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Simon Clayton – Chief Ideas Officer - RefTech

Simon has been working with data and computer systems longer than he cares to remember (sometimes longer than he can remember!). For Simon, IT has always been a combination of computer networking and system/application development.

Over the years, amongst other things, Simon has taught computer networking for systems staff managing networks with over 10,000 users and written complex data collection, management and analysis systems that have managed data for literally millions of event delegates.

Simon has been the technical inspiration for RefTech since he started the company and has been responsible for devising the online systems used by the IMEX team since they started planning the first IMEX Frankfurt in 2001. In that role he has been largely responsible for ensuring that IMEX has the most technologically sophisticated online systems in the exhibition market whilst maintaining the focus on the user experience.


Simon believes that technology is there to serve a purpose and should never be used just for the sake of it. His business background and wealth of experience in most aspects of systems and user interface design means that he has an unusually pragmatic perspective on technology. Over the past few years, Simon has built a reputation as the ‘voice of reason’. He will cut through the hype and wild exaggerations often made by IT vendors, to give clients and journalists a clear and realistic analysis of how new technologies will impact on the events industry.

@RefTechnology Facebook.com/Reftech Website: www.RefTech.co.uk

Featured

Is some high-tech solving problems that are not there?

Or will its use soon become very valuable?
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas prompted a whole range of reactions from the press – ranging from the ‘wow’ to the fairly sarcastic. One article highlighted the array of technology created ‘to solve a problem that just isn’t there’.


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May 25th is a key date in data handling

Simon Clayton explains its importance to event organisers

The EU’s new data protection regime - the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - will come into force in May 2018, when it will make EU data protection rules a lot stricter.
While the future of data protection law after the UK fully leaves the EU is as yet unknown, the fact remains that the exit is still many years away. In the meantime, the UK’s Information Commissioner has confirmed that the UK will go ahead with implementing GDPR into our own national regulations regardless of the Brexit vote.


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Hacking a fridge…

Simon Clayton warns it might not be so funny

The internet of things (IoT) has suffered some bad press of late due to the current lack of any security standards. Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, recently documented his experience setting up a $55 JideTech security camera at home. According to Graham's series of Twitter posts, his camera was taken over by the Mirai botnet and compromised in just 98 seconds.

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No, you don’t have Big Data!

And don't look for meaning in meaningless data, advises Simon Clayton

Big Data: it's a great term, but it's being bandied about our industry like sweets at a kids' party. It's everywhere at the moment. I've been to several conferences and I read the industry press and you can't move for references to it.
But I can state categorically that no-one in the events industry has Big Data. There, I've said it. Every one of the people discussing the use of Big Data within our industry is peddling a misconception. Big Data does not exist in the events industry.


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Has AI now reared its head in the events industry?

Simon Clayton is not convinced

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the stuff of sci-fi for decades and is now finally making some interesting leaps into the consumer world. Seth Shostak, Director of the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), says: ‘Within 20 years, you will have one computer that's smarter than all humans put together.’

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How long are you allowed to keep events data?

Simon Clayton highlights the dangers

Event organisers collect a lot of data, but how long can that data be kept, what can be kept and how do you determine what’s safe to retain?
Two of the core principles of European data protection law, under both the old and new regimes, are that the data you collect must be relevant to the ways you are using it and that it must not be retained for longer than is necessary. Event organisers should consider these two standards together.


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Deleted data is often accessible

Event organisers have to prevent it being misused

We live in a busy world and the transient nature of our industry can mean that we are quick to move on to our next event. But before moving on, it’s worth making sure that your policies and procedures include tying up some loose ends.
It can be tempting to keep registration data indefinitely, because you never know when you may need it, but the more data you have stored, the more likely you will be hacked – especially if it is spread over multiple servers.


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Free advice on data protection

Answers to important questions for event organisers

Data is the key to the success of events. Every event generates a mountain of data ranging from contact details to dietary requirements to sponsor leads. As the event approaches, that data is typically shared across a variety of participants, from exhibitors to advertisers to hotels. This data can also move across international borders. Put simply, a lot of information moves around a lot of different people in a lot of different countries.

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Invest only in proven technology

Sort the hype from the real benefits

I’ve often written about the hype surrounding new tech products and our industry’s insistence on announcing them with fanfares and declarations that they’re life-changing. This insistence in promoting untried tech can be confusing and organisers often say that choosing the right tech is the most confusing part of their role. Anyone in this bewildering position may find it useful to consider this: all new technology goes through a ‘hype cycle’ – five key phases of a technology’s lifecycle. Understanding the hype cycle will help you decide if, or when, to adopt a technology.

