How iBeacons Can Create Dynamic Conferences

In early July, we helped beacon enable MacAdmins, a large educational Mac administrator conference hosted at Penn State. We saw a great opportunity to use beacons to make check-in fast and easy as well as a way to use beacons in the conference sessions to promote session feedback. We created a beacon-enabled Passbook pass for each participant that showed a lock screen message when in proximity to beacons placed in the conference facility. The passes also had a barcode that was customized to the individual participants’ check-in information contained in cVent.

Prior to the event, we walked around the location and installed our Bleu Station beacons in the registration area and in each of the session rooms. Using iOS software we developed, beacon power levels were tuned so the signal covered only the areas they were in.

Before attendees arrived, we sent out an email to each registered conference attendee that contained a link to their individualized Passbook pass. With a quick tap on the link with their iPhone, the beacon-enabled conference pass was installed into Passbook. When the participants arrived at the Penn State conference center and headed to registration, they had access to the Passbook pass for the conference on their lock screen. The registration volunteers scanned the barcode with an iOS device that checked them in to their registration system, cVent. The attendees were then able to pick up their badge and other conference materials. We tuned the beacons so that the registration lock screen message only showed when in proximity to the registration area. The majority of participants had Bluetooth turned on and had installed the pass, so their registration process was smooth. They thought it was a fast and easy way to check in. For few that managed their Bluetooth settings manually or had not installed the pass, they were able to check in either manually or with a bit of help.

The conference schedule was also tied to the registration pass. MacAdmins used sched.org to manage all of their conference schedules. Sched has a great system that allows others to transfer schedule information easily from their system to ours. We populated the back of the registration pass with the current day’s sessions dynamically, and participants had current session information updated on the back of their pass.

The back of the Passbook pass also had the links to session feedback, and we wanted to remind attendees on their lock screen to fill out session feedback, but didn’t want to have a message always showing on their lock screen. To accomplish this, near the end of each session, we updated the pass to contain a beacon-enabled message reminding the participants to fill out feedback forms. At the start of the next session, we cleared the notification. The result was that only participants in each session room would see the notification, and only at the end of the session.

Proximity and beacons provide a great way to engage people in conferences, and by beacon-enabling the Penn State MacAdmins conference, we showed that beacons can provide value to a conference in interesting and unexpected ways. The best feedback we received from attendees was that it was a natural and intuitive way to keep up to date with the goings on at the conference.

I also presented a session on iBeacons in Education that you can view here.