Crowdsensing Proximity Detection

There’s a new study on the performance of a proximity detection system for visitors in indoor museums using a Crowdsensing-based technique, authored by Michele Girolami, Davide La Rosa, and Paolo Barsocchi. This approach uses Bluetooth beacon data collected from visitors’ smartphones to calibrate two proximity detection algorithms: a range-based and a learning-based algorithm, embedded within a museum visiting application tested in the Monumental Cemetery’s museum in Pisa, Italy.

The experimental results demonstrate a significant improvement in performance when using crowd-sourced data, with accuracy metrics showing up to a 30% improvement compared to state-of-the-art algorithms. The research introduces a novel contribution by employing a Crowdsensing approach to improve the accuracy of proximity detection algorithms in a challenging indoor environment.

The study provides a detailed experimental campaign, including the design of the mobile application named R-app, to assess the performance enhancements achieved through this innovative method. The authors conclude that integrating Crowdsensing techniques with proximity detection algorithms offers a promising solution for enhancing visitor experiences in cultural heritage contexts.

The resultant collected data is also available.

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Sample Bluetooth Beacon Museum Data Available

Research on Bluetooth dataset for proximity detection in indoor environments collected with smartphones by Michele Girolami, Davide La Rosa, and Paolo Barsocchi, outlines the creation and details of a dataset aimed at enhancing proximity detection between people and points of interest (POIs) within indoor environments, particularly museums.

This dataset is created from Bluetooth beacon data collected from various smartphones during 32 museum visits, showing the interaction with Bluetooth tags placed near artworks. It includes data such as Received Signal Strength (RSSI) values, timestamps and artwork identifiers, providing a comprehensive ground truth for the start and end times of artwork visits.

The dataset is particularly designed for researchers and industry professionals looking to explore or improve upon methods for detecting the proximity between individuals and specific POIs using commercially available smartphone technologies. The primary aim is to facilitate rapid prototyping and the evaluation of indoor localisation and proximity detection algorithms under realistic conditions, leveraging accurate ground truth annotations and detailed hardware specifications.

The authors highlight the dataset’s significance in enabling the testing of proximity detection algorithms under real-world conditions, using data collected with commercial smartphones and Bluetooth tags. It allows for the examination of how RSS values vary across different devices and conditions, including during non-proximity events, providing insights into how these values change as a person approaches or leaves an artwork. This dataset is invaluable for researchers and startups aiming to analyse and automatically detect proximity between subjects and POIs in realistic conditions.

In creating the dataset, the team focused on replicating real-world museum visit conditions, ensuring visitors behaved naturally and that data collection reflected a variety of smartphones and visiting paths to accommodate device heterogeneity and environmental conditions. The methodology included varying the smartphones used for data collection and the sequence of artworks visited, to simulate different user experiences and conditions encountered in a museum setting.

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How Bluetooth Technology is Enhancing Museum Experiences

The traditional museum experience is undergoing a remarkable transformation. Central to this change is the integration of Bluetooth technology, particularly through the use of Bluetooth beacons. These small, wireless devices are redefining visitor interactions, creating more immersive, informative, and personalised experiences.

Personalised Tours at Your Fingertips

One of the most significant advantages of Bluetooth beacons is the ability to use them with apps to offer personalised tours. As visitors move through a museum, beacons located near exhibits can send information directly to their smartphones or provided devices. This can tailor content to individual preferences, past viewing history, or even language, making the museum tour more engaging and accessible for everyone.

Bringing Exhibits to Life

Imagine standing before an ancient artifact and receiving not just text-based information, but an interactive story that takes you back in time. Bluetooth beacons make this possible. By triggering audio narratives, augmented reality experiences, or video content as visitors approach, they bring a dynamic and vivid dimension to the exhibits, far beyond what traditional static displays offer.

Enhanced Learning Opportunities

Educational outreach is a core mission for many museums. Bluetooth beacons can enhance learning by providing additional layers of information, interactive quizzes and scavenger hunts for younger visitors. This interactive form of learning is not only more engaging but also helps in retaining information and sparking a deeper interest in the subject matter.

