Anode Takes Beacon Expertise Abroad

BY Chris Lee

This past January, Chris Lee, Anode’s Vice President of Technology and all around cutting edge tech guru was asked to speak at the Ping/Local: Beacon Content Optimization Conference in Toronto, Canada.

Beacons are tiny electronic devices that communicate with mobile devices within physical proximity using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

You don’t need a special reader to work with the beacon, only the device you already have. This technology is built into all current iPhones, iPads and almost all current Android mobile devices.

This past January, Chris Lee, Anode’s Vice President of Technology was asked to speak at the Ping/Local: Beacon Content Optimization Conference in Toronto, Canada. We talked to him about what took him 763 miles north of Nashville to talk about these tiny devices.

Anode: So BCO Content Strategies hosted the event. How did you end up on the radar of a Canadian technology company?

Chris: Chris Blanz, a good friend of mine and one of the great minds behind BKON, Nashville’s very own beacon tech experts, approached me. BKON hosts Beacons and Beer, a series of meetups that facilitate discussions about wielding beacon technology in a myriad of ways. BCO had actually attended one in Nashville and had found it really engaging. So they asked BKON if they would co-sponsor not only a meetup but a full conference in Canada centered on marketing and engagement strategies in Toronto, where they are headquartered. BKON and BCO both asked me to come speak, so off to Canada I went.

Chris spoke to Anode’s area of expertise—how to use technology to enhance interactive experiences in museums, libraries, civic centers and corporate visitors spaces.

Anode: So you went to speak about beacon technology. Tell us a little bit more about beacon technology?

Chris: The beacon devices themselves cost very little (usually around $20 each), and have a single function: they transmit their unique ID at a specific rate, say once every second.

The iPhone, iPad, or other BLE-capable mobile device does the heavy lifting. When you are near a beacon, as in a retail or institutional environment, your phone tracks the beacons it encounters and queries a cloud database to see what apps the beacon is associated to.

The OS on your phone then alerts the app that a relevant beacon has been found, and the app goes to work providing you with relevant information based on your location, the beacon you have encountered, the time of day, and many other factors. All this happens almost instantaneously.

Anode: What were the key points discussed at PING/LOCAL?

Chris: Most of the presenters and panelists discussed retail applications and location-based marketing, but I spoke to Anode’s area of expertise, which is how we could use beacon technology to enhance interactive experiences in museums, libraries, civic centers, corporate lobbies and the like.

For example, our we have prototyped a digital docent product for museums. This application would let a visitor move around a museum at their own pace and, just by downloading an app with a self-guided tour on his or her phone.

Or let’s say you walk into a library where we’ve placed beacons in end cap bookshelves. As soon as you walk in the front door of the library, the app in your phone wakes up and suggests novels to you based on prior check-outs and lets you reserve them instantaneously. It could even let you know if you have overdue fees…but in a very nice way.

Anode is working on partnering with BKON right now on some of these incredible ideas that harness beacon technology.

Anode: What was the reaction to some of the ideas you presented?

Chris: Everyone was dialed in. Many in the crowd, since again it was pretty retail application heavy, hadn’t considered many of the interactive experiences applications that Anode and BKON are working on. And I can’t wait until next year. When I’ll be showing case studies born from the potential applications I presented this year.

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