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Assess your tech supplier

Not only equipment has to be fail-safe

The Internet of things (IoT) has received some bad press recently when the company behind Revolv announced that they are withdrawing all support for the product. Revolv is a little device that sits in your home and allows you to control lighting, heating and other home functions remotely via an app on a mobile device. The company behind it announced a while ago that they would be halting manufacture, but only now have they completely withdrawn support. Without that support it simply stops working – rendering it ‘as useful as a tub of humus’ according to one disgruntled user.

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Don’t believe the hype!

A very successful low-tech conference – on technology!

In our industry, we seem to be constantly told that keeping abreast of technology is essential; our industry conferences would seem antiquated without the obligatory technology streams. But who’s telling us that it’s vital to use the latest technology in events and where’s the proof?

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Mobile phones at events

Should they really be banned?

According to IMEX research, 40% of organisers would like to ban mobile phones (and other portable devices) from conference sessions. They say they are too distracting for delegates.
The American comedian Kevin Hart recently tried to do that at one of his gigs. Before he came on stage, the audience was subjected to several aggressive Tannoy announcements that the use of mobile phones and cameras was banned and that they should be switched off and kept in pockets.


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Technology in events is all talk and no action

Simon Clayton is still waiting for it to have an effect

Technology evolves at an ever increasing speed but when it comes to the implementation of the latest gadgets and gizmos in the events industry, I’m still yet to see the promised ‘massive impact’ or signs that it is a ‘game changer’.
Every year we’re told of the major tech trends to watch, as each is certain to revolutionise the way we set-up, hold and report on our events. In this article I’m going to go through five of the trends which were predicted for 2015 to see if they really did change the industry.


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Don’t distract with technology

It only helps the good presenters

Over the years I’ve been to countless conferences and witnessed every conceivable level of presentation – from the amazing right through to the depressingly awful and that goes for both speakers and topics.
I vividly remember one session where the speaker was interminably dull and spent the whole session with his back to the audience. On that occasion I felt compelled to stay - in the hope that he would turn around and I’d see his face when he discovered that most of his initially sizable audience had silently crept out!


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Should we be using virtual reality in the events industry?

Or is it still at the gimmick stage?

Last month the Marriott hotel chain introduced its new ‘VRoom Service’, offering guests room-service delivery of a virtual reality kit comprising a Samsung Gear VR headset, smartphone and a pair of headphones.
The devices are preloaded with three different 360-degree 3D ‘virtual visits’ and take guests to an ice cream shop in Rwanda, the Andes Mountains in Chile and the streets of Beijing. The two-minute ‘VR Postcards’ videos feature real travellers who share their stories about how much they value exploring other countries, cultures and experiences.


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Be responsible for event registration security

What to check with your technical team

More major companies have recently fallen foul to security breaches. Some have seen the direst of consequences, with the Ashley Madison hack even leading to suicides. Every sector must look at how it protects the data of its customers – and this certainly applies to the events industry.
An increasing number of conferences have websites where the delegates sign in, pay to attend, and book sessions – but is their information securely protected?
Some of the onus is on the people registering for these websites to choose secure passwords and this is one place where size DOES matter.


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Bells and whistles can’t mask poor material

Content is the most important factor for delegates

I’ve attended a lot of presentations at events over the years and it seems to me that the definition of a presentation is increasingly getting lost somewhere along the way.
The dictionary says a presentation is a ‘speech or talk in which a new product, idea or piece of work is shown and explained to an audience’, but I’m seeing an increasing number of presentations that have a brief introduction followed by the speaker telling the audience to get into groups to discuss the topic.


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Are the questions essential?

Simon Clayton offers a brief guide to registration

There have been many articles written about successful registration strategies. The majority tend to have a hidden agenda relating to the author’s own services or products, whilst the rest follow whichever trend is on topic that particular week.
This article falls into neither of those camps. When it comes to registration, success is relatively easy to achieve if you apply common sense and stick to the obvious necessities.


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Make event apps a necessity not a novelty

Apps will only be used if they bring obvious benefits

Google recently confirmed that in ten countries, including the US and Japan, more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers.
Couple that with research from Nielsen’s latest Smartphone App Report, which explained that adult smartphone users were spending an average of more than 43 hours each month accessing content via applications, and it’s easy to see why the events industry is trying to utilise the power of the mobile and, with it, apps.


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Aerial drones are seen at more events

Make sure you know the rules, advises Simon Clayton

Radio-controlled aircraft aren’t a new thing by any means, but, lately, drones seem to have captured the public interest like nothing we’ve seen before in this field. Such is the explosion of interest that the UK’s first consumer drone event, UK Drone Show 2015, is being held at the NEC in Birmingham in December 2015.
Some of this interest in the latest selection of drones stems from their advanced electronics. They are gyro-stabilised, which means they aren’t as hard to fly – but don’t get me wrong; that doesn’t mean they are easy to fly either.


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