The Future of Theatre Using iBeacons

Theatre and performing arts are currently going through a crisis as theatres remain closed but are still experiencing ongoing costs with no income. Performers are juggling new jobs to make ends meet. In the UK alone there’s a projected £74bn drop in revenue for the creative industries and the loss of 400,000 jobs. There’s a growing realisation that the Covid pandemic is going to be with us for a long time. Even when there’s a vaccine, it will take a long time to manufacture, only provide for gradual vaccination and probably require seasonal re-vaccination much like flu.

With this in mind, once theatres are allowed to re-open, they will have to adapt to the new normal. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s pilot performances are leading the way with improvements in hygiene, social distancing, temperature testing, mandatory face masks and special anti-viral sprays.

The Grand Theatre in Blackpool has a new article on the Future of Theatre In A Digital World. It describes new innovations that will improve the customer journey as well as provide for more automated contact-less engagement required for coping with the Covid crisis.

The aim is to integrate all systems to improve the customer experience, raise more online reviews and gain customer feedback. This starts with smart booking of theatre tickets through smartphones, watches and home speakers. Tickets reside on your smartphone with associated useful information such as casting biographies, announcements, behind the scenes photos/videos, reviews, cast introductions, offers and vouchers. This will allow for faster returns and seating updates. eVouchers allow contactless use of entry gates, concession areas, car parking passes, public transport tickets and pre-paid taxis.

iBeacon Theatre Bar Congestion
Theatre bar congestion

Bluetooth iBeacons allow for location based:

  • Checking in
  • Provision of information such as waiting times, best bars to head for and where to go for personal or accessibility assistance
  • Offering of vouchers based on previous spending habits
  • Messaging to advise turning down phone when seated, that might even be done automatically
  • When seated, promoting of upcoming productions with one click booking

Some of these things are starting to happen at theatres like the UK’s Blackpool Grand. The contact-less aspects are likely to be accelerated due to the Covid crisis.

Beacons on Cruise Ships

There’s a new in-depth article at PC Mag on how Carnival use beacons, based on Bluetooth and NFC, on cruise ships. As the article says, “it provides an excellent case study in how to use technology to enhance your customer’s experience”.

The beacons are branded as ‘OceanMedallion’ and allow:

  • Guests to unlock their stateroom
  • Guests to pay for drinks or items in shops
  • Guests to play in the casino
  • Housekeeping staff to keep track of whether or not the stateroom is occupied

7,000 sensors throughout each ship detect the beacons and 4000 interactive portals provide information for guests. A mobile app can also be used that can help navigate about the ship and find fellow passengers.

Beacons provide a way to eliminate friction in the passenger experience. The software system uses edge devices to perform operations close to where the user has been detected so as to reduce latency and network traffic. Nevertheless, the system attempts to centralise data so as not to replicate information.

The system provides Carnival with lots of useful data on guest preferences, transactions (for billing) and preferred areas of the ship. Aggregated information might be used to determine heavily used areas (for maintenance), pinch points and redundant areas of the ship to feed into improvements to the ship.

Read about Beacons in Hospitality

Read about Beacons in Visitor Spaces

Beacons in Times Square

If you are thinking about using beacons for hospitality/events then you might like to take a look at Mr Beacon’s latest video interview with Kyle Wright from The Shubert Organization. They are the largest theatre owner on Broadway and have beacons covering their theatres and 80% of Times Square.

Their beacons require apps and they have been experimenting with partnering with 3rd party apps from travel, airline and credit card companies as well as having their own app. Initially, their own app was a challenge because few people had spare time to download when they arrive at a theatre. However, covering such a large number of venues and Time Square, with the large footfall, has made it easier to get their beacon detection into the 3rd party apps.

This is an interesting insight in that, if you control a compelling destination, you don’t necessarily need your own app but might have the clout to piggy back another organisation’s app that’s more likely to be on peoples’ phones.

More Cruise Ships Using Beacons

We previously wrote about how Carnival Cruises was rolling out beacons on their cruise ships. MSC Cruises have recently announced that they will also be using beacons as part of their ‘MSC and Me’ technology to allow guests to track their kids, navigate the ship, receive messages and book activities.

The use of beacons in hospitality is currently an area ripe for innovation. Cruise companies seem to be one of the first, probably because a) beacons can impact on a large number of areas and b) the resultant data and opportunities for added value selling can be valuable to the companies.

Beacons in the Hospitality Sector

Carnival Cruises has started to roll out ‘Ocean Medallion™, a beacon that allows you to board the ship, open your room door, navigate the ship, find your family and friends onboard, make reservations and order and pay for food and drinks.

This is a significant and well thought out rollout for many reasons:

  • Large undertaking – In order to use the system, each ship is being fitted with 75 miles (121km) of cables, more than 7,000 sensors and 4,000 digital screens.
  • Mass market promotion – it has even been mentioned on the BBC.
  • First large rollout to use beacons with NFC – As we previously mentioned, NFC can be used for, closer, security-related activities such as payment.
  • Used as a USP – The How It Works web page is using the added convenience as a unique selling point.
  • No battery life problems – The beacon only has to transmit and last as long as the holiday.
  • User Experience aware – The beacon has been designed to look like jewellery to gain acceptance. It’s engraved with the customer’s name and can be worn as a necklace, clip or on a keychain.

The clever part is that the gains aren’t just for Carnival cruise guests. The new system will also allow more personal location information to be gathered that can be used offer better targeted promotions and hence help increase revenue per customer.