September 28, 2018

One thing no one can accuse digital tech developers of is resting on their laurels when it comes to innovation. No sooner has everyone just about got their head around one gamechanger – Web 2.0, Wifi, mobile, social media – you can guarantee something else is waiting around the corner to start a new trend.

After the triumphant rise of smart devices, observers of all things tech have been keenly looking out for the next hardware revolution. One likely candidate is so-called wearable technology.

Bright Beacon Future

Popularised by the likes of Apple Watch and the health and fitness gadget Fitbit, wearables are built around beacon technology – described by events tech analyst Corbin Ball as “small, digital ‘lighthouses’ sending out signals that interact with mobile phone apps”. The digital interaction depends on bluetooth connectivity. Apps which connect to wearable devices include Apple iBeacons, Facebook Beacons, and Google Eddystone.

Savvy events organisers are increasingly becoming switched on to the potential of beacon technology to help them connect with attendees, gather intelligence in real time and use it to add value to the experience.

There are a couple of network models companies are using to introduce beacon technology at their events. One is to place the wearable beacons on ‘digital stewards’, who work the crowds transmitting to attendees who have downloaded a suitable app. However, as it is hard to guarantee that all visitors will download an app (or keep bluetooth switched on), another option is to issue all delegates with lightweight, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) receivers. These can then be connected to and controlled by a related app, should the individual wish to download it.

Beacon Benefits

The benefits of using beacon technology at events are twofold, on the one hand providing an excellent resource for data gathering and analysing and evaluating traffic, and on the other hand offering opportunities to target users with meaningful information to improve their individual experience. Main potential uses include:

  1. Wayfinding. One of the major headaches for delegates at events is knowing where to go, and having to deal with large crowds and queues to get there. From automated check-in, to navigation systems which use fixed beacons to give directions to a specified point, beacon technology can help make the user experience smoother and hassle free.
  2. Networking. Following on from assisted wayfinding, beacons can help delegates know where they want to be at any given time. Link this with messaging, forums and social platforms – for example, generating LinkedIn galleries of everyone showing an interest in a specific workshop or exhibit through the beacons – and the technology can pave the way for people to make their own connections and get an insight into their fellow delegates.
  3. Real-time information. Event apps are already a popular way for event visitors to manage their schedules and personalise their experiences. Beacon technology can add to this by providing location-specific real-time updates, for example schedule changes in a specific area.
  4. Analytics. Gaining exact data on attendance at individual events and exhibits within a larger show can be tricky. Assuming the majority of visitors are on the beacon network, very precise data can be generated just by having beacons log numbers at each space. This can also help with logistics and crowd management, by producing real-time ‘heat maps’ of traffic, allowing organisers to respond as required.
  5. Hyperlocal marketing. The location-dependent, real-time qualities of beacon technology offer opportunities beyond targeting useful information precisely, providing brands with the opportunity to tailor their marketing in very precise ways. In an event context, for example, it could be used by exhibitors to send unique offers to visitors passing their stand, or by speakers to send pushes to drive traffic to their organisation’s website.

Want to learn more about the latest cutting-edge technologies transforming the events landscape? Simpli-Fi is a leading specialist in providing end-to-end IT solutions for events of all shapes and sizes. To find out more, visit