Coachella the iBeacon Way: How Bluetooth LE Will Change Events

Guest Column by Tim Groot

We have already seen many diverse user cases for beacons ranging from a digital minefield in New York to a tulip theme park in The Netherlands. And as of this week we can add Coachella 2014 to that list.

Two points can be found in the what’s new section of the third update to the Coachella app where it mentions that iBeacon technology will be used for on-site notifications (see sidebar).

iBeacon for Festivals

As Jeff Sinclair, co-founder of Beacons company, EventBase, said in a recent interview, “This is an exciting technology for event organizers looking to provide the ultimate attendee experience.”

That leaves us with only one question: How could Coachella use beacons to create the ultimate attendee experience? We did a bit of brainstorming at our London office and came up with several ways that beacons could be used during the festival.

Navigation throughout the festival site

By placing beacons at the different stages you could receive a notification at the moment you walk towards a stage. It could contain information of who is playing right now and where you are on the festival map.

Heat maps of busy locations

Participants at Coachella can access a map of the festival where they can see what places are the busiest, such as bars, toilets, and stages. This will create a better attendee experience because the user can just go to another toilet or bar when the one close to them is busy.

Special gigs and secret venues

Specific beacons at certain times will notify festival goers of “secret” performances or exclusive content such as backstage interviews. It would be interesting if Coachella uses an iPad as a beacon to change the notification during the event as is explained in this video to promote these special gigs and secret venues.

Loyalty program during the festival

If you visit a specified area 10 times you can get a free prize at the bar. Or, if you have been all the way at the front of the mainstage for 3 days in a row, you can claim a hardcore festival fan t-shirt or discount on merchandise.

Games and scavenger hunts

At SXSW there was a Scavenger Hunt to encourage audience goers to explore all areas of the festival. Coachella could use beacons in a scavenger hunt to increase usage of different areas and participants that complete it receive a unique prize such as Coachella merchandise or VIP passes.

Don’t get too excited

Although we wrote down some exciting user experiences Coachella will probably be using the more basic ones, such as vouchers and welcome messages. However, it is important to keep in mind the possibilities that can be offered in the future.

About the author:

Tim Groot is an Account Manager at Nodes with a prime focus on introducing new technologies into existing businesses. Nodes is one of