#Tech14: 3D Printers and Beacons and Drones (Oh My!)

The Closing General Session at the 2014 ASAE Technology Conference & Expo was all about showing off the things that could matter down the line. Send in the drones!

Technology is often about two things: what’s possible and what’s to come.

The 2014 edition of the ASAE Technology Conference & Expo, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, was often a mix of these corresponding-but-conflicting topics.

So was the closing general session, which showed off some innovative technologies—some of which may have seemed to lack context in the current association environment. 3D printers? Check. Beacons? Check. Drones? You know it.

The conversation, led by ASAE Chief Information Officer Reggie Henry, CAE, was meant to get people thinking about the possibilities.

“Most people don’t realize that these technologies are here and they’re being used,” Henry explained.

Among the devices on display Wednesday afternoon:

"Melissa" with her creator, Erik Muendel.

Virtual Presenters: Ever played a “human sign” at your conference? What if a screen-enabled cardboard sign could take your place? If that sounds odd or offbeat, you haven’t met “Melissa” yet. The Brightline Interactive-produced virtual presenter, brought to life using a special screen technology called Vikuiti, can tell when someone is close—and even answer a few questions. It’s impressive enough that the NFL is going to use a few at the Super Bowl this year—with Drew Brees replacing Melissa. But Brightline’s Erik Muendel promised that there was more to come. “There’s gonna be a lot of sensor integration into everything that we do,” he noted.

Bluetooth Beacons: What if you could tell your exhibitors exactly how many people had visited their booths? And maybe even, thinking crazy here, how long those people stayed? For years, this sort of thing was an inexact science, but thanks to Bluetooth-powered devices installed throughout the Gaylord with the help of the startup TurnoutNow, ASAE did just that. “What we’re hoping to do here is almost replace lead retrieval,” ASAE Director of Exhibitions & Registration Allison Wachter, CEM, explained. The data was anonymized at the tech conference, but in the future, ASAE may look into sending attendees an event analytics report. It’ll be all opt-in, of course.

3D printing enthusiast Michael Corcoran.

3D Printing: Being the CIO of ASAE, Henry gets excited about technology—so excited that he bought some of the tech shown off at the closing general session. In the case of the MakerBot Replicator on display at the event, he even invited Daniel Corcoran, an Inventory Control Expert for the Tysons Corner, Virginia, Microsoft Store where he purchased it, to explain the technology’s potential. Corcoran, an enthusiast himself, cited the tale of a man whose spinal injury was treated by an unlikely 3D-printed source. “There is a man with a spine printed in titanium,” Corcoran said. “This is the world we’re living in right now.”

Social Access Management: Is that term unfamiliar to you? Let’s put it this way: It’s essentially a login mechanism for doors and office buildings. Jonathan Polon of Brivo Labs highlighted the company’s products, which can connect users to buildings without requiring the traditional waiting and phone calls that might come when someone is visiting for a meeting. “The building has done nothing in response to my presence,” Polon explained of the usual issues that come with guests entering office buildings. “We’re looking to change that.” Polon showed off a number of the company’s technologies, including the Randivoo, which calls itself a “true end-to-end visitor experience.”

Photographer Michael Busada, who discussed his experience using drones like the one shown below.


Drones: Henry didn’t just buy himself a 3D printer before the conference—he got a drone, too, and his excitement for the device was shared by photographer Michael Busada, who noted that the excitement for the devices often inspires people to get ahead of the federal regulations around their commercial use. “Drone usage is way ahead of government regulations. At some point … . We’re going to have to see what happens,” he noted. Drone usage could blossom into an $83 billion industry, but general wariness might hold it back. Henry noted that federal regulations prevented him from flying the device outside—and the Gaylord prevented him from flying it inside.

Henry said the session’s goal was to encourage attendees to think big-picture.

“It’s a different world, that’s right here, that we have to start taking advantage of,” he said.

3D printing enthusiast Daniel Corcoran, center, showing off the MakerBot Replicator. (all photos by Sabrina Kidwai, APR, CAE/ASAE)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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