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iBeacons Could Transform The Theme Park Experience
We’ve all seen the visions of the future in movies and TV shows, where billboard advertising is tailored specifically for you in real-time as you walk down the street. Thanks to a new technology called iBeacons from Apple, released with iOS 7 last year, that future is pretty much here. Several large name retailers are currently rolling it out to their stores, and Major League Baseball is getting ready to install it across most of their stadiums. Personally, I think this technology is perfect for theme parks and would greatly enhance the guest experience.
This technology is based on small “beacons” that emit information. Each beacon has a unique identifier that is broadcast using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE or Bluetooth Smart). When that signal is picked up by a device within range, such as a mobile app, the information the beacon contains is then displayed on the device.
Each beacon can be as small as a quarter and run for up to two years on a small watch battery. The range can be as far away as 50 meters, yet has the ability for micro-ranging, knowing how close you are to it down to just a few centimeters.
I can think of many use cases for this around a theme park. The park would need to have a mobile app for their guests to take advantage of the system, but the possibilities are really only limited by one’s imagination. Any device that is compatible with Bluetooth Smart, including iOS7 devices and most Android devices, has the ability to receive and display beacon information.
Imagine getting a greeting from the park as you approach the main gate. It could display the park’s hours for the day, special events that day, or even provide a list of what rides were closed for the day. Once you’re inside the park, navigation could help those unfamiliar with the layout. Select a ride, store, restaurant, or even the restroom from a list and the beacons could provide real-time, step-by-step guidance directly there.
Imagine standing at the entrance of a ride and wondering what it was like. A beacon placed near the entrance could display ride statistics such as type of ride, length of ride, and whether or not it goes upside down. It could even list any ride restrictions, such as height or weight limitations.
We’ve all been in very long ride lines, and the wait can be brutal. Beacons placed along the queue path could be programmed to display interesting trivia or history about the ride, providing a form of entertainment while waiting.
Once you get off the ride, how would you like a photo of yourself on that ride? A beacon next to the photo booth at the ride exit could activate a series of actions for you to get just that. How cool would it be to enter the code for your picture, pay for it, and have a digital copy sent to you, all from your mobile phone?
Beacons are generic devices that are sold from a variety of vendors. The term iBeacon refers to any iOS device that is running iOS 7, as these devices can be used as beacons themselves. For example, an iPad could be placed in a kiosk outside the entrance to a restaurant to show an interactive menu. As people approach it, the iBeacon could transmit coupons or special offers from that restaurant.
Twitter hunts could be taken to the next level with undercover park employees roaming the park with an active iBeacon, handing out special prizes to anyone finding them through the system.
These are just a few of the ways that I can see parks using beacons and iBeacons to enhance the guest experience, but I know there are many, many more. What do you think of a system like this? Would you use it? What other use cases can you think of for a theme park?