Designing Interactive Museum Exhibits: How Bluetooth iBeacons can help

Interactive exhibits are a great way to improve audience engagement at your museum. Here are some examples of popular interactive exhibits:

Museum interactive displays

iPad selfie photo boxes

iPods and mobile phone audio tour apps

Today we are going to have a detailed look at using Bluetooth iBeacons along with iPods and mobile phone apps to easily build a series of interactive museum exhibits.

What are Bluetooth iBeacons

Bluetooth iBeacons are battery powered sensors which provides location data to mobile apps. An example experience made possible is showing an on-screen alert when a visitor approaches a point of interest.

The way it works is very similar to a GPS assisted 'geofence' where messages get triggered when a visitor walks into a targeted area. However GPS does not work indoors while Bluetooth iBeacons do.

With a battery life of 2 years, they are very easy to maintain with the help of a beacon content management system.

How to use Bluetooth iBeacons

iBeacon hardware
To start designing a Bluetooth iBeacon assisted interactive exhibit, you first need to source for the hardware sensors required. Here is a list of top suppliers available in the market right now:

  1. Kontakt.io (our preferred one)
  2. Aruba Beacons
  3. Estimote

They are generally around $30 per sensor and most of the suppliers above offer a bulk discount.

After purchasing some Bluetooth iBeacons, you can deploy them around your venue, placing one at each point of interest you wish to add interactivity. We recommend placing them high above on the ceiling for best signal quality. They are usually attached using double sided mounting tape.

iPhone or Android mobile app
Next, you will need an iPhone or Android mobile app for the Bluetooth iBeacons to work. If you have an internal development team, you can refer them to the following articles on how to get started working with Bluetooth iBeacons in your app:

  1. iBeacons tutorial for iOS/Swift
  2. Kontakt.io - iOS SDK Quickstart
  3. Kontakt.io - Android SDK Quickstart

If you do not have an internal development team, you can use the an audio tour app builder platform to start building your Bluetooth iBeacon Interactive app.

While they are other ways to use Bluetooth iBeacons without an app (i.e Google Eddystone), we think that the best interactive experience is only possible using a dedicated app for the exhibition.

Below are some possible examples of some Bluetooth iBeacon powered mobile apps.

Example use cases

Here are some museum exhibit ideas that you can develop using Bluetooth iBeacons and a mobile app.

Bluetooth iBeacon Spot Quizzes - The visitor gets a spot quiz when they arrive at an exhibit, making it educational and interactive.

Bluetooth iBeacon Audio Tours - The visitor gets prompted to play an audio voiceover when they arrive at an exhibit, making it informational and adding another layer of content to the object in front of them.

Bluetooth iBeacon Scavenger Hunt - Mostly designed for kids, they use the app as a 'Radar' which has a hot and cold meter to guide them in collecting hidden items around the exhibition hall.

Bluetooth beacons coupled with an interactive mobile app is a great way to add an interactive element to your museum exhibits.