I recently attended the ASAE Technology Conference and was able to opt in for their tech experiment with second-generation wearable beacons. These little beacons work in conjunction with wall-mounted receivers and are built to return real-time data.
This was an experiment to see how effective the beacons would be, as well as the depth of information they could glean.
Did the beacons work 100% correctly? No.
Was it an exciting experiment that promises exciting things to come? YES!
What can be done with beacons?
On the last afternoon of the conference to a packed session, Layla Masri from Bean Creative talked about their experience at the National Geographic museum with the less expensive wall-mounted, non-wearable beacons that depended on users downloading the app upon entry. Notifications popped up in the app based on where the user was in the exhibit, and it tracked data about how much time users were spending in certain locations. This gave National Geographic interesting data on what visitors were really looking at… at least those visitors who had downloaded the app. That’s the risk you run with opt-in solutions.
Sean Parker of the Consumer Electronic Association talked about using beacons at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). They created a scavenger hunt to get attendees excited to download the app and use it, and they used the data in real time to change flows to low-traffic areas.
How did they do this? With food, of course! The team moved portable cookie/snack/coffee tables around to drive traffic. You can just imagine how this would work.
Hungry person sees another person eating cookie. “Where did you get that cookie?” they ask.
“Why, down aisle 6, over there.”
And like magic, traffic starts to flow into that far corner that no one was visiting.
While wearable beacons are currently cost-prohibitive for huge shows like CES, they are an interesting concept for smaller shows and also potentially for museums and historic sites that can charge a small fee for them. The beacon can work with an app to provide context-sensitive info on-the-fly, which would help curate the experience. For instance, a visitor could walk by this big mural or that statue, and the app would throw an alert showing interesting facts about the mural or the next cool thing to look at after seeing the statue.
ASAE Tech takeaways
This brings us back to my experience at ASAE Tech with the cutting-edge next generation of wearable beacons being worked on by TurnOutNow. The goal was for the beacons to provide real-time statistics on where you had visited and what or who you should visit next, based on what you had done so far. However, this was the biggest show yet for these new little badge-mounted wonders, and they overwhelmed the servers with data the very first morning of the conference! The real-time aspect was lost, but they still retained the data.
What they did manage to capture is a fascinating glimpse into the near future. Think of what you as an exhibitor or trade-show host could do with this kind of data:
- How much time did someone spend at the coffee station?
- How much time was spent in sessions?
- How much time did each person – and visitors collectively – spend in the exhibit hall?
- How did traffic to one booth compare to traffic to competing booths?
And for the producers of the conference, the beacons provided valuable data about flows and what was popular. It’s easy to do counts of people walking in the door, but it is harder to gather metrics for how long people stayed in the session. Just consider this question: Is the most popular session that one that 200 people walked into but then 100 of them left after ten minutes, or is it the one that 50 people walked into and all 50 stayed the whole time? How would that change how you run your trade show, conference, or meeting?
It was a fun experiment. I enjoyed checking my conference app on my phone to see new data appearing, even if it wasn’t 100% correct. I’m looking forward to what happens next year!
What experience do you have with wearable tech on a scale like this? Have you gotten compelling data that will guide your decisions? Tell us in the comments!