The foundations of an effective beacon-powered Museum App

Beacon technology is typically associated with retail sectors but the emerging proximity-based technology also has the potential to enrich visitor experiences in Museums who deliver rich, curated content. Beaconmaker recently worked with Australian Museum and Powerhouse Museum to create beacon-powered apps that offer curated self-guided tours while there are many other Museums worldwide who are already utilising beacon technology - for example, at The Neon Muzeum (Poland) and New Museum (New York City).

Beacon technology is bridging the gap between the physical world and digital experiences - seamlessly delivering information to app users in a more elegant way than QR codes and NFC technology are able to. Beacon technology adds to the visitor experience and also enables younger visitors to engage with art, culture, science and history through rich and intuitive interactions. 

Based on our experiences from past projects, we’ve compiled a list of the key features that can maximise the value of a beacon-powered Museum App:

Exhibit-specific contextual information

Beacons rely on proximity rather than location information. This enables proximity-based information triggers that can be configured to seamlessly deliver content to users. In Museums, this means that contextual information can be delivered to app users when they are near exhibits or displays (which are, in turn, associated with a nearby beacon). Beacon-powered apps enrich visitor experiences by delivering the relevant digital content, at the right time. Exhibits, on their own, can be difficult to interpret or contextualise - even when supported with physical informational material, typically placed on walls near displays. Alternatively, Museum Apps powered by beacons deliver location-aware and content-rich information in a more engaging and interactive way.

Walking into a Museum for the first time can overwhelm visitors. The huge amount of information can make it difficult to know where to begin or where to go next. Self-guided tours offered by beacon-powered apps allow visitors to choose guides best suited to their own interests once they have the app downloaded to their smartphone. Furthermore, visitors can plan their visit ahead of time by downloading the app and scoping out available tours before leaving home. At Beaconmaker, we also include indoor mapping functionality in apps for wayfinding and visually locating pre-defined attractions. At the user interface level, each stop linked to a beacon has a landing page containing related images, audio, videos or simply additional textual information. 


Aztec Exhibition, Australian Museum


User interaction should be engaging and seamless. Adding an element of gamification to a Museum App can link digital content to the physical space in a new, yet intuitive, way. For example, Australian Museum’s app offers exhibit-related quizzes at each stop with the option to save progress via Facebook or email sign-up. Gamification can also be combined with social aspects by encouraging users to post their progress and achievements to social media or ‘bookmark’ their favourite tours. This feature focuses on community-driven interaction, redefining the traditional Museum experience by opening up another channel for communication and sharing information.

Scavenger Hunts

Another layer of gamification utilising proximity-based beacon technology is treasure hunts or scavenger hunts. Similar to the beacon-powered treasure hunt project we did for Big W, this feature generally involves installing beacons at strategic pre-defined locations and configuring the app to ‘search’ for the beacon signals. This form of gamification fosters curiosity and active exploration - driving visitor engagement and delivering content with a storyline without taking away from the core content and messages. 

The main takeway is that Museums should identify how they’d like to define their visitor experience. Each Museum has different values and requirements, meaning that while the platform and CMS essentially remains the same - the way in which content is delivered or presented differs depending on how they wish visitors to interact with their surroundings.

Watch our Australian Museum case study video:

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