Editor’s note: Adrienne Mills is a graduate of the Communication Leadership (Comm Lead) program at the University of Washington and marketing manager and product evangelist at Artifact Technologies. Several other individuals associated with the Comm Lead program are also associated with Artifact Technologies, including Comm Lead Advisory Network member Brent Friedman (co-founder of Artifact Technologies), Comm Lead Director Hanson Hosein (communications counsel to Artifact Technologies), and Comm Lead student and Flip the Media co-editor Connie Rock (freelance writer/content curator for Artifact Technologies).
Every year, the Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC) brings together thought leaders and showcases emerging digital trends. One of those trends, the use of Bluetooth-enabled beacons, will be featured at this year’s conference with the mixby mobile app, developed by Artifact Technologies in Seattle.
With approximately 4,000 attendees expected at this year’s conference, SIC organizers were looking to enhance the conference experience. “The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Makers,’ and what better way to showcase that theme than to utilize technology from a local company that features the use of beacons and creates event-specific content for our attendees,” said Brian Rauschenbach, curator and co-founder of SIC.
What is Mixby?
At its heart, mixby is a location-based storytelling app. The founders of Artifact Technologies, Sam Teplitsky and Brent Friedman, originally conceived an app that would extend the live music concert experience for fans. The app would connect concertgoers in a physical network (the concert) and provide a way for them to interact and share stories. Today, with the advent of beacon technology, mixby has morphed into a platform that enables content creators to develop stories about any place.
Mixby uses Estimote beacons, which can easily be placed on a variety of surfaces (Image: Adrienne Mills)
What Are Beacons?
Beacons leverage relatively simple technology, while providing exciting new ways to bridge the physical and digital worlds. Today’s beacons, including the egg-sized Estimote beacons that mixby uses, are lightweight devices that can be attached to walls and other surfaces. These devices use Bluetooth Smart (Low Energy) battery-powered transmitters to broadcast radio signals. Mobile devices such as smartphones receive the signals when they are within a specified proximity to beacons, which enables these devices to determine their location relative to the beacons.
A common misconception about beacons is that they “track” people with smartphones. This is not true. A beacon simply transmits Bluetooth signals at a certain frequency, and when a device such as a smartphone is within a certain proximity to the beacon, compatible apps on the smartphone receive the signal and can perform specific actions (the actions performed depend on the app).
The mixby interface for SIC, showing the home screen for speaker Brent Friedman (Image: Adrienne Mills)
The Mixby Experience at SIC
When SIC attendees that have devices with mixby installed are at the conference venue and they approach conference rooms or other areas where beacons are placed, mixby displays a local notification to let them know that new content is available to access. Attendees waiting in specific conference rooms can access presentation materials and backstories about speakers who are scheduled for sessions held in those rooms, while more general information about the conference will be made available to attendees who are in the exhibitor and sponsor area.
After they access mixby content, attendees can view and “favorite” photos, videos and other information related to their location and share their own photos, too.
Designing and implementing such an experience so that it works seamlessly is not a small task. To do this, the Artifact Technologies project team, working with SIC organizers, created a map of the event, placed beacons in strategic locations and curated relevant, engaging content.
Mixby can be used outside the conference venue, as well. The app provides information, photos, videos and stories about restaurants, museums, major landmarks and other attractions throughout Western Washington.
The Larger Picture
There’s no doubt that beacons are hot right now. They are being tested by brands such as Major League Baseball, Macy’s, Walgreens and Walmart. While obvious uses exist in the retail space for beacons through the presentation of coupons and specials in branded apps, the possibilities are even more exciting when beacons are used to help enable rich location-based storytelling experiences. Modern marketing research shows time and again that building relationships between brands and consumers through rich content and storytelling is much more effective than simply offering coupons ever will be.
SIC 2014 takes place on October 15 – 16 at the Conference Center at the Washington State Convention Center. For information about registration rates and availability, see the SIC website. The mixby mobile app is available now and can be downloaded on devices that run compatible versions of the iOS and Android operating systems.