Bluetooth Beacons are great for location-based and real-time mobile experiences to deliver localized, timely, and relevant information and marketing offers, and in our experience they work well for short term projects in the correct context, but there are also a lot of limitations.
We recently were given a Bluetooth project for Winterfelt Tours who run film location tours in Ireland, where many Game Of Thrones scenes are shot… and yes, they actually have Direwolves.. real ones !! The National Trust own Castle Ward and they allow the tour operator to run their business from it.Winterfelt Tours tried to get a guided tour project completed by a company who went out of business who created a Bluetooth tour using iBeacons which fell short of actually working for several reasons :
- The Awareness Problem
A recent First Insight report showed 70% of consumers don’t know what beacons are. This is a major problem, as many people do not know how the tech works. And how do they know to find a beacon hidden somewhere, unless they get pointed in the right direction. Bluetooth beacons suit a more passive user context rather than a self-guided context, and are more suited to corridor type locations than you are guaranteed to walk past, but not search context based scenarios where it can be tricky to find the dam thing. If a user see’s a QR code for example, this can act as a queue to ‘Scan Me‘ and that makes sense someone, and acts like a context queue.
- User Experience
You have to walk about trying to find them, as there is no mapping ability currently existing to show iBeacons in Augmented Reality! Basically you are blind, and need guided. The experience is bad, as its not passive.
- Maintenance Problem
The batteries will die eventually, and its common for the signal to drop out and get interference form other radio signals. Also people will steal beacons for the fun of it unless they are secured very well.
- Cluster problems
Beacons can over lap and interfere with each other, so you might get triggers form different beacons, and in our case the triggers played videos, so this was a poor user experience if beacon locations are clustered, like below :
Simple is good! The solution is low tech… we just removed all the bluetooth code and let people find the locations and physically use the app map and press to play. User experience was much simpler and the system worked. Sometimes the story context can be over complex, expecting non-tech savvy people to just understand how bluetooth works.
Maps are still a great way to navigate and have been used for 1000’s of years, and we think Augmented Reality will be the next type of mapping using our phones camera or a pair of glasses. We have developed a prototype to display the map locations in Augmented Reality so the user experience will be more intuitive, and we can also integrate Vuforia to attach digital media to real physical artefacts such as signage and placards.