Mar 9, 2016 10:19:25 PM Jared Shaw Tech & Tools

Chances are if you’ve been paying attention you’ve heard the term iBeacon. Some of the world’s largest events have begun using iBeacons to engage their attendees and provide an interactive experience that has the industry buzzing. If you haven’t heard the term it’s time you caught up with this exciting new technology.

iBeacons are low-powered transmitters developed by Apple that can sense the proximity of nearby iOS devices and send and receive notifications using Bluetooth LE (Low Energy). That might not sound like a revolutionary technology but it could have some powerful implications for how we use our mobile devices at events.

iBeacons are currently deployed in a number of applications. They have been used in select retail stores to display customized shopping experiences based on the user’s habits and preferences. In this case, the beacons can offer on-demand product information and allow for mobile transactions at the till. They have also been adopted by MLB who uses the technology to engage with fans at their stadiums across the US.

While this type of technology has shown some promise, it is also at the centre of a heated debate. The potential for misuse in the form of unwanted push-notifications or ads has many people wary. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where consumers are mercilessly targeted by advertisers who simply see iBeacons as a new channel for spam. If the early adopters are conscientious, however, and use the technology to promote relevant content and interaction, it could become an effective way for brands to interact and connect with their customers. While widespread use of iBeacons is far from imminent, they are becoming increasingly popular with the event management industry. iBeacons were used at some of the highest profile events in 2014 where the technology generated a considerable amount of attention.

This year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas debuted their mobile event app with iBeacon functionality for select sessions and on-site registration. For instance, an attendee within proximity of the registration area would receive a registration code and a welcome notification. SXSW installed beacons around the Austin Convention Centre and in select venues around the festival. At a Pepsi sponsored music event at SXSW, iBeacons were used to power Lightwave wristbands, a new form of wearable technology. The wristbands provide real-time data on audience movement, temperature, and sound levels. Using an accelerometer embedded in the Lightwave, Pepsi measured audience movement to judge a dance competition and ranked audience members on a leaderboard.

While using beacons and wearable tech to judge a dance competition sounds pretty cool, it may not be the sort of application that will have an impact on the event industry. So let’s take a look at a few ways iBeacons could help us manage events and improve the attendee experience.


  1. Attendee check-in. As people arrive at the conference venue they receive a greeting notification on their device and are prompted to check-in. Using the mobile event app, they can then check themselves in and simplify the event registration process.
  2. Navigation. iBeacons provide devices with extremely accurate location services, even without a wifi-connection. In large conference facilities where GPS is unreliable, iBeacons can be used to power hyper-accurate floor or venue maps, to assist conference attendees in finding their next session.
  3. Networking. Using iBeacons, attendees can network through an opt-in feature in the event’s app, allowing them to discover and message others. With Linkedin integration, conference goers can get a detailed look at who is around them and decide who they would like to connect with.
  4. Promotions and advertisements. Instead of distributing brochures or physical promotional materials, a conference exhibitor can send targeted promotions to attract attendees to their stand.
  5. Gamification. Integrating gamification into events will provide new ways to engage and stimulate attendees. For example, iBeacons could be used for social games to drive networking, venue tours tailored to individual interests, or scavenger hunts for exclusive information and prizes.

It is still too early to know what kind of impact iBeacons will end up having on the event industry, but it’s clear it’s not a fleeting trend. Early adopters have proven that, while still in development, this technology has the potential to drive significant change in the industry. What do you think? Have you had the opportunity to manage or attend an event using iBeacon technology? We would love to hear from you. Post a comment below or tweet us at @Attendease

Troy Kasting

Marketing Coordinator