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How Bluetooth beacons are set to transform the exhibitions industry

Written by Dan Isaaman, CTO, Dot Origin

Marketers and event managers have always been interested to adopt new technologies when planning their appearances at tradeshows and other customer-facing events. The best new technologies deliver a double punch – they can improve the effectiveness of the sales and marketing spend, delivering increased footfall, better ROI and more measurability. However, they should also provide that elusive ‘wow’ factor by delivering an exciting new experience to visitors that directly impacts on the company’s brand values and reputation for innovation.

Dot Origin, who are experts in developing mobile NFC and Low Energy Bluetooth solutions for proximity marketing, first saw this effect a few years ago when they developed an NFC-based tradeshow experience for a global pharmaceutical firm. Conceived by a London-based events specialist, the 4000 square-foot booth was packed full of technology, including dedicated PC and server software developed by Dot Origin.

With dozens of separately driven interactive displays and RFID touch points for visitor badges, plus unique moving sculptures controlled by the audience, the result was a truly amazing and informative experience. Crucially, the system required each visitor to complete their tour of the booth before granting a free gift while the data gathered enabled the organizers to study visitor interests and engagement in great detail, both during and after the event.

ECN 012015_NTL_iBeaconThe latest technology to catch the eye of exhibition technology specialists is the Bluetooth beacon. Initially championed by Apple, and now supported by other mobile giants including Google and Samsung, the concept is simple. Small Bluetooth transmitters are placed in strategic locations, and each one sends out a unique ID that is recognized by an app on a visitor’s mobile phone. The phone can use this to check the user into an area; inform them about companies, products and seminars; direct them while indoors; and engage them through other location-aware activities such as games and treasure hunts.

Crucially, the many problems with older Bluetooth-based marketing techniques have been resolved – the use of the latest Bluetooth Smart technology means that battery life is not affected while software can now estimate indoor distances and positions based on measurements of the radio signal strength. Better still, the mobile app does not even need to be running for this to work, offering non-intrusive methods of engaging users through familiar phone notification messages that can be acted on and when they choose.

Beacons are set to revolutionize many areas of mobile-based marketing, from out-of-home advertising to in-store loyalty and payment processes. And there is a great opportunity to use them at exhibitions as a breakthrough technology to drive engagement, interactivity and measurement through mobile phones. In the hands of good app developers, beacons can be used to create event experiences that are equally valued by visitors and exhibitors, and thus boost outcomes all round.

Standard beacons, however, do present some problems when it comes to implementation, and can severely limit the inventiveness and creativity of the design team. They are low cost devices, typically less than $20, but for that you don’t get much intelligence or flexibility. The idea is that you ‘set and forget’ the beacon, and then focus on your mobile app’s functionality, typically relying on Internet connectivity for content and communications. This may work in some environments, but when engagement and interactivity with other local systems and exhibits is needed, this model doesn’t work well.

Dot Origin saw the opportunity to develop a new, smarter kind of Bluetooth beacon, which it calls the connected beacon. This has been designed specifically for use in dynamic environments, such as exhibitions, and it can be connected directly to other systems, such as digital displays and kiosks. This allows the beacon to be automatically turned on and off, and re-programmed as often as needed, perhaps in line with a particular product launch, on-screen display, game or event.

With powerful and upgradeable on-board intelligence, the Dot Origin DTAG100 connected beacon also provides unique features for passing data directly from mobile phones to exhibitor or organizer systems, without needing Wi-Fi or mobile Internet coverage – a major benefit in crowded indoor events. Imagine the visitor standing in front of a display screen and, after a few seconds, the screen saying, “Hello Dan, what is it you’re particularly interested in? Touch the screen and I’ll email the details right to your phone.”

Now we’re talking!!

The possibilities are endless, and with exhibition organizers all actively developing event-based apps for their visitors, adding beacon technology to these is a no-brainer. Adding connected beacons, and working out how this exclusive new flexibility can translate into better experiences, data gathering and visitor measurement is clearly the next step to take, and will keep you ahead of the game for years to come.

ECN 012015_NTL_TS Tech Summit logoDot Origin is therefore offering a free DTAG100 connected beacon, worth $200, complete with software development kit and dedicated tech support to the first five TSTS Tech Summit participants who submit proposals via ImagineXhibits to develop exhibition-specific beacon solutions, which Dot Origin judges to be the most innovative and appropriate in the circumstances. [T&Cs to be discussed!]

About Dot Origin
Dot Origin is an innovative technology company, headquartered near to London, UK, and with a U.S. office in California. Having built a core business over 15 years as a value-added distributor of high-end smart card and RFID technology products, the company specializes in data security and encryption applications for both traditional and mobile computing platforms, typically providing solutions from major players such as HID & Gemalto to top corporations, universities and government departments.

The company also now develops its own hardware and software products, aimed at certain specialist markets including converged physical access, dynamic NFC and, most recently, connected Bluetooth beacons.

About the DTAG100
The DTAG100 range of products from Dot Origin enables digital signage, kiosks and point-of-sale systems to be kept fully up to date with the latest in proximity marketing technologies, including Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and/or Near Field Communications (NFC).

Uniquely, the DTAG100 provides driverless USB connectivity with its host system, whether this is a digital signage media player, interactive kiosk PC or traditional EPoS system. This enables a vast range of new opportunities for interactive marketing and engagement with mobile audiences, irrespective of the platform being used.

The DTAG100 is currently available with three different proximity technology combinations – NFC, BLE beacon or combined NFC + BLE beacon. It can be supplied as a PCB module, for integration into existing screens and kiosk housings, or as a boxed unit for quick deployment.

As well as being powered via USB, removing the costs of managing battery-powered devices, the DTAG100 provides the ability to dynamically change all of its NFC tag and BLE beacon data directly in line with on-screen digital content, and to simultaneously transmit several different BLE beacon signals, which can be fully Apple iBeacon compliant or configured to any other format for more specialist applications.

In addition, the device incorporates Dot Origin’s unique two-way data transfer technology, which enables exciting new interactive experiences and personalization opportunities. This enables mobile apps running on consumers’ phones to send user, payment or voucher data directly to the host system via barcode or mag-stripe emulation, without the need for Wi-Fi or mobile data connectivity.

For more information, visit www.dotorigin.com and www.dtag100.com.


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