Stefan Wolpers | On what's keeping me busy
The Use-Cases for Beacon Technology at Conferences and Exhibitions

A year after its introduction, BLE beacons is still a nascent technology and protagonists are working hard on closing the first real enterprise scale projects, imagined by some of the visionaries already involved.

We have seen the inevitable “selling shovels to the gold-diggers”-phase with numerous startups providing hardware, SDKs and back-end management software all over the globe. (Honestly, I lost track of the number, you will find some listed in this post: A Brief Survey Of Beacon Hardware Actually Used In The Field.)

Some beacon manufacturers now even seem to seek refuge in the proven Gilette strategy – give away the beacons for free and concentrate on selling the push notifications: Retailers being offered free beacons to kick start the retail revolution.

The shovel-phase is being followed by the “low-hanging-fruit-picking”-phase, also known as push coupons to people within the proximity of your location. It’s remarkable how many startups are still betting their hopes on this segment of the market.

But the really interesting development from my perspective is that use-cases with beacons as an “embedded” benefit are now getting more attention and traction.

My favourite use-case at the moment, besides that I would love building a kid-tracking app for Carnival Cruises, is events, conference and exhibition management. First reports are available and look promising, see for example: Bonnaroo’s App Sent More Than 97,000 Push Notifications to Festivalgoers This Year Data helps set the 2015 agenda.

My faible for this space goes back to the time when I became the founder and conference organizer of Startup Camp Berlin. When I persuaded some friends to help me organize the first non-profit startup community event in Berlin back in 2011, I had no clue of what would be required to host a conference, even if the SCB has always been a rather small one. (In 2014, it had approximately 600 attendees.) But beyond the basics, the room for improvements became obvious quite soon.

Now, with beacons at our hands, this is what I would like to offer to the attendees of my next conference:

Networking:

  1. Profile matching by attendees’ interests based on either LinkedIn integration or self-tagging of attendees prior to the event.
  2. Notifications sent if a ‘match’ is available nearby. (I know this is a tricky one: Starting with privacy concern and not ending with question, who of the key attendees would actually turn on this feature?)
  3. A list of attendees of a workshop or session provided in real-time.
  4. Extended exhibitor services, a kind of B2B serendipity by discovering exhibitors with interesting products/services while walking by.
  5. Guided tours: You’re interested in the “online payment” tour? Let the app guide you on the exhibition ground to all relevant exhibitors. (Could be a sales-channel as well – why not advertise “sponsored” tours?)
  6. Additional information on the exhibitor and its products/services including the available staff at a booth: Whom are you talking to? (Easy contact via the app, no more business-card exchanges required.)

Communication/content delivery:

  1. Notifications sent to attendees walking by a soon-to-start session of their interest. (Again, self-tagging at work.)
  2. Notifications sent to registered attendees, that their session is about to start, if they are at the venue.
  3. Automatic delivery of slide-decks, e-books, and PDFs to the attendees of a session. (No more promises, no more asking, no more waiting…)

Registration:

Self check-in: No more waiting in line to receive conference badges. Example: Print your own conference badge at a self-service terminal at the venue. From a organizer’s point of view, registration is a huge pain. It requires a lot of resources for a relatively short period of time to prevent the usual waiting.

Engagement/gamification:

  1. The goal: Increase the engagement of attendees to prevent ‘boredom’ at the conference. One example, that springs to my mind, is scavenger hunts to explore the exhibition floor.
  2. Possible rewards for valued behavior of attendees are plenty, such as a) visit a certain location at exhibition floor at least X times and receive a free drink at the party or b) attend more than Z workshop for more than 30 min each and get a VIP conference t-shirt for free. Or c) rovide vouchers to the early-birds in the morning. (Which also reduces the stress on registration/check-in.)

Navigation, floor/heat maps:

  1. ‘Show me the way’: Covering location from indoor positioning to indoor navigation. (This will be less complicated than you might think, if you keep the in mind. I am convinced, that exhibition grounds will be among the first venues to be listed.)
  2. Have real-time statistics available. Discovery by hot spots – the ’don’t miss out, your peer group is meeting there’-feature. Could be for example: a) workshops, presentations, sessions or b) an exhibitor’s booth or c) a spot at the bar at the conference party.
  3. Discovering possible security problems, e.g. an over-crowded location.

