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Harvard University museum seeks iBeacons to enhance visitor experience

A Harvard University museum is planning to enhance the visitor experience with an iBeacon-enabled museum application that will also serve as a modern teaching tool.

The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI) is collaborating with Dutch iBeacon app developer LabWerk to implement mApp, LabWerk?s museum app platform. While touring museums can be a daunting experience, it is important that executives incorporate interactivity to keep visitors entertained.

?Harvard's main goal is to ultimately improve the experience of their visitors,? said Floris Boekel, CEO of LabWerk, Amsterdam. ?IBeacons can facilitate this by offering visitors content and notifications that are personalized to them and their location on their own mobile device to better convey the message CHSI are telling through their exhibitions. 

?The beacons and app can also show a visitor their location on a floor plan of the museum, meaning no more getting lost,? he said. ?Jean-François Gauvin, Ph.D., who is the director of administration and lecturer for the CHSI at Harvard University, said that, ?beyond visitors, they see the iBeacons and mApp playing a role in improving their exhibition developments and teaching endeavors.??

The user experience
The implementation of a museum app is CHSI?s next step to stay up-to-date with modern technology. 

With mApp facilitating a new content delivery method, which will be integrated into the CHSI visitor experience, exhibition developments and teaching endeavors, the collection?s director of administration and Harvard lecturer Dr. Jean-François Gauvin expects to see visitor and student satisfaction rates rise to a new level following the innovation.

The museum had been considering incorporating an app for several years. 

LabWerk?s mApp platform uses iBeacon technology to facilitate location-based content delivery. 

Through Bluetooth technology, visitors? mobile devices can identify their location within the collection based on proximity to signal-emitting beacons. This location awareness is then used by the app to unlock certain pieces of content, trigger location-specific notifications and pinpoint visitors? positions within a venue.

MApp and content delivery through iBeacons have proven to be successful for LabWerk clients over the past 12 months, according to the app developer.

The museum houses more that 20,000 scientific instruments dating back more than 600 years ago, which have been preserved, documented and presented to reflect their past roles in science teaching and research.

The app is expected to be available later this year. For more information, visit or

Anywhere and everywhere
Beacons have definitely been the buzz over the past few months. Many companies have been testing them out and seeing the personalization capabilities they allow.

The technology has been used in other museums as well.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York are some other museums testing beacon technology to provide seamless ways of improving visitors? experiences at exhibitions as well as enable them to better understand consumer flow and layout to guide the organization of future content. 

While beacons have typically been used in retail-related sectors so far, especially for the purpose of sending customized promotions to shoppers, the technology is a natural fit for museums and can also help act as a virtual tour guide for mobile device users (see story).

Also, McDonald?s deployment of beacon technology at franchise locations in Columbus, GA ? a strategy that arose from watching how customers frequently use their smartphones ?garnered 18,000 offer redemptions in just four weeks.

The beacons are being used to greet customers when they walk in with surveys, coupons, alerts and employee opportunities. Customers, especially millennials, are constantly using their phones and are increasingly expecting to receive offers through that channel (see story).

?iBeacons offer a greater experience than other mobile technologies like QR, NFC or GPS,? Mr. Boekel said. ?The beacons allow for passive delivery of content to a users' mobile device. 

?There is no need for scanning or tapping,? he said. ?Users need to simply just walk within the proximity of what they would like to find out more about and content specific to that piece can be available at their fingertip.?

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York