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User Conferences Take a New Form

With physical events off the table, virtual events have become an industry mainstay. Advantech Connect takes the idea of a multi-day event to new heights with a virtual agenda spanning months. Learn more about the novel approach.
Tim Denman
Editor in Chief
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Throughout the year, the typical high-ranking retail IT executive will attend multiple conferences, summits, and tradeshows to keep abreast of the latest trends, strategies, and technologies, as well as network with likeminded peers. In the COVID-age however, most of these conferences have been cancelled or have pivoted to virtual events designed to keep attendees connected and informed while eliminating physical exposure.

Gone, at least for now, are multi-day, in-person events complete with product demos, expo floor strolls, and cocktail receptions. Instead, event producers have been experimenting with a host of new approaches to keep attendees engaged — shorter meetings, on-demand content, one-to-one and group networking events, gamification, etc.

Another interesting tactic that is being experimented with is the idea of a multi-day event stretched over weeks and in some instances months. For example, NRF’s annual Big Show was extended from its usual week-long retail extravaganza to a two-week event this year to give attendees the opportunity to attend as much educational and networking sessions as their virtual schedules allowed.

Advantech has taken the multi-day approach to new heights with its Advantech Connect program, which kicked off on February 24 and concludes next Thursday, May 6. The cross-industry event explored the growing field of the Internet of Things from multiple angles including its future, embedding the tech throughout the enterprise, cloud’s role, intelligent cities, networking, video solutions, and much more.

As part of the kickoff for Advantech Connect, I was invited to attend a press conference with fellow media members from around the globe. The virtual event (streamed live from Advantech headquarters), featured a panel of IoT thought leaders assembled to both launch Advantech Connect as well as answer any questions about the event and the IoT market.

The panel featured:

  • Linda Tsai, Advantech Industrial-IoT Group President
  • Miller Chang, Advantech Embedded-IoT Group President
  • MC Chiang, Advantech Service-IoT Group Vice President
  • Allan Yang, Advantech CTO
  • Ween Niu, General Manager of Advantech N. America
  • Jerry O’Gorman, Advantech Industrial-IoT Group AVP N. America
  • Vincent Chang, Advantech Industrial-IoT Group Head Intercon

The conversation was structured around four main topics: the importance of data, COVID’s impact on IoT, data security, and the role 5G will play as IoT adoption continues to scale across industries. The spirited conversation was a precursor of the opening keynote that followed later that day, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the state-of-the-industry and Advantech’s place in it.

Below are some key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Companies need to be “data-driven to collect data in a way that facilitates the information and further improves it,” said Allan Yang. Stressing the importance of not just collecting data for collection’s sake, but rather to collect and analyze internal and external data with a underlying business need or challenge in mind.
  • COVID-19 has spurred an increase in IoT technology across industries. With “limiting factors, and less staff on site we have observed edge and cloud computing, as well as data-driven AI to be successful,” said Yang. But of course, “no one company can do it alone, we encourage all companies to form meaningful partnerships to speed time to market,” to take advantage of the IoT opportunities the current marketplace presents. There has been an “acceleration in automation, asset monitoring, preventative maintenance, and video-based AI,” echoed Jerry O’Gorman. “if you don’t embark on the digital journey, it will be hard to survive into the future.”
  • With 5G becoming more prevalent, the role it will play in big data collection and edge computing continues to be debated. “Not all technologies will require 5G,” said Linda Tsai. “The challenge is the cost is too high. 5G modules are still expensive and are in the proof-of-concept stage. 5G is not ready yet. It will likely be 2023 before it is truly ready.”
  • New tech streaming into the enterprise is highlighting the need for advanced data security. “Information security is usually placed on a lower priority unless it strengthens the viability of the business,” Yang said. One simple way to increase your data security without increasing your tech spend is “to utilize the security built into your systems. Make sure it is all turned on and latest patches are enabled. Make sure all staff understands the importance of security, especially around phishing attacks. No security measure can prevent phishing attacks,” organizations need to continually education and train employees to ensure data compliance. “Security is not one item,” O’Gorman said. “It needs to be a systems approach. The idea of resilience in a system is very important.”

Advantech’s multi-month user conference agenda is a novel approach born out of necessity. Even as the industry returns to a state of normalcy and in-person events begin to populate our calendars once again, virtual gatherings will continue to have a prominent place as travel will likely take years to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Check back here next month as we explore the rest of the Advantech Connect event and provide some post-event success metrics.

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