updated 08:37 pm EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Allows curators to easily incorporate iBeacons into exhibits, develop interactive guides
A Dutch startup called LabWerks is introducing a new platform aimed at museums, called mApp, that incorporates Apple's iBeacon technology to allow staffers to quickly and easily roll out interactive exhibits, potentially revolutionizing the mini-industry of museum tour self-guidance. The customizable mApp platform lets institutions use iBeacons that only trigger when visitors come within range of an exhibit, room or area of the museum where more information is available.
Current self-guided audio tours suffer from the problem of either requiring visitors to scan barcodes to get more information, or forcing them to move more quickly than they might wish in order to keep up with the timed "tour." The use of iBeacons, which utilize Bluetooth Low Energy, would allow visitors to move at their own pace, delivering information only when appropriate, such as noting an upcoming presentation as they pass by an auditorium, reports AppleInsider.
Because iBeacons can be set to work when visitors pass by one, the range that triggers new alerts or information can be customized to within a range of three feet -- thus preventing the visitor from receiving information on, say, a nearby statue when they are currently looking at a painting. "There are many great benefits to beacon technology," said LabWerk CEO Floris Boekel, "and we see the museum industry as being one of the biggest beneficiaries of this new way to communicate and engage with people."
He added that the company is proud to be launching one of the first commercially-available iBeacon platforms in Europe. The Apple-invented technology is also used in larger venues such as stadiums as well as selected retail merchants, mostly in the US at present. The United Nations recently offered an interactive exhibit on landmines that used iBeacons to "gamify" learning what the experience is like for those who have suffered from hidden landmines.
Apps can easily be customized for various exhibits, and support multiple languages. The company even suggested the technology could be used for museum "scavenger hunts," as it has been at recent conventions (Macworld Expo employed an iBeacon-driven "scavenger hunt" to encourage visitors to stop by a wider range of vendors, rewarding them with chances to win valuable prizes). The mApp platform is already in use at a Tulip attraction in Sint Maartensvlotbrug in northern Holland. Visitors to Tulpenland can trigger supplementary video and images by passing by the right locations, and be rewarded with discounts and rebates by completing a survey.
"We see iBeacon technology as a great way to engage with our visitors, particularly those of a younger age, who can be quite difficult to connect with," said Marije van den Hoek of Tulpenland. "This is just the start of what we can do with iBeacon technology," added Boekel. "The future for location-based content delivery and on-site navigation is very exciting."