An event like PAX East brings with it some of the most technologically savvy clients and attendees in the meetings and convention industry. Internet connections on the wireless system at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) typically spike to record levels, and exhibitors require a huge amount of bandwidth for their displays.
Jim Rooney (Executive Director at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, or MCCA) calls our convention centers the most technologically advanced in the world, and frankly, it’s true, thanks to the MCCA’s long-term investment in technological infrastructure.
When the BCEC was opened in 2004, free wireless service in a North American convention center was a novelty. Most convention centers charged their attendees to access the system, and coverage was shoddy at best. In Boston, however, it was decided early on that free access to a robust system wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. Since then, the wireless systems at both the BCEC and the Hynes Convention Center are among the fastest in the world when it comes to internet access. In fact, the MCCA recently upgraded its Wide Area Network (WAN) at both convention centers to 10 gigabit capacity per second, replacing an eight‐year‐old system that could handle 300 megabits per second. When we announced the upgrade, I said it was like going from a moped to a Formula 1 racer.
The new system will allow the MCCA the flexibility to expand or contract bandwidth without changing infrastructure — and with just a phone call or email. Redundancy has been built into the system throughout, and the system can also connect to Boston’s closed‐circuit television network, or even to nearby hotels, allowing attendees the ability to register offsite when they check in.
Internally, technology has also helped us do our jobs better and more efficiently. In the distant past, when clients ordered services from the MCCA, those orders were tracked on paper, and it was a mess. But when we looked outside, the centralized systems available on the market to track orders did not meet our needs. So, we built a system ourselves, creating a one-of-a-kind open source software called ShowBiz, which streamlines the business flow of an event – from booking to the sudden demands while an event is underway. Thus far, the ShowBiz program has processed $90 million worth of business. The program was given awards by Red Hat and JBoss for innovation.
But that’s not all. The MCCA was the first in the country to create easy-to-use apps for each of its convention centers. In this mobile world, with more attendees carrying mobile phones than laptops, the apps myBCEC and myHynes are wildly popular and help our clients and attendees connect before, during and after an event. (Screenshots of the apps are shown at the top of this article.)
Boston is an amazingly popular destination for national and international conventions, with much of that allure centered on the ability to connect to the Commonwealth’s unique and powerful economic engines, be it biotechnology, academia or medical. Our mission to maintain and enhance technology at our centers is done with that in mind: We help our global visitors connect while they are in Boston.