What’s the Relevance of Beacons to Event Attendees?

The event industry is fast and furiously experimenting with beacon technologies, trying to determine what new opportunities they open up for meeting and event planners. Last week, I shared my thoughts on the mobile event possibilities of beacons and iBeacons. Today, I want to look at what this technology can do for attendees. It’s not only meeting planners who stand to gain from location aware apps; it’s attendees as well.

I believe that beacon technologies are significant because they are all about creating timely, relevant and valuable connections with and for your audience. In the example below, we examine the connections created for attendees by this technology.

Attendees and beacon technologies

Imagine an attendee walks into your venue, and she instantly gets a message on her mobile device saying that the registration desk has moved to a different area. Her event app then opens up a map of the venue to let her know exactly where to go.

As she makes her way through the venue, the beacons detect where she is, sync with her personalized itinerary, and then trigger the app to pull up another map; this time showing her the fastest way to get to her first session of the day. Beacons detect her once she enters the session room and signal her event app to give her CEU credits.

Or maybe the attendee walks by someone in the hallway and gets an alert from that person’s iBeacon-enabled iPhone (remember, the Apple device has to be running iOS7 or later and have Bluetooth turned on for this functionality to work) that they were matched based on like-minded criteria. Perhaps that person shares an interest in classic cars or indicated that he or she is looking to do business with someone in the classic car business – which our attendee just happens to be.

After the meeting, the attendee walks by a restaurant or sponsor booth and receives a notification for a discount, prize or offer. The app even automatically checks him into sessions and networking events, earning him points in your event’s mobile game.

These are just some of the ways beacon technologies can help enhance your event’s experience and make it easier for you to captivate your attendees, while helping them learn and network.

Some things to consider

Despite all the possibilities with beacons and iBeacons, there are some restrictions that may hinder its mass adoption for now. For example, not all devices work with this technology yet. All Apple devices using iOS7 are compatible, but Android devices must use version 4.3 or higher, which, as of today, is less than 15% of the user base.

So if you’re looking to deploy beacon technologies at your next event, you need to consider what devices and operating system versions your attendees will be using. Adoption and engagement rates, especially if you plan to tie it to a mobile game, could be low if the majority of your attendees don’t have a compatible mobile device.

Moreover, the overall meeting experience can be diminished if a large percentage of the attendees are left watching on the sideline because they don’t have access to the beacon technology’s features.

Another consideration is that beacons require permission-based services like Bluetooth and Push technology. Users also have to accept location services on the app and opt-in to receive notifications. This restriction can deprecate the experience and reliability of the service. For the time being, Android only works in “passive” mode, meaning it can only receive beacon signals, while iOS7 devices can both send AND receive. There are reports that 200 million iOS devices can already do this.

This technology’s capacity is also still being tested. What is its throughput when thousands of people are in proximity (which is quite common at large events)? And can it handle that volume? The answers are still unclear.

It’s still early days for this new wave of beacon applications, and new iBeacon and beacon suppliers seem to be popping up almost daily. I’m excited to see where we can go with this technology and would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to reach out directly to me on Twitter at @qm_founder!