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

Visitor Spaces Using Beacons

Fulham Palace and Norwegian National Museum have recently starting using Bluetooth beacons.

Norwegian Museum

Fulham Palace is using iBeacon with visitor guides. The Covid pandemic has accelerated the trend for iBeacon driven visitor guides. Using visitors’ own devices rather venue-supplied devices removes concerns regarding decontaminating shared devices. Smartphone driven guides also tend to be more interactive and allow visitors to continue to engage with content and venues after they have left the visitor space.

Norwegian National Museum is using beacons to detect the location of museum staff. Staff carry SC21 TETRA hand held radios detect beacons and upload data back to a control room.

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Using AI Machine Learning to Infer Distance

There’s new research by Guglielmo Marconi University and University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy on Indoor Localization System Based on Bluetooth Low Energy for Museum Applications.

The use of location in museums allows personalised tour guidance and on-demand exhibit information to be provided. Location also allows analysis of visitor flows to better design spaces through the identification of choke points and redundant areas.

Museum Bluetooth Location

The system had visitors emit Eddystone beacon advertising received by ESP32-based devices acting as gateways to a server.

Museum Bluetooth Location System

The research is novel in that it uses AI machine learning on the received signal strength (RSSI) to infer location. This helps overcome the problems of variable signal strength experienced in indoor locations due to reflections and obstacles. It also prevents the need for fingerprinting the entire area which is time consuming and fails when the physical situation changes.

RSSI Location for Museum

The method achieved accuracy of the order of 2m and this improved to 1m with the use of more receivers.

Read about Using Beacons, iBeacons for Real-time Locating Systems (RTLS)

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Kiosk Pro for iOS Uses iBeacons

Kiosk Pro is an app for iOS that turns an iPad into a public kiosk.

The technical documentation shows how you can trigger the showing of specific information when in the vicinity of a particular beacon. For example, if the kiosk is static, people with different beacons might trigger the showing of different information. If the kiosk is moving, for example a tablet being held, it might trigger the showing of different information based on the location of, for example, different exhibits. The kiosk can also be set to advertise iBeacon that can be picked up in iOS and Android apps.

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Bluetooth Beacons in the Rijksmuseum

There’s an interesting post by Eirik Midttun on the the Nordic blog on Bluetooth Beacons in the Rijksmuseum.

BeaconZone’s very first solutions were apps for museums so we know a lot about the possible problems. Eirik comments that the app could be improved as it took a while to detect it was in a new room. He questions whether the beacon advertising was too long. If he was running on iOS, he could be correct. View our article on Choosing an Advertising Interval. If he was on Android it’s more likely that the Bluetooth scanning period and/or time between scans was too long.

Museum apps also tend to suffer from connectivity problems. If the connection was cellular rather than WiFi it might have been taking time to fetch the information associated with the beacon. It’s recommended to have some kind of caching content strategy for museum and visitor space apps where the best user experience is if the app can work offline.

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Holt iBeacon Trail

Holt Village has launched a new iBeacon Trail that uses the free ‘Explore North East Wales’ app from the Apple and Google app stores. It is one of twelve communities in North East Wales for which a system has been developed to find out more about the community and locations.

The project has been funded by the LEADER scheme which is a fund for rural areas in Wales to explore innovative new approaches and experimental technologies to tackle poverty, create jobs and drive sustainable economic development.

Beacons in Museums

Mr Beacon has a new video interview with Dieter Fenkart-Fröschlt, COO of the San Diego Museum of Art. The video explains why the San Diego Museum of Art adopted apps and beacons and explains some of the challenges they have faced.

The museum has about 360,000 visitors per year, 18,000 works of art with 700 to 800 works of art on display at any one time. Apps and beacons became part of their strategic planning to change how people interact with the museum and bring enquiry based learning, more typical of natural history and science museums, to an art museum.

Apps and beacons are the solution to delivering more content than can be shown on walls. They provide the stories behind the art. While the initial aim was to engage more younger audiences, it turned out the apps are used by all ages. It’s interesting that people have “fallen in love” with the museum experience, not just the art itself.

One of the largest lessons learned was that “build it they will come” doesn’t apply. Rollout needed to be holistic. Frontline staff had to be trained and visitors reminded that the app is free and part of their admission fee. There’s also marketing at conferences, events, on business cards and obviously next to the artwork itself.

One of the incidental yet profound gains had been insights through data. The museum now knows how long people spend at the museum and at each exhibit. They know the most liked and most viewed art that helps work out what kinds of art are popular (or not!). This feeds into making the museum more popular through people returning, again something that can now be measured.

The museum has about 120 beacons and the functionality of the app changes depending on whether the user is in the museum or not. Visitors can access related videos, introductions to artists and other objects in the museum related to given art. The app also displays images, for example showing how the art has changed, through conservation, over time. There are also app scavenger hunts for kids.

The main initial challenges were physical : How to fix the beacons to to walls and blend them into the colour of the wall.

View the Video to discover more


BeaconZone’s very first beacon apps were related to tagging artwork at the Folkstone Triennial, Frieze London, Saatchi Gallery and the Fine Art Society . The Mr beacon video doesn’t mention any of the technical challenges of using beacons in visitor spaces. For example, there can be problems relying on connectivity indoors that requires solutions such as intelligent caching. Care also has to be taken to prevent excessive triggering, something that becomes more complex when adjacent beacons transmission overlap. If you need more help, consider a Feasibility Study.