Royal British Columbia Museum leverages beacons to enhance visitor experience

The Royal British Columbia Museum?s leveraging of beacons is enhancing the museum experience for visitors by letting them access information hotspots with additional text, images, audio and video.

The beacons at the 128-year-old museum in the western Canadian province of British Columbia also allow for map positioning so visitors know exactly where they are in the museum and where to find the information hotspots. The program shows how in just over a year and a half, beacons have become a significant tool in mobile marketing, leading to ever-more ambitious experiments with the technology.

?Our permanent galleries already feature informational text on the walls, interactive stations and sound and smells to amplify the visitor experience,? said David Alexander, head of new archives and digital preservation for the museum based in Victoria, British Columbia. ?But the beacons allow visitors to access information hotspots with additional text, images, audio or video on exhibition ? giving them even richer content.?

Indoor positioning
Founded in 1886, the Royal British Columbia Museum consists of The Province of British Columbia's natural and human history museum as well as the British Columbia Provincial Archives.

Wifarer developed the beacon system, which combines Bluetooth LE beacons and RF fingerprinting to enable precise, reliable and private indoor positioning of iOS and Android devices. 

Combining fingerprint-sensor and beacon technology.

By downloading an app, visitors can find their way to specific exhibitions with blue-dot, turn-by turn navigation. The indoor positioning and navigation are in real time, unlike a paper map on a smartphone.

Users can browse and search for specific exhibits, and access layers of multimedia content about specific exhibitions. They also can select exhibits of interest, tap the "take me there" button, and receive turn-by-turn directions to the exhibit.

Another feature is the ability to access location-aware multimedia anywhere in the museum.

The app senses their location, and delivers content relevant to their location. Visitors tap their smartphone screen to access the information that interests them, and can dive as deeply as they like based on their interests. 

Beacons are one of the most buzzed about mobile strategies this year and with retailers such as Lord & Taylor and Macy?s expanding their initial beacon pilots to full-blown programs, the technology clearly seems to be hitting the right notes for marketers. 

Other users of beacons include the Chicago Transit Authority and the city of Los Angeles. 

Digital technology
Leading museums are leveraging digital technology such as beacons to serve curatorial operations and improve visitor experience. 
 
Museum app.

?We?ve worked closely with Wifarer before to enhance the museum experience for visitors,? Mr. Alexander said. ?This is the next step in providing a unique customer service experience. The beacons improve positioning of Wifarer for visitors, with precise and reliable locating.  

?One of the greatest advantages is that the beacon are small and battery-powered and are easy to install within exhibitions,? he said. ?This means there?s no need for cabling or obvious signs of electrical power, and this means few visual distractions for our visitors ? they can concentrate on the things we want them to see.
 
The beacons also meet our needs for flexibility,? he said. ?If we renovate our spaces (for example, for a temporary exhibition), we can easily re-position the beacons to ensure precise, stable indoor locating in the redesigned space.?

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.