Once again Apple has triggered an event-industry innovation streak. Its iBeacon—a small piece of hardware that transmits signals to a smart device—has sparked the imagination of leading mobile app developers, several of whom have announced beacon-enabled features for their existing event apps.
What is iBeacon?
iBeacon is Apple’s implementation of Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to create a different way of providing location-based information and services to iPhones and other iOS devices. iBeacon arrived in iOS7, which means it works with iPhone 4s or later, iPad (third generation and onwards) iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation or later). While iBeacon is Apples product this also works with many of the android devices as well with support growing on the android platform.
How does it work?
The beacons themselves are small, cheap Bluetooth transmitters. Apps installed on your iPhone listen out for the signal transmitted by these beacons and respond accordingly when the phone comes into range.
Sold before the event, a beacon can be placed in the exhibitor’s booth or in key strategic areas of the conference venue to determine:
- Attendee counts by hour/day
- Attendee presence by zone by day
- Dwell times on Expo Floor by day
- Attendee frequency (one-time, repeat, frequent) — know which attendees visited your booth multiple times!
For example, if you pass a beacon in an exhibition booth, the exhibitor’s app (assuming you have it installed) could display a product or service offer alert for you. The exhibitor’s app could also provide information about the organisation and their products, using your distance from beacons placed near the exhibit to determine your position.
What real world iBeacon examples are there?
While there are several event app developers offering beacon technology, Core-apps was the first software provider to ship iBeacon technology for alerting and analytics in the tradeshow industry and continues to be innovators in this field. Core-apps offer Beacon Solutions (alerting and event analytics) to event organizers including real-time ﬂoor trafﬁc measurements using state-of-the-art technology that’s cost effective and enhances your exhibitors’ ROI. From the exhibit hall to education session rooms, their analytics provide attendee trafﬁc reporting with heat maps, graphs, and charts.
I recently caught up with Jay Tokosch, CEO of Core-Apps to discuss the use of iBeacon technology integrated with their mobile event apps. Here is what was said…
“We are so excited about being the first to successfully deploy the technology and to do it at one of the largest trade shows in the world is just incredible! While we started doing all types of gamification over 3 years ago, this technology has enhanced our gamification offering beyond anything available in the industry.”
“Using the iBeacon technology at CES 2014 was not our first foray into this type of technology. In October of 2013 we deployed a similar technology with our partner Birdzi. At AEM’s ICUEE event (a 500,000 plus square foot event) we tracked floor traffic, exhibitor booth traffic, and attendee trends on the show floor. Also, we used the live traffic data to provide indoor location services to the mobile app. At IAEE Expo Expo in December 2013 we again deployed the technology and showed the floor traffic real-time with a big screen in our booth. Visitors to our booth loved the chance to play with these analytics in real-time – especially the heat maps, said Tokosch.
Why is iBeacon such a big deal?
There are a host of new and emerging technologies that have been or could be deployed at events in order to enhance the experience of all stakeholders. iBeacon is one that can provide great benefits to all involved in your next event and is certainly a tool that should be watched closely as mobile event app integration increases.
I am excited to say that innovating new technology into events has always been something that I watch closely and with great enthusiasm. iBeacon technology is real and available today – but we have so much more that can be done with this technology.
I will say ‘watch this space’.