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.

Singapore Heritage Trail

There’s a new heritage trail of Little India in Singapore that uses Physical Web beacons to guide visitors through unique facts and stories, historical photographs, and crowd-sourced content.

The article on their web site is a great example how you can a) provide clear instructions on how to use the Physical Web and b) provide an incentive to start using. In the case of the trail there’s a contest. If you use your mobile device to access the Little India Physical Web Experience you can redeem a gift.

Using Beacons for Switching Content

There’s a great new post on Medium on iPadlocks – The Magic of Activation Beacons by Geoff Elwood of Specialist Apps. Geoff talks about using Beacons to unlock information such as Adelaide Zoo education and career trails. This allows for differentiated learning that replaces “custom codes, logins or other bits of paper”. Different experiences can be provided to different groups.

In a different scenario Geoff describes how the Bendigo Heritage Trust switches beacons on/off to provide for content that synchronises with audio/visual content and the physical location of a moving tram.

At BeaconZone was have come across beacons switching content in two other scenarios. The first is at events where content on visual video walls is synchronised with different beacon advertising and hence different content. The other use is in digital signs in streets/shopping malls that change the beacon advertising in response to different advertising.

The Physical Web Offers Inexpensive Visitor Engagement

There’s a useful new article at Blupath by Christos Symeou on Omni-channel Physical Web: A New Paradigm for Visitor Engagement.

Christos has been looking into solutions for institutions that aren’t national museums and galleries and don’t have a huge budget:

“And for the vast majority of smaller institutions that I’ve been talking with, spending a ton of money to develop a fancy app that maybe 1% or 2% of their visitors will ever use is simply not an option.”

The ‘Omni-channel Physical Web’ uses existing digital resources and beacons to reduce the costs of digital engagement, maximise use while not hurting the aesthetics of visitor spaces.

Christos says:

“The time for a paradigm shift is now, having reached the point where both the technology is ready, as well as the ability to access it from nearly all visitors.”

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.

Beacons for Smart Technologies in Tourism

There’s a thought provoking research paper, by Breda University of Applied Sciences (pdf), prepared for last year’s International Tourism Student Conference on Smart Technologies in Tourism.

It’s based around a case study of 232 iBeacons having been used at SAIL Amsterdam forming five private and public beacon networks. The paper discusses what Smart Tourism is, how to measure customer experience and the various phases a tourist goes through (anticipatory, planning, experiential, reflection).

69,000 people, 3% of all SAIL visitors, used the app and of these 47% had their Bluetooth turned on. Nevertheless, this allowed the organisers to track visitors’ behavior and manage visitor flows. It was the end user features of the app/system that were less utilised than they could have been.

The paper discusses visitors’ perceived loss of privacy when installing the app. The solution is seen to be to ensure that users perceive the provision of their data/location as a fair deal to receiving information. Another issue is being careful when sending out push notifications as psychological factors can have big influence on customers’ reaction to them. Another issue discussed is the differing interests of the developers, sponsors and SAIL organisers when creating the app.

Success in using beacons and apps is tied to how much information visitors have on the possibilities and benefits in installing and using (turning Bluetooth on) the app. As the paper says:

“Organisers need to provide extensive information about the technology and the proper usage of it in order to profit from the maximum services that the apps offer.”