There is more than one way to communicate with a cell phone. In fact, there are four ways. Regular telecoms networks. Mobile data networks. Wifi. Bluetooth. For about a million years Bluetooth has been this sort of useful thing. We use it to send ourselves a photo from our phone to our laptop. That’s if the internet is down and we can’t email it to ourselves. This might be about to change.
You will be aware, by now, of the GeoLocation services on your phone. This allows apps to see your GPS coords and give you content based your location. Now image a service that could pinpoint your exact location in an event space. A service that could determine, from your location, what information to send to you. Enter: Beacons.
Beacons are a range of services based on the Bluetooth Smart protocol. They allow data exchange over a range of over 100 metres based on a users location. A physical beacon (around the size of a postage stamp generally) may be placed in an area. This will send data to cell phones in the area. Because beacons use Bluetooth, this means that the tech can be used indoors. A beacon can send and receive data directly to attendees cell phones. It does so using an app that pinpoints their location.
The most popular beacon technology at the moment is Apple’s iBeacon. There are various other players in the game:
- Gimbal, like iBeacon but with some extra features
- Datzing,an Android based setup that removes the need for physical beacons
- Motorola’s MPact.
They all have their strengths and weaknesses. It pays to shop around for your perfect tech match.
Here’s a few of the cool things you could find. If you decide to build an app, that is.
These Beacons work best with an app so please see our article .9 best app functions.
Like a web heat map, heat mapping of your attendees can show you important information. You can look at individual dwell times in a location. If an attendee stays somewhere for a longer then they are likely to have found the information at that point interesting. You can look at concentrated areas of attendance. Find out what’s hot and what’s not.
When it’s a big event, networks get busy. Regular traffic from attendees may not get through. As beacons use Bluetooth, any of the custom app based data may always be exchanged if the attendee is in range of a beacon. New technology, called mesh beacons, takes this even further. With one mesh beacon and multiple users, the data can be sent through another person’s cell phone and on to another person who may be out of the beacon’s range. Check out the uBeacon Mesh for an example of this technology.
Streamlined Check Ins
The beacon technology has the ability to allow app users to check in, or seamlessly “show their ticket” on entry. When they are automatically checked in to the event on the app on arrival, their check in will be all a ticket checker needs to see.
Getting audience opinions on what they’ve just seen can be beneficial to both vendors and the event as a whole. Sending attendees quick questionnaires can give you feedback. Asking what they have just seen, done, eaten or drank. What was done right, what was done wrong, and how things could have been better. This points to the right way to plan things next time. You’ll also be able to pass along specific information to vendors.
Printed event maps are a thing of the past. Even static app based maps are a thing of the past. What beacons can give you are maps and navigational services based entirely on where you are standing right now. Think Google Maps.
This technology is fairly new. The surface has only just been scratched on what it means to be able to target your audience directly during events. Static event apps have had their time. Your attendees want an interactive experience that gives them what they want, when they want it. They want information based specifically on their interests. Being able to do this is likely to result in a much more satisfactory experience for them.
Your attendees benefit from using their beacon based event app. If you plan carefully the data you can collect on your audience (and their patterns of behaviour during event attendance) can lead to better planning for future events. You may want to trial different layouts, vendors, timetables, etc. With a win-win situation for both you and your customers it’s hard to imagine not wanting to dive in and get started!