Sponsorships/advertising:

Providing additional revenue sources to the organizer. Example: Every attendee entering a ‘zone’ of the exhibition floor receives – upon entering – once a notification by the sponsor, e.g. a coupon for a beverage at the sponsor’s booth.

Convenience for attendees:

  1. Hazzle-free WiFi access.
  2. Catering 2.0, e.g. meeting dietary requirements by providing information to the buffet to the staff. (Can have lunch ‘A’, but not ‘B’. Keep in mind that everyone will remember the catering, particularly those, that cannot go with the mainstream. The latter ones are particularly outspoken – both in a positive and a negative way.)
  3. Improved wardrobe management: Putting a face to clothes, no more tokens to carry with you and/or lose them.

Possibilities are endless. What would you like to provide to the attendees of your conference? Please, join the discussion…

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Android & Beacons – Will Google Ever Truly Support The Technology Of The Arch-Rival?

I received an email from a friend today – Jakub Tomanik – that has got me thinking:

Android never will fully (on a system level) embrace beacons. Beacons will drive people away from online shopping and that will hit Google’s main business: online ads. On the other hand brick and mortar retail is big business for Apple. (…especially considering that Angela Ahrendts is finally in seat and she speaks openly she wants to push retail and technology forward and together.)

I worked almost 18 months for a Google subsidiary here in Berlin in my capacity as product manager. And there is one thing I learned during that time:

Google defines technology standards for 3rd parties to follow, but never becomes a (fully engaged) 3rd party herself. (Unless absolutely necessary.)

Now, the Google dilemma is that everything “indoor” in Android – e.g. navigation and location-based (indoor) marketing – relies on more expensive as well as intrusive and yet less effective technology (mainly WiFi tracking) by comparison.

At the same time (i)Beacon – which happens to be cleverly embraced (and almost coined) by Apple – will become the preferred technology to pursue these kind of services for its ease of use and affordability.

Integrating beacons at Android level similarly to iOS would therefore further Apple’s indoor/proximity technology position. Which directly affects Google’s mobile search and advertising business built around Google Now, Project Tango and Android.

Which is the reason that I do not believe that Google will any time soon embrace the beacon trend and incorporate its technology at a system level. (Admittedly, Android’s fragmentation would make the user experience most likely inferior to its iOS counterpart anyway.)

I know, that a lot of engineers prefer Android over Apple. But when it comes to UX and revenue – iOS is the way to go.

iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions [RELOADED]

iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions [RELOADED] from Stefan Wolpers

49 slides on the use-cases of Apple’s BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy – beacon technology that allows for the first time to precisely locate a person within pre-defined proximity of a sensor and to communicate with that person contextually. But where’s the beef? NFC, QR-codes and WLAN tracking were promising that before and never caught on. This improved slide-deck provides an answer to that question by addressing the most important use-cases as well as dealing with privacy and technologies issues of the (still) nascent technology.

Great example of change: Mudchute Park & Farm on the Isle of Dogs, London.

Originally a deposit for mud from from the docks. Now, the are orchids growing…

Small pub tour, if you need freshment from the great Greenwich scenery: Start with the Old Brewery, move on to the Tralagar Tavern and have one for the road at the Cutty Sark.

If you do this at the right time, you will be rewarded with a nice sunset over Canary Wharf… :)

A bit confusing: 

Sometimes it is “Keep left”, sometimes “Keep right”. I haven’t yet figured out why….

A bit confusing:

Sometimes it is “Keep left”, sometimes “Keep right”. I haven’t yet figured out why….

#FunnyUK: Tell the cashier that you brought used plastic bags with you. It will cause a good laugh… :)

#FunnyUK: Tell the cashier that you brought used plastic bags with you. It will cause a good laugh… :)

iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions

23 slides on the use-cases of Apple’s BLE – Bluetooth Low Energy – beacon technology that allows for the first time to precisely locate a person within pre-defined proximity of a sensor and communicated with that person contextually. But where’s the beef? NFC, QR-codes and WLAN tracking were promising that before and never caught on. The slide-deck provides an answer to that question by addressing the most important use-cases as well as dealing with privacy and technologies issues of the nascent technology.

iBeacons – Fad Or Trend? The Use-Cases For Retail And Omni-Channel Solutions from Stefan Wolpers

moot:

No soft landing, no happy ending—we simply failed.

It’s been a long four year journey, full of highs and lows. I am simultaneously incredibly proud, and incredibly disappointed.

I’m incredibly proud of an amazing team and all that they have accomplished. Our most recent product,