With the dust settling around the initial hype of beacons, Michael Douglas, Business Development Director at GenieConnect, looks at what the immediate applications of the technology are for the industry.
Now that the hype has settled somewhat on beacon technology, it’s a good time to evaluate where they can really add value to the events industry. Having worked with a number of clients to integrate beacon technology into our solutions based on their real-world requirements, we believe that there are – for now at least – four main uses in meetings and events.
1/ Wi-Fi log-in
Where there is a high need for attendees to log onto the venue Wi-Fi (this is typically at Corporate events – we all know the ongoing issues of network coverage at many expo and conference venues), this can be greatly facilitated by beacons. When an attendee enters a conference venue, their BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)-enabled device detects the presence of a beacon: with iOS, this triggers a message containing the WiFi log-in details which the attendee uses to connect to the network; with Android devices, we can pre-configure the native app to carry out the Wi-Fi login without any user intervention.
This again occurs when an attendee first enters an event venue. Their device detects the beacon signal, triggering the auto-printing of their conference badge. Attendees then get a message instructing them to collect their badge from the printer and proceed to the fast-track entry location. This has the potential to dramatically improve the registration experience for attendees – and greatly reduce the human resources required to implement the registration process.
3/ Opening session content or audience response features
If, during a session, the presenter wishes the audience to open a document within the app or to activate an audience response feature (e.g. a survey question), this can be done automatically via a beacon. Although not a particularly complex task, this eliminates the need for users to locate the relevant part of the app and helps maintain the flow of the session.
The role of gamification in an event setting is to encourage desired behaviours among attendees; and beacons can play a very useful role here. If an event organiser wants to incentivise attendees to visit a particular section of their event, beacons in different parts of the venue will recognise that an attendee has entered a designated location (a sponsor’s stand, for example) and award them a certain number of points for doing so.
These initial use cases are by no means stretching the boundaries of what beacons are capable of delivering; but these straightforward applications allow event organisers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the technology in real-world situations.
Other actions that might be triggered in ways similar to those described above might include: firing up an event Twitter stream to encourage attendee engagement; or activating directions to an off-site reception when an attendee leaves the main venue. Once event organisers become comfortable with using beacons, I’m sure we’re likely to see more adventurous implementations over the course of the year.
Michael Douglas, Business Development Director at GenieConnect.