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Can a cup of coffee make a massive expo more sustainable and easier to manage? Not by itself. But when technology is used to gather and analyze data relating to the coffee stands and other facilities at the event, a lot more becomes possible.

At the 2024 edition of Cisco Live Amsterdam, a showcase of technology trends, NTT DATA’s experts and leaders demonstrated our latest networking, security and cloud innovations. 

The event was held at RAI Amsterdam’s exhibition and conference center in the Netherlands. The center, which hosts an average of 1.5 million visitors a year, has 12 multifunctional halls and various rooms and lounges – areas that we turned into smart spaces.

Using technology to understand visitor behavior

At the conference in Amsterdam, we wanted to demonstrate how a combination of IoT, edge computing and private 5G could give event organizers real-time information about venue occupancy, the movement of people around the venue, air quality and other insights they could use to improve the experience for attendees. 

We installed sensors at all the entrances to the exhibitions area and to the NTT DATA booth and coffee lounge. The sensors were connected to the cloud with our Private 5G technology, which offers the benefits of maximum flexibility, reliable and low-latency connectivity, high bandwidth and enhanced security.

In our coffee lounge, we monitored the queue for coffee as well as the overall occupancy of the area. At our booth, we tracked the demonstration areas and the general engagement zone separately.

Preparing for peak times with real-time insights

The data we gathered was then analyzed and turned into insights that were delivered to the organizers through a dashboard.

An example of NTT DATA's data dashboard for Cisco Live

Standing out from the crowd: an example of our data dashboard for Cisco Live

For example, we reported that one corridor was used more often in the mornings and another more frequently in the evenings. From this observation, event managers know where they should place advertising collateral at different times of the day.

Analyzing the total attendance for each day, we noticed a significant drop in attendance on the last day. When event staff have access to such insights in real time, it can make their jobs a lot easier.

Looking at the data for the NTT DATA event space, we learned that the best time to engage with conference-goers in the coffee lounge was between 11am and 3pm – and that not many people drink coffee after 4pm. Knowing this, we could be better prepared by making sure we had enough people (and hot coffee!) in the lounge at peak times. And the benefits of using this technology to monitor all food and beverages sold at a huge expo would be far greater: you’d have less waste, happier visitors and smoother operations all round.

Other insights included:

  • Noise levels corresponded to occupancy trends, except on the last day when heavy equipment was being used to disassemble some of the facilities.
  • Indoor air quality remained excellent throughout the event, with carbon-dioxide levels starting to increase only an hour after occupancy began rising.
  • Around our booth, most visitors started in the general engagement zone before moving on to the demonstration areas. This type of data can help exhibitors plan booth layout and staffing more efficiently.

Making events more sustainable

One of the reasons we deployed this technology at Cisco Live was to help RAI Amsterdam realize their sustainability and corporate social responsibility goals. The City of Amsterdam is rolling out long-term measures to make big events in the city more sustainable, safer and less wasteful, and event organizers have to turn to innovative technologies to help them comply.

Using our technology in this way, event organizers can minimize food waste, save on energy costs through automated environmental controls and minimize noise pollution. They can even cut back on physical network infrastructure like copper cables by opting for 5G connectivity instead.

We see our approach at Cisco Live as a small, but important, first step on RAI Amsterdam’s bigger sustainability journey. It proves the value of working with an expert technology service provider like NTT DATA that can deliver quickly under pressure and adapt to fast-changing circumstances at a big event, armed with broader business insights to work across event teams to achieve these goals.

The partnership means RAI Amsterdam – who describe themselves as one of Europe’s most innovative expo venues – now also has access to a stream of collaborative innovation, with NTT DATA acting as a “living lab” for technologies that will keep advancing event management and sustainability.

Ready to scale

The insights we gathered didn’t just help the Cisco Live organizers. The event also gave us a valuable opportunity to experiment with the optimal placement of different sensor models, the best way to test the infrastructure ahead of the event and the best locations for cameras whose feeds need to be analyzed automatically, among other factors.

It was also clear that all operational teams at such a huge event needed to be consulted to establish what metrics they would find most useful and at what times. Planned cooperation between on-the-ground teams like IT and security is a must. There can be no silos once the doors open.

The lessons we learned will be invaluable as we keep working with the RAI operations team to scale our strategy for future events, where we will track and analyze far more than just a few cups of coffee.