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3 Ways Tech Is Transforming Political Conventions

RNC and DNC 2012 aim to be safer, interactive and continuously connected.

by / August 28, 2012

Now that the Republican National Convention (RNC) is under way, following its brief Hurricane Isaac-induced delay, a clearer picture of the event is emerging. The three-day gathering being held at the Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., is noteworthy for much more than the official business of bestowing the title of 2012 Republican presidential nominee on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Technology has truly transformed the political landscape in 2012. The RNC, as well as the Democratic National Convention (DNC) scheduled for next week in Charlotte, N.C., bears little resemblance to the last nationwide gathering held just four years ago.

According to a fact sheet on the RNC’s official website, more than 80 miles of cable, (coaxial, phone and Internet) have been installed to ensure continuous connectivity. Here are three things making each party’s signature quadrennial event different from years past.

Social Media

According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer hadn’t yet joined Twitter when the 2008 political conventions took place. Contrast that with 2012, when Blitzer has 540,000 Twitter followers — evidence that social media will make 2012 the year of the truly interactive convention.

Live streaming options are available through various news outlets, for those wanting to follow each convention as it unfolds. The RNC’s site itself offers the option up front on its home page, and the DNC will likely deliver the same when it officially nominates President Barack Obama as its nominee for 2012.

Both conventions also boast apps developed specifically to engage much broader audiences than those able to be present at the events. The GOP has a green room devoted to digital media, encouraging its speakers to post updates to platforms like Twitter and Facebook, take photos, conduct interviews over Skype and more. Staff will monitor and post content to social media platforms in an on-site center on an ongoing basis. According to the convention website, the RNC maintains a presence on 10 social networks in all. Not to be outdone, the DNC offers options to connect via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.

Cellular Networks

Tampa Bay and Charlotte have experienced a surge in cellular network growth in the months leading up to this year’s conventions. Conventioneers, media and speakers will surely flood the area’s bandwidth in their efforts to share first-hand observations via their smartphones and tablets.

According to ABC News, each location will benefit from beefed up networks even after the conventions have left the area. Several temporary measures also were employed by major cellular carriers to keep networks up and running despite what’s expected to be a significant, although temporary, surge in Web traffic. Bandwidth consumption will spike from an abundance of social media updates, app downloads and streaming video.

AT&T reports three new cell towers in Tampa, as well as 10 temporary cell sites and more than 200 Wi-Fi hot spots. The carrier’s preparations in Charlotte include 12 new permanent cell sites and 10 temporary ones, along with additional Wi-Fi hot spots. Verizon and Sprint also have added permanent and temporary cell sites in the Tampa area to handle traffic spikes related to the conventions.


A new weapon in the arsenal of Tampa police is getting a fair amount of attention as law enforcement aims to keep convention activities secure. Dubbed by one news outlet as a “profiling” tool, behavior recognition software will help local police proactively identify potential threats to security.

From BRS Labs, AISight uses artificial intelligence to identify suspicious behavior via surveillance cameras, allowing law enforcement to proactively intervene to prevent security violations. Reports suggest the technology may also be utilized at the DNC in Charlotte.

According to the company’s website, AISight “understands which activities commonly occur in any particular scene, bringing attention to objects or behaviors that are out of the ordinary through real-time alert notification.”

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.

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