Hybrid happy hour: Could 5G save the events industry?
The good old days of queuing in line for a stadium-sized concert filled with real, heaving, sweating music fans, are gone, for the foreseeable future, anyway. The same applies for trips to the theatre, the cinema, that popular, crowded comedy club on a Friday night and even school discos.
COVID-19 has done a marvellous job in separating human beings from doing what they love best; namely socialising and having fun. And according to a recent study carried about by a researcher at the University of Westminster that surveyed 675 respondents in the events industry from 59 countries, 40% of current, global, events industry jobs will no longer be in existence in 2021.
But although physical meet-ups have been curtailed, for now, socialising in cyberspace has taken on a whole, new dynamic. Indeed, companies have spent millions on digital transformations and storage space in colocation data centres, in part, so that business meetings between co-workers can take place in the event of lockdowns.
One need only look to Zoom’s in the early months of the pandemic when social distancing took communities by surprise. Use of the firm's software jumped 30-fold in April, as the coronavirus pandemic forced millions to work, learn and socialise remotely. And at its peak, Zoom counted more than 300 million daily participants in virtual meetings, while paying customers more than tripled.
Technology is moving forward, and with it, the chance to offer the drowning events industry a lifeline in the form of virtual events. According to reports, new research indicates that digital platforms offering ‘digital twin’ events, in which a live event and a simultaneous virtual event are held, offering consumers the choice of which to attend, have been received enthusiastically.
5G, with its super-fast data streaming and capabilities, is poised to revolutionise the events industry, through a range of technologies that can offer more satisfying audience involvement.
A recent study by Verizon Media found that 75% of their 2,000 respondents were keen on the concept of 5G immersive experiences as a digital alternative to traditional, live events, including fashion shows, live sporting events, conferences and cooking classes.
Augmented and virtual reality offers audiences the interactivity they crave because they successfully simulate a real event, not only visually and audibly, but through sensations and smells too. Gaining in popularity, in part due to COVID-19 circumstances and developments in the technology, AR and VR are concepts that excite 69% of UK consumers.
Immersive technology is becoming increasingly mainstream too, and with the introduction of 5G networks, there has never been a better time to explore the options on offer.
Gaming is one area where VR is already being given a thorough testing. Fortnite recently allowed the to create an otherworldly music venue experience within the gaming environment. This will lead to conferences being set “inside” exotic virtual reality destinations unachievable in the real world.
Hybrid or virtual?
While virtual meetings with loved ones were essential to many during strict lockdowns globally, ‘Zoom burnout’ is a real phenomenon and research shows that 100% virtual events are simply not as satisfying a real, human interaction.
An increasing number of events companies are looking at hybrid events, to merge the excitement of real-world social connections with the virtual experiences on offer.
Hybrid events comprise of small groups of people meeting at a venue, where they are then connected virtually to other venues. Corporate conferences before COVID-19 would have brought together hundreds of staff from multiple locations, to one venue. The hybrid event is therefore a good alternative.
The numbers of people at each location of the hybrid event are capped to ensure social distancing, while technology becomes the conduit that brings everything together. VR and AR can be used to cement the experience. Hybrid events are also useful for trade shows, sales kick-offs and global town halls.
According to , head of RYOT Studio EMEA, mobile networks will be essential in creating a connected future for the events industry. 5G will bring with it enhanced experiences with virtual settings, no limitations on guest lists and monetisation as brands connect to consumers in unique ways.
He says, “The world is becoming more virtual by the day and will likely stay that way even as concert halls, event spaces and stadiums eventually re-open. Collective online experiences are poised to further distinguish themselves from traditional events as they become more accessible and offer more customisation and connection. Truly connecting with an audience demands an impactful digital plan, and now is the time to put it in motion.”
Mobilise: eSIMs are essential for digital nomads
The shift to remote working has forced many organisations to rethink whether an employee’s proximity to the office should still be a key factor for certain roles. In theory, technology allows us to work from anywhere in the world, but just how easy is it to manage a global workforce?
Here, Hamish White, CEO of telecommunications software provider Mobilise, explains why businesses looking to adopt remote working should consider digital alternatives to traditional subscriber identity model (SIM) technology.
According to analyst company Gartner, more than 80% of companies plan to allow employees to work remotely at least part time after the pandemic. While restrictions on overseas travel still limit employees’ ability to truly ‘work from anywhere’, we could soon be seeing a more globally dispersed workforce.
Previously, it’s been difficult to work from another country for a long period of time. Not only because most companies wouldn’t allow it, but also due to the limitations of tourist visas that make staying in another country for more than a few weeks difficult. However, things could be about to change.
