Expo Recovery Think Tank in Las Vegas Explores the Road to Safe Events

October 27, 2020

Industry leaders from across the U.S. came together at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas on Oct. 22, for Expo Recovery, a face-to-face meeting to discuss recovery solutions and also test-drive a safe, socially distant event. From next-level technology to room setup to breakfast on individual side tables, it offered a glimpse of what could be in store for our industry over the next year. 

“Our event grew from an off-the-record weekly call with industry stakeholders,” said Martin Glynn of MAD Event Management, which organized the event. “We realized that even though these people don’t typically talk to each other, they want to know each others’ thought processes and figure out how to move [forward] from here.” 

Health safety was understandably a key component. Attendees got to experience some potential solutions first hand with a Citizen Care Pod, a secure space for testing and screening that is part of a blockchain-powered system developed by Canada-based tech company Connectus Global. 

During registration, the system created a digital identity for each attendee and populated it with their health-related declaration, a liability waiver and a consent form. Once on-site, attendees presented their QR code to a staff member at the Citizen Care Pod and had their temperature taken by a thermal camera. Each attendee received a badge, also connected to the network, that monitored social distancing; it flashed green when distancing was observed and red when it was not. 

In other scenarios, attendees could also be tested for COVID-19 at the Pod. The temp information and the test results would then be uploaded to the management console of 1D network that uses Corda, a blockchain platform that adheres to strict health privacy regulations and ensures all the personal information stays encrypted and secure. The QR code is then updated for access to the event.

The system was originally designed as an industrial solution for monitoring access to oil refineries and other high capability throughputs and helping companies in that space isolate and track virus transmission. Now, it’s being adopted to the events space

“Originally we were going by the CDC and WHO guidelines -—check the box, stay socially distanced,” said Connectus Global CEO Mike Anderson. “Now, understanding the incubation period of the virus, we’re putting more emphasis on data capture at different times and really understanding the health profile of the person.”  

Other adjustments include making the blockchain technology interface user friendly for non-tech professionals as well as providing a scalable solution for different types of events. 

The role of testing solutions and an overall testing strategy was the focal point of the presentation by John Flynn, vice president, MGM Resorts International. As part of its Convene with Confidence plan, MGM has partnered with testing company Impact Health to provide rapid on-site COVID-19 testing, now being piloted at the company’s events. It has also partnered with CLEAR, an identity verification company, on a Health Pass system that links verified identity with COVID-19 health insights, such as test results and temperature checks. This process was recently utilized in the National Hockey League's successful return to play at the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Toronto and Edmonton.

Flynn said MGM Resorts is constantly exploring new testing solutions, including being able to identify the virus within six hours of infection and up to 90 days after. He also noted the possibility of using the Health Pass for a variety of purposes in the travel and events space as early as by Q1. “There is no one testing solution,” he said. “There has to be a national strategy and standardized way to have the results uploaded on a national scale.” 

Martha Donato, president and founder of MAD Event Management, said that after the meeting on Oct. 22, she felt more optimistic and hopeful. “It’s a starting point, the end of the beginning. For a lot of people, it was their first time getting on the plane and attending an event, and it was successful.”  

The group came to a conclusion that for the moment, it’s important to focus on smaller-scale events and to prove that they can be produced safely and successfully. Then, they can gradually build up, exploring new technological solutions on a case-by-case basis and essentially driving innovation for the entire industry. “We can’t keep waiting for someone to solve our problem,” Donato said.

A new must-have swag item? A take-home test. 

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