6 Venues Where You’ll Never Complain About the WiFi

More than anyone else, #eventprofs know that the digital infrastructure of a venue is like the air that we breathe – intangible, invisible but essential for our event survival. So what does digital infrastructure look like in an award-winning venue? Here are 6 venues with peerless digital infrastructure.

INCON is the global association of professional conference organisers (PCOs) that, 3 years ago, instituted a special award for venues. Since then this award has become a hotly contested and much coveted accolade.

The INCON Award recognizes venues not for their iconic design, clever marketing or best-in-class catering but for something behind-the-scenes, largely unseen and usually hidden: digital infrastructure.

6 Venues Where You’ll Never Complain About the WiFi

Darmstadtium (Winner 2014)

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Credit: Darmstadtium

Located in Darmstadt, Germany’s “city of science” close to Frankfurt international airport, Darmstadtium is the eponymous city’s official science and conference centre. Besides an iconic appearance – it’s known locally as the crooked box – there are 18,000 square metres of available event space with an auditorium for 1,200 attendees. Darmstadtium was selected as the outright winner in 2014 for 3 reasons – unrivalled connection speed and reliability, security and ease of administration and qualified support staff.

Linked to the Darmstadt University of technology, Darmstadtium provides internet speeds up to an astonishing, supersonic 10 gigabits per second. Private, secure and branded customer networks can be provided with VLAN technology and IPv6 support along with latest wireless standard 802.11ac, facilitating higher data transfer rates of up to 600 mbit/s. Excellent mobile network connectivity is ubiquitous, including the underground car park.

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Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (Winner 2015)

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The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC) was the outright winner of the INCON award in 2015. MCEC is a local government owned facility committed to “connecting people through memorable experiences”. There are 52 flexile meetings spaces catering for up to 2,000 as well as a multi-functional plenary space taking a whopping 5,500.

$3.5m was invested in digital infrastructure in 2014 at MCEC to create 192 fibre points across 52 meeting rooms and to deliver transfer rates of 11 terabits per second. The entire network is monitored 24/7 by a team of 10 technicians with both Cisco and Microsoft qualifications.

The user experience for both meeting planners and participants is enhanced by a range of benefits including the visualisation studio which enables users explore different technical settings and configurations through a virtual 3D representation of the event space.

Croke Park Meetings & Events (Honourable Mention 2016)

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Image is a courtesy of Croke Park Meetings & Events

Croke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and is Europe’s 3rd largest stadium with match day capacity of 83,000. It is widely used for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events and typically hosts over 650 events per year ranging in size from 10 to 2,000 attendees.

Croke Park recently invested significantly in its digital infrastructure including the rollout of High Density WiFi in the corporate, conference and public concourse areas of the stadium.  Approximately 400 new WiFi access points were deployed across the entire building which enables it to cater for HD WiFi. This upgrade of WiFi capability is delivered through a LAN backbone of 90+ Cisco 3850 POE switches linked by 10GBPS single mode fibre.  Further upgrades are planned to improve the DAS network delivering 3G and 4G to Croke Park visitors and HD WiFi deployment within the bowl of the stadium.

The investment also included a new IPTV and signage infrastructure which has been installed across the stadium’s network of 280 video displays and projectors. The system allows customised branding and signage in the form of high definition multimedia content to be deployed at any screen location. The infrastructure also supports live broadcasting of presentations from the main event suites into breakout and lounge areas throughout the stadium.

Sands Expo & Convention Centre (Joint Runner-Up 2016)

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Credit: Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands is a multi-purpose, mixed use development in Singapore that includes luxurious hospitality facilities, a casino, a world class museum and the Sands Expo & Convention Centre. This year the facility was joint runner up for the INCON digital infrastructure award.

The Sands Expo & Convention Centre is equipped with Aruba Controllers on each and every floor, connecting up to 400 units of Aruba 200 series of Access Points and providing up to 69,800 wireless connections throughout the entire facility at any one time. Its upgraded WiFi network throughout the entire facility also enables seamless multicasting during an event.

Marina Bay Sands has invested heavily in live screen management installing Barco’s E2 and S3 image management systems. The systems are capable of managing a 4K projector blend with refresh rates up to 60Hz to produce superior image quality. The property also owns close to 100 projectors with varying light outputs ranging from 6,200 lumens for use at small meetings to 26,000 lumens for use at in large venues or events.

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre (Joint Runner-Up 2016)

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Styled as Perth’s premier events destination, PCEC offers 35 multi purpose, unique and flexible spaces to meet, exhibit, celebrate and entertain, holding over 1,500 guests for a Gala banquet.

PCEC digital infrastructure pivots around a Telco grade wired and wireless network infrastructure to support in excess of 10,000 concurrent users generating over 1Tb internet traffic per day. The network provides 99.98% uptime and a highly available network (N+1 redundancy) coupled with end to end uninterrupted power suppliers.  This ensures significant uptime during critical moments.

Meeting and event planners will be delighted with the 1-click secure guest access with guest isolation firewall and customisable splash pages that  offer branding potential. In addition the digital infrastructure offers access to important location analytics and trends across connected locations.

Austria Center, Vienna (Winner, 2016)

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In 2017 ACV will celebrate its 30th birthday but there’s nothing retro or 80s about the digital infrastructure at Austria’s largest dedicated convention centre, the outright winner of the 2016 INCON award.

Bandwidth is set at 1 gbps as standard, with the option to increase speed to 4 gbps at any time. There are 1,500 permanently cabled LAN connections and 97 access points providing simultaneous connection for up to 35,000 devices.

Meetings and event organisers and corporate brands will love the extent of the HD screens across the facility: there are 100 full-HD screens as well as an 85” HD media wall located in the business lounge.

The venue now offers a seamless tracking solution to analyse visitor movements and interactions at conferences and exhibitions. The solution can analyse unique visitors per day, in a certain area such as an exhibition stand or lecture room of the venue and also offers the possibility to follow a visitors’ journey.

In Conclusion

Accessibility, location, relative size and value will always make up the 4 corners of any decision to select one meeting venue or another. However, at the heart of the decision making process, at the point where the diagonal lines from each of those 4 corners meet, is digital infrastructure. This is the point where venues now need to commit significant investment and these 6 venues listed above show us the way to do so.

About The Author
Padraic Gilligan
Padraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua Marketing, a boutique consultancy offering marketing, training and strategy for MICE for destinations, venues and hotels. He blogs weekly on destinations and matters of interest to the Meetings Industry at Padraicino
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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