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  • Beacon emitting signal next to smart phone

30th September 2016

Using beacons for Wayfinding

At Wayfound and our sister business, Tangelo, we are always interested in new technologies, especially when they add to the options we can offer for wayfinding solutions. As the physical and digital worlds merge, there will be less reliance on physical, static signage (which is costly to install and difficult to replace) and more reliance on apps and easy to update digital signage options.

What is beacon technology?

A beacon is a low-cost piece of hardware, which allows the user to figure out their location via the use of an app connected to an array of individual beacons.

Beacons employ Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) wireless technology to pinpoint the location of users in buildings/places to deliver messages to their mobile devices. Beacons work when the user has the related app installed on their smartphone. A beacon emits a BLE signal when a phone comes within range of the signal.

How do beacons work for Wayfinding?

Once a stable connection between the beacon and the phone is created the app will prompt:

  1. The user’s location
  2. The location of their destination
  3. The fastest way for the user to reach their destination.

Smartphone with beacon app

Places beacons are being used

  • Universities (“Lost on Campus”)
  • Airports (Virgin – to find the Virgin lounge at whichever airport)
  • CBD’s (to find information centres, police dept., popular attractions, etc)
  • Hospitals
  • Retail, festivals and sporting events – to alert people to specials

Beacon at Sydney Airport

Beacons can also be used to gather data. For example, earlier this year, Yarra Trams installed beacons on some of it trams to collect data for network planning (eg: how long people on the tram, where they start, where they finish, etc.). This relies on users having Bluetooth switched on and having the tramTRACKER app installed. All the data collected is non-identifiable.

Benefits of beacons

  • They are small enough to be attached to a wall or countertop.
  • They only use a short and unchanging signal so they don’t have to be connected to a power source and their batteries last from months to years.
  • The technology is inexpensive. Building the app is going to be the most costly part of using this technology.
  • They easily integrate into existing social media (eg: sign-in through Facebook).
  • Users have control of the apps they have on their phone, so they have generally opted in, making the notifications and use less intrusive.
Some useful reads