tablets, and even wearable gadgets such as watches or activity-tracking devices. All of these devices encompass a network that gathers and exchanges data in what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). According to Cisco Systems, Inc., “500 billion devices are expected to be connected to the web by 2030” (2016). The data exchanged between people and their smart devices create opportunities for economic benefit for the users and the businesses that create them, all at the touch of a few buttons. But what does this mean for the convention industry?
There are so many variables within a convention center operation – from security and facility management to food and beverage – that it is easy to visualize the number of opportunities for IoT devices. For the various meeting and conference spaces, the use of additional sensors in rooms or meeting spaces “will monitor attendance, temperature, Wi-Fi connectivity, lighting, and seating” (Bruno, 2015). When it comes to food and beverage, the sensors can be embedded in several locations such as refrigerators, ovens, pantries, etc., allowing the staff to monitor temperature, humidity, usage, and storage capacity levels.
With the Internet of Things almost being a norm everywhere you go, convention centers who have not thought about an IoT strategy should start thinking about the potential impacts and benefits. The first consideration is the expense of building the framework and infrastructure for the IoT network within a venue. The second consideration is the complexity of the system itself. The last is the potential impact on network security.
When thinking about building the framework into a facility as large as a convention center, one of the first thoughts is the cost. Several hundred to thousands of sensors embedded into the building would use additional electricity as well as internet connectivity. Also, the sensors connect to devices for end users to utilize. Training would need to be created and provided to employees who will be using the systems. These, among other cost factors, would make a large impact to the overall project budget of a facility.
The next factor to take into account is the complexity of the system. There are many different links between sensors, systems, and users and communication standards among systems and devices have not yet been established. Connectivity takes on three distinct forms; One-to-one (one product to the end user), one-to-many (one product connected to many other products), or many-to-many (multiple products linked to many other products) (Barnes, C., 2015). Implementing a high-density WiFi infrastructure complemented by robust cellular connectivity establishes the groundwork for a venue to support early adopters of IoT technology in advance of more focused IoT systems.
Despite the benefits IoT offers, it can create risks for the venue. Having so many areas of connectivity in a facility creates great vulnerability. “Chris Witeck of Citrix explains that each newly connected device or sensor introduced to a network can become a path or entry point into the network” (Forrest, 2016). In 2015, there were several notable hacks into IoT devices such as Internet-enabled automobiles, medical devices, and even toys. While these were insignificant infiltrations into the devices, the threat of attack is real. A hack through one open device can lead to an attack on an entire network. “If attackers get hold of your Wi-Fi network, they can see what other devices are connected to your network and may try to control them, too. They can also find a way to install spyware or key loggers on your computers…to grab confidential client information” (Gheorghe, A., 2016).
The future of technology is laying in the Internet of Things where connected devices already outnumber people two to one. The adverse impacts of building an intelligent convention center can be mitigated if planning is comprehensive. The overall benefit of having an IoT framework far outweighs the risks. With a thorough design and sound risk assessment, the shift to being a smart facility can be a smooth and secure one.
Barnes, C. (2015). A better way to approach data collection in the IoT age. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from:
Bruno, M. (2015). The internet of things and the connected convention center. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from: https://ungerboeck.com/blogs-rss/311-the-internet-of-things-and-the-connected-convention-center
Cisco Systems, Inc. (2016). Internet of Things. Retrieved July 21, 2016 from:
Forrest, C. (2016). The rise of IoT hacking: New dangers, new solutions. Retrieved July 21, 2016 from:
Gheorge, A. (2016). How to hack a home through the internet of things. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from: