BLE Beacon Technology
Examples of businesses/organizations that have used BLE beacon technology to improve experiences of visitors/customers include iCON Prague, India Railways, Vulcania Theme Park, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Case Study #1: iCON Prague
- iCON Prague is an annual series of events held in Prague, Czech Republic. The events are devoted to "creativity, smart tech, and life hacking".
- In 2015, iCON Prague used beacons to facilitate interaction between attendees and exhibitors.
- Event organizers aimed at using context-driven gamification to get participants to be involved in networking. They fitted the venue with beacons and enabled proximity-activated features in the app.
- Beacons triggered invitations to stands, "made contact exchange seamless, and pointed people to important places".
- Points were awarded to attendees for each stand visited, contact details swapped, places discovered, and for checking in. Attendees could exchange the points for gadgets or souvenirs.
- According to kontakt.io, the new features were not broadly promoted. The "entire promotion came down to one tweet, one blog post, three short announcements on stage, and some word of mouth at an information kiosk".
- Despite the negligible promotion, the event organizers witnessed 3,000 check-ins, "60% of the app users swapped contact details with at least 5 other individuals and visited all premium exhibitor booths".
Case Study #2: India Railways
- India has one of the largest fleets of rail. The total coverage of its rail is over 72,000 miles.
- In 2016, Google alongside India Railways and RailTel started the Railwire project. The project aimed at "rolling out free and high-speed WiFi at railway stations".
- Beacons were installed at various places, "as soon as any user comes in the range of these beacons they get a notification to open a link for information for free WiFi setup".
- Users were only required to open their Bluetooth for them to get the notifications.
- The project started with 100 railway stations in 2016, it expanded to 2,000 railway stations in 2017.
- Google witnessed "an average click-through-rate of 8-10%" and it had sent about a million notifications. According to Fablian, the normal Google Adworks CTR is about 2-4%.
Case Study #3: Vulcania Theme Park
- Vulcania Theme Park is located in Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park in France. It is an educational amusement park that offers a "fun and interactive journey, unraveling the mysteries of the Earth, exploring the power of volcanoes and learning about the forces of nature".
- The park deployed the use of BLE beacons to enhance the customers' experience. Vulcania's iBeacon is available on Google Play and App Store.
- Before the deployment of beacons, visitors to the park would often lose their way. The main goal of the project was to help visitors easily locate various attractions and facilities.
- The park's app also helps in the flow of visitors to the park. It "rearranges the list of attractions on screen, pushing forward the ones closest to the user’s location and have the shortest waiting time".
- Visitors are also able to receive discount coupons and notifications while waiting in a queue. Visitors are guided to locations they want to visit with real pictures. The pictures "change in real-time, as a new location (POI) is reached".
- According to Estimote, visitors to the park have good feedback. The Vulcania app has more than 10,000 installs on the Google Play store.
Case Study #4: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- In 2019, LAX was the second passenger airport in the United States according to Gateway LA.
- LAX partnered with Aero Port Services (APS) to implement BLE beacon technology for "tracking and dispatching wheelchair services".
- To address the high number of requests for wheelchairs in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), the airport installed Wheelchair Assistance Innovative Solutions Tracking System (WAIS-Track).
- A high number of wheelchair requests can result in delays. Implementation of WAIS-Track was aimed at reducing wait times for passengers waiting for assistance.
- Beacons were deployed throughout the Tom Bradley International Terminal to provide way finding information to APS's smartphone app. The beacons read location data from wheelchair assistants ferrying passengers throughout the terminal and transmit it "through a cellular network to APS’s computer servers".
- The technology provides real-time location tracking of wheelchair assistants eliminating the use of phones and walkie-talkies. The technology has also eliminated the need for paperwork.
- Following the deployment of the WAIS-Track system, "the average responses to wheelchair requests dropped from 15 to 20 minutes to only seven minutes".
Best practices for deploying BLE beacon technology include defining a goal and providing hints and instruction.
#1: Define a Goal/Business Case
- For a successful deployment of a BLE beacon project, it is important to have clearly defined goals before considering investing in a beacon project.
- Defining the business case/goal should be done "with both business and technical teams within an organization" for the project to have a chance of succeeding.
- According to Bleesk, many deployments fail because they did not have a defined goal.
- A clearly defined goal should answer questions such as what the project is aiming to achieve, whether the project will increase the time customers spend at the site, and whether the project will ease customer navigation.
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) should also be clearly defined to help the organization/business to know how to measure its performance.
- In 2015, iCON Prague started a BLE beacon project with to enable "attendees to network and connect with exhibitors and each other".
- The company's goal was clearly defined and also had clearly defined KPIs. The organizing team was able to determine the number of attendees by check-in and the number of users who were able to network and connect with others.
#2: Provide Hints and Instructions
- Visitors should be provided with instructions on how to install and use the company's app. The instructions should be clear and easy-to-follow.
- Visitors should also be notified about the availability of the app.
- It is also important to include "relevant keywords on the iOS App Store and in Google Play" so that the app is easy to search.
- The messaging used should also be accurate. The information should be valuable, relevant, and timely.
- Tile is an example of a beacon app that educates its users on how to use the app. The app uses "illustrations which clearly show users how these actions will manifest later".
We started the research by searching through blogs and publications relating to BLE beacon technology. Our primary focus was on best practices for deploying BLE beacon technology. In compiling this information, we examined case studies, professional tips, and opinions of experts.
After finding a large list of articles and blogs with information on BLE beacon technology, we sorted out these articles and blogs in terms of relevance and consistency. We then listed out the most common and repeatedly mentioned across trusted sources.