Crowd Management and Flow

Museums can be overwhelming, especially when they are crowded. Bluetooth technology can help manage the flow of visitors by providing real-time data on crowded areas. This information can be used to suggest alternative routes to visitors, ensuring a smoother and more enjoyable visit. It also helps museum staff to better manage and distribute the crowd, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

Accessibility for All

Accessibility is a crucial aspect of modern museums. Bluetooth beacons can provide visually impaired visitors with audio descriptions, guiding them through the museum and describing exhibits in detail. This level of accessibility ensures that museums are a place of learning and inspiration for everyone.

Collecting Valuable Insights

For museum administrators, Bluetooth beacons are a goldmine of visitor data. They can track which exhibits attract the most attention, average dwell times and visitor flow patterns. This data is invaluable for making informed decisions about exhibit placement, marketing strategies and future exhibit planning.

Sustainable and Cost-Effective

Bluetooth beacons are low-energy devices, making them an environmentally friendly and cost-effective option for museums. Their low power consumption means they can run for years on a single battery, reducing maintenance costs and their environmental footprint.


The integration of Bluetooth technology in museums is a significant leap towards making art, culture, and history more accessible and engaging in the digital age. Bluetooth beacons are playing a crucial role in this transformation, offering personalised, immersive and accessible experiences to every visitor.

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Study on Visitor Behaviour in Museums

There’s new research from the Department of Architecture and Design (DAD), Turin, Italy on Technology as a tool to study visitor behaviour in museums: positioning and neuropsychological detection to identify physical & cognitive barriers (pdf).

Inclusive communication projects in museums often rely on general principles of design without considering how unique a cultural experience it should be. It’s important to study all types of visitors, especially those who feel left out, to understand their experiences better and help them feel more included. However, tracking visitors in a museum can be difficult due to the indoor environment and the need to avoid affecting their behaviour.

To tackle this, the researchers used Bluetooth to study individual experiences. They used a Raspberry Pi that can located a user based on signals from Bluetooth beacons, providing a cheap way to track visitors indoors.

This system was tested at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, Italy. About 60 visitors were tracked, and their emotional responses were measured using a special bracelet. This data was stored and analysed to understand how visitors’ locations in the museum might relate to their emotional experiences, such as spending more time near pieces of art that have a strong emotional impact.

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Study into Monitoring Museum Exhibition Visitors

There’s recent research from Brno University of Technology and National Museum – Natural History Museum, Prague, Czech Republic on Monitoring visitors using wireless technologies (pdf) in which BeaconZone is referenced.

The paper looks into the historical and existing technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Ultra-Wideband and RFID for tracking visitors.

The authors propose a new solution combining existing technologies with heat maps from camera images.

Analysing visitor behaviour, museums can identify popular and unpopular areas and make adjustments accordingly, such as adding interactive elements to specific exhibits. Visitor behaviour also helps museums make informed decisions about marketing and promotions. Tracking visitor movements can also help identify and mitigate potential security risks in real time.

Match Use of Beacons to Organisations’ Goals

As we have previously mentioned, we believe too many companies chase the beacon retail marketing bandwagon when there are more compelling uses for beacons. These other uses also often have much less commercial competition. Think outside the current common usecases. Instead, invent new uses that better match organisations’ goals.

One such example is mentioned in the article Can Big Data Make for Better Exhibitions? Unlike the run of the mill, “let’s tag items and show information on them”, The Art Institute of Chicago used beacons to create heat maps, travel paths and derive dwell times to determine which parts of the museum people really want to see. The museum uses beacons for analytics. Promoting popular parts of the museum brought them an uplift in paid attendance from $14.8 million to $19.9 million. This success is based on concentrating on the museum’s real need of more income.

Start with your needs rather than the technology. Think in terms of your current challenges and work out how IT, in general, might be used to quantify the problem. Analytics will help you narrow in on specific areas that, in turn, can be improved and hence better achieve the organisation’s goals.

Museum, Visitor Space Case Study

We have a new case study on our consultancy for Royal Museums Greenwich on the Cutty Sark.

