Virtual conference

ITS Finland – A unique virtual congress with Wakeone

ITS Finland is a non-profit organization and collaboration forum, which brings cities, states, researchers, schools and the business world together to accelerate digitalization, in order to save the world from problems associated with traffic.

ITS Finland organized a traffic-themed virtual conference, Smart & Green Recovery - Mobility 2.0, which focused on finding sustainable and intelligent solutions to build a bridge over the coronavirus pandemic.

The immersive and global virtual conference with a 3D expo was the first of its kind. Wakeone implemented the website and virtual world, including the exhibit area. The event targeted international audiences, particularly Europeans, and gathered over 800 participants from 40 countries, with 21 exhibitors. This unique venue was remotely built in just five weeks.

Exceptional times created the need for an exceptional event

TRA2020, the largest European research and technology conference on transport and mobility, was supposed to take place in Helsinki in April 2020. Due to the coronavirus, the venue was cancelled and people at ITS Finland began wondering how to arrange a similar event online, preferably with a fully Finnish workforce.

The basic idea was to be pioneers and do something the world had never seen before.

We decided to execute the conference before the vacation period, fearing that someone else might come up with something similar if we waited too long. That would have made us followers, not pioneers. We wanted to be bold and showcase the famous Finnish expertise, explains Marko Forsblom, Executive Director of ITS Finland.

Building an international event of this size and caliber in five weeks required constant communication and close collaboration with the customer.

Excellent execution led to a high-class conference

Close cooperation between Finnish professionals resulted in a unique and memorable virtual conference where speakers, exhibitors and the audience could interact just as they would in a traditional conference.

Obviously, we wanted to take the conference as far from a basic webinar approach as possible. The goal was to turn attendance into a genuine experience.

The event site was the main navigation hub for visitors, directing them smoothly between 2D and 3D experiences. Virtual spaces were built on customized Mozilla Hubs platform, which enables users to join truly multiuser virtual sessions from a variety of web browsers, including desktop, mobile, tablet and VR headsets. Users could move around and make conversation as avatars.

The speaker group consisted of national and international influencers such as Timo Harakka, Minister of Transport and Communications; Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki; Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MaaS Global and Morten Kabell, former Mayor of Technical and Environmental affairs in Copenhagen. Some of the presentations were prerecorded and a live QA session was included as part of the live presentations.

Throughout the project, Wakeone worked in close cooperation with Woltti Group, which did a magnificent job with video production.

After party to top it all

Like any other conference, Smart & Green Recovery ended with a party. The afterparty featured a DJ and four space types, with capacity for 400 simultaneous users. There was even a sauna!

Movability and sleight of hand were put to the test when moving your avatar on the dance floor. While standing on the terrace of the sauna with other participants, gazing at the sunset on the lake and listening Arctic loons singing, I momentarily forgot that I was sitting in an office, says Forsblom.

Forsblom sees lots of potential use cases for this kind of setting. It is unlikely that events will move online altogether, but the virtual world could serve as an additional option.

Travel takes time and money, so virtual conferences are a potential alternative when executed properly.

Within the five weeks available, the team only scratched the surface. Tools and technology enable so much more, such as implementing digital twins in a showroom. The main point is that, in some cases, a virtual conference can be a viable alternative to traditional execution.



Kuvat: Krister Majander

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