Drones – If you told us ten years ago that seeing unmanned camera helicopters on a daily basis would be a tech trend that became normal, we would probably have boarded the first raft to Cuba and gone feral in the mountains. What was first introduced as a military tool is now a commonplace item for event organizers, filmmakers, and tech hobbyists.

Known best for its use as an aerial camera, drones have played an integral role in the rise of live streaming by providing another view of the event, be it a concert or an arts festival, for those watching at home to get a fuller picture. Drone streaming isn’t entirely new and has been around for years, especially in the sports sector, but now that they are so readily available, festival promoters and even attendees can create and share their own bird’s eye vision of the experience.

Other than drones, here are five other tech trends that are making their mark in the festival industry.

Tech Trend: Cashless Systems

Whether you’re a promoter, organizer or attendee, we’ve all been there: you’ve been standing in line for 10 minutes and you finally get to the register with your drink in hand, only to have to fumble through your bag or pockets to find that tremendously unsafe wad of cash. To tackle this time-consuming and sketchy inconvenience, festival and event promoters like Coachella, Insomniac, Tomorrowland, Comic Con, and more have adopted this event tech trend, cashless and paperless operating systems, for rapid entry and on-site transactions.

Utilizing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, companies like Intellitix have ditched standard internet systems and the old barcode scanner for a new and improved way to scan tickets, track sales and get to know their audience. Researchers have even shown that patrons who use pre-paid smart cards or devices linked to their bank account spend 40% more than when they are physically opening up their bags, wallets or pockets to pay for food and merchandise.

Facial Recognition

In addition to this years event tech trends, facial recognition has seen increasing use at events and in multiple industries. Major sporting events, music festivals, and concerts have been incorporating facial recognition to either increase security or enhance the attendee experience. For example, The Winter Olympics is already using a combination of AI and facial recognition for improving the attendee experience. But the technology has many more benefits. It can be used for behaviour mapping, increasing engagement with brands and brand activations, lead retrieval, or attendee management and faster check-ins.

With that said, it’s not all rosy with facial recognition technology. As facial recognition becomes more common, privacy concerns are rising. As they should, event planners and organizers are concerned with the privacy of their staff and attendees being breached. Even so, providers such as Zenus, which provides facial recognition technology for events, are finding ways to ensure this privacy.

“We are very, very conscious of this concern,” said Zenus CEO Panos Moutafis.  “We sacrificed a lot of revenue until we found a way to get this space right.”

We’ll have to keep a look at in the next few years to see if facial recognition is just a fad or a complete gamechanger for events.

Tech Trend: Sponsorship Aids

Both event organizers and sponsors can benefit from partnering up by tapping into new audiences and building off of the unique benefits each company has to offer, but there is a right way to do it. The companies you choose to associate your event with can either make or break your brand, which makes it more important than ever to invest in making sure it’s the right fit.

With the help of companies like Elevent, you can make data-driven decisions that are based on more than just a gut feeling. To help cut through the clutter, they’ve created sponsorship valuation tools to help sort through sponsorship proposals and find the right fit for your event/company based on cost analysis, activation opportunities, relevancy and even audience loyalty. Effective campaigns are becoming more and more experience-driven, valuing genuine emotional connections made with brands over flashy advertisements, so now is the time to employ whatever tools necessary to understand your audience on a deeper level.

VR/Augmented Reality

This event tech trend is probably not surprising. From live streaming to on-site activations, virtual and mixed reality has opened up countless doors for events to enhance and expand their guests’ experiences. VR technology has now made its way into the consumer market, making it readily available and affordable for any event that wants to bring a digital version of their experience to sofas around the world.

Companies like NextVR, Oculus Rift, HoloLens and LUNA 3D are paving the way for a new generation of immersive tools to engage guests both on-site and at home, blurring the lines and limitations of physical venues. Mixed reality—a blend of virtual reality and live interaction—can now simulate the experience of being at an event, allowing for “remote attendance.” Whether it’s for touring the site, live streaming a performance or recreating the experience, the options are boundless. Though it may never really live up to physically being there, it’s an interesting new revenue stream that’s certainly worth exploring.

Tech Trend: Touchable Technology

The more interactive, the better. This event tech trend should be an underlying theme for your event as a whole, but more specifically for your activation tents and engagement tools. One way to get closer to your audience on a personal level is by appealing to the five senses. Subpac took this concept and used it to create music you can feel. Providing an “extra dimension of sound,” the wearable technology transfers the low frequency from the music to your body, allowing you to “feel the bass” without the need for ear-damaging decibel levels. Subpac also adds another layer of reality to gaming and virtual reality experiences, adding a physical aspect to what used to be only audiovisual. Doppler Labs have created a new type of augmented reality, but with sound. The Here One Active Listening systems act as an in-ear equaliser so you can fine tune the sounds you hear both with streaming and real-world sounds. Even drones have become wearable to some degree: Nixie, the wearable camera we showed you above, are developing drones that fold into bracelets when not in flight, so you can comfortably take your nifty, photo-snapping gadget with you wherever you go.

While technology often shapes the consumer experience and drives changes in your event, it’s important not to hop on every trend that emerges. Add some drone shots to your after movie. Provide VR at home if you know that you have the audience and engaged sponsors or brand partners to make it worthwhile. You know your audience better than anyone, and if you do your homework, you’ll know what will resonate and what will not. Always remember that the festival graveyard is strewn with those that failed to modernize or chose to ignore the changes that were going on around them.