Royal Museums Greenwich wanted to locate visitors as part of their forthcoming Cutty Sark Alive Augmented Reality (AR) experience.

Use our consultancy to help prevent problems that should have been known prior to commencement. Otherwise, ‘unknown unknowns’ can lead to project failure or force pivoting in less desirable directions. A small initial study prevents expensive and embarrassing mistakes.

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Finding the Nearest Beacon

There’s new research from Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Maribor, Slovenia on Improved Bluetooth Low Energy Sensor Detection for Indoor Localization Services.

While there has been lots of research into server-side processing to improve location accuracy, this research instead looks into improving accuracy locally, in terms of finding the nearest beacon. This kind of processing is often needed where smartphone apps provide users with contextual information based on their location, for example, in museums.

It’s not possible to use the raw received signal strength (RSSI) because it changes frequently due to changes in blocking and reflection in a room. Any errors in determining the correct transmitter can cause errors in displaying relevant information which, in turn, leads to a poor visitor user experience.

The study involved use of iBeacons detected by Android smartphones, both in a controlled room with three obstacles and a real-world setting Expo Museum.

The proposed algorithm stabilised the RSSI by considering previous measurements to filter out sudden fluctuation of the RSSI signal or the rapid movement of the mobile device. The smartphone’s accelerometer was also used dynamically change the scan interval based on the user’s movement.

In the controlled room, the proposed algorithm had a 14.29% better success rate than a standard algorithm using the raw RSSI values. It performed particularly (20%) better in spaces having medium or high density of physical obstacles. It also performed better in the real-world Expo environment with a success rate of 95% compared to 87% with a standard algorithm.

Measuring Crowded Museums Using Bluetooth Beacons

There’s recent research on Managing Crowded Museums: Visitors Flow Measurement, Analysis, Modelling, and Optimization.

The aim of the research was to provide suggestions to a museum’s curators to better manage visitors flows to increase visitor comfort and improve safety. The museum for the case study was Galleria Borghese museum in Rome, Italy that has no obligatory exhibition path and has frequent congestion in some rooms such that those containing Caravaggio’s paintings.

Beacons set to advertise iBeacon at +4dB power were carried by visitors. RaspberryPi 3B+ (RPi) were used in rooms to detect beacons. Data from the RPi was stored in a SQL database. The project captured over a million records for 900 visitors’ trajectories during 13 2 hour long visits.

The researchers used Lagrangian field measurements and statistical analyses to analyse the data. A sliding window-based statistical method and a MLP neural network were compared.

It was possible to accurately reconstruct visitor trajectories and analyse visitors’ paths to get behavioural insights.

The system was suitable for the museum being economically viable and accepted by visitors. An issue was Bluetooth signal noise that was mitigated using data processing. The sliding window approach was better at measuring room transitions while the machine learning approach performed better at estimating the time spent in rooms.

The researchers identified issues with the museum design and suggested rearrangement of the artworks and implementing of a new ticketing strategy to let 100 people enter every 30 minutes while eliminating a 2 hour time limit.

Detecting Proximity Using Bluetooth Beacons in Museums

There’s new research by the Institute of Information Science and Technologies, Pisa, Italy on Detecting Proximity with Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons for Cultural Heritage. The paper starts by describing alternative technologies including Ultra-wideband (UWB), Near Field Communication (NFC) and vision.

The RE.S.I.STO project allows media on the medieval town of Pisa to be accessible via smartphones and tablets. The system is implemented using the React Native Javascript Framework to allow cross-platform aps to be created on iOS and Android.

Beacons are attached to exhibits and the paper compares two proximity detection algorithms, a ‘Distance-based Proximity Technique’ and a ‘Threshold-based Proximity Technique’. The paper describes stress, stability and calibration testing of the system.

RSSI time series of 5 tags

The researchers found a strong variation of RSSI value for different tags that they say is caused by the varying channel (frequency) used by Bluetooth LE as well as environmental issues such as obstacles, fading and signal reflections.

The system was able to successfully detect the correct artwork with an accuracy up 95% using the Distance-based Proximity Technique.

Read about Determining Location Using Bluetooth Beacons