Beacons have been around for a few years now, but have started to pick up steam in terms of adoption over the past year. Why is this important? Two big reasons: The Attendee Experience and DATA.
Beacons are low powered devices that transmit Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE or Bluetooth 4.0) signals and can be used to deliver proximity-based messages to most smart devices. Typically, beacons interact with an application (such as an event app, or Google Chrome app) and will send information that is then translated into a message, notification, check-in, or other call-to-action. Once a phone receives this information, the beacon is also able to track the phone’s location within the transmission area. Beacons can also be used as a wearable device, such as a name badge, wristband or clip-on, to provide one way tracking info to event planners, or interact with other attendees to encourage networking and matchmaking.
What separates beacons from these technologies is that beacons fill the gaps where GPS and NFC can not reach. Whereas devices with GPS need to have a clear signal, unobstructed from most overhead structures to receive a signal and NFC needs to be within a couple of inches of a reader, beacons can send and receive information up to 70 meters away, indoor or outdoor.
What this means for your event attendees is that they are able to have a much more interactive experience with your sessions, event space, exhibit floor, networking sessions, etc. Here are a few examples of the ways beacons are being used at events:
For event planners, the biggest advantage to using this technology is being able to capture data on all of the activities mentioned above to more accurately track your attendee habits and then leverage that information in planning for future events. There is also an incentive to your sponsors and exhibitors to be able to share data based on their habits in specific booths, areas, etc. Along with just tracking the attendance of your event, you can gather data on how long people attended certain sessions. This may help in identifying which sessions were popular, which sessions attendees left early, and other insights that will help you in future planning.
Technically speaking, the technology is very easy to setup but the implementation of the technology into your event will depend on what features you choose and how you will have your attendees interact with the technology. In other words, you can setup a beacon, or an array of beacons to be as simple or as complex you would like. Some starter questions to consider:
No matter what level of functionality you may want to implement, it should be noted that most options will need forward planning and programming to get started, so be sure to think about what information is important to you before exploring options. To get started, here are a few companies that specialize in event implementation:
Pricing will vary depending on what options and features you choose, how many attendees / exhibitors / sponsors beacons you expect to have, whether you want one-way or two-way communication, application implementation or development, and what analytics you want, but the range of services can cost as low as $200 or upwards of $30,000.
Article written by Jonathan Little, IMS National Account Manager.