The digital nomad visa
Countries around the world are experimenting with ‘digital nomad’ visas that will blend the boundaries between work and travel. One of the first countries to offer a long-term remote working visa was Barbados, with the launch of the Barbados Welcome Stamp in 2020, enabling digital nomads to stay for over twelve months — far longer than the usual 30 to 90 days.
Other countries have followed suit. It’s now possible to obtain similar visas for Bermuda, Costa Rica, Estonia, Croatia and the United Arab Emirates. Quite ironically, digital nomads are easy to locate. They build their careers on the internet, using technology to both share aspects of their personal lives and to keep in touch with colleagues during working hours. Having a mobile device is a tech essential.
Therefore, businesses that want to seize remote working opportunities will require technology that makes keeping in contact as simple as possible. While such travel freedom isn’t viable for all organisations, it’s evident that a large portion of businesses will retain some form of flexibility moving forwards — whether that means remote, hybrid or flexible working.
Service providers (SPs) are listening to these demands, offering communication packages that include video conferencing tools, unified communications bundles and mobile device management (MDM) offerings including bring your own device strategies. While technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or WebRTC do well to support remote working, using the internet to make calls and reduce operational costs, there’s another area of mobile software that SPs are beginning to consider.
Introducing the eSIM
SIM cards are an integral authentication method for mobile networks, and have been helping users access services securely since 1991. Inside the SIM card sits a programmable integrated circuit (IC) chip called a Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) that stores the SIM’s authentication parameters, including subscriber credentials and network authentication keys.
Until now, mobile subscribers have had to manually insert SIM cards into their device as part of its set up. This has meant that a device can’t use the mobile network until the SIM card is available. It has also meant that mobile users need multiple SIM cards if they have more than one network contract, so those working remotely would need to keep track of several SIM cards, if they had mobile contracts in different locations.
But as working models shift, telecoms customer expectations are changing. Users, more than ever, are looking for simpler, more flexible ways of managing their mobile subscriptions from digital channels. And that’s where eSIMs come into play.
The standards of an embedded SIM, or eSIM, were introduced by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in 2010, primarily to serve Internet of Things (IoT) products. The technology allows service providers to provision — or programme — service profiles remotely. However, the same technology can be applied to consumer products, meaning a SIM profile could be provisioned remotely without the need for a physical SIM card.
The consumer use of eSIM was accepted by the GSMA in 2016 but has only really started to gain traction in the last twelve months as the penetration of eSIM capable devices has reached critical mass. eSIM means that SIM card technology can now be embedded into the device, rather than on the separate physical UICC.
Flexible, digital communication
There are many benefits to using eSIMs in mobile devices. One of the major boons is remote provisioning, allowing users to set up their devices instantly without needing to visit a retail store or wait for their SIM card to arrive via the post. For those working remotely, the ability to connect and communicate without delay will be key to maintaining productivity.
Having contracts with more than one network is also simpler. Because an eSIM lets you store multiple mobile services in a single device, users will be able to switch quickly between them. This could come in handy if in areas with poor or no signal, switching between personal or work contracts or availing of alternative, more competitive, roaming services.
Another advantage of eSIMs is that they will eventually negate the need for a physical SIM card and its tray. Smartphone manufacturers could use this space to increase a phone’s battery size or add more features to a handset.
Widespread adoption of eSIMs is inevitable — GSMA Intelligence estimates they will be used in between two and three billion smartphones by 2025. To help SPs get ahead of the curve, Mobilise has launched its own eSIM as a service.
Consisting of Mobilise’s digital platform, M-Connect, and eSIM infrastructure from Oasis Smart SIM, the service offers users a one-tap installation method that eliminates the need for QR codes and physical SIM cards. Using Mobilise’s eSIM as a Service, SPs can fully digitalise their services to make the onboarding process quick and uncomplicated for end users.
M-Connect takes digital service management a step further. As a fully customisable, modular platform, M-Connect’s digital interfaces allow for easy onboarding of customers via in-app eSIM provisioning. To make remote working effective, easy to manage software services is key. Using platforms such as M-Connect, SPs can implement digital-first service propositions with flexible modules that meet business needs. In turn, end users benefit from a truly digital experience that delivers freedom and flexibility to mobile communications.
Work has become a thing that you do, rather than a place you physically go to, and telecommunications must reflect this shift. Mobile services play a vital role in keeping employees connected with one another. The move to a digital first approach is inevitable for the telecommunications industry, and becoming early adopters of technologies such as eSIM with in-app provisioning will help SPs retain their competitive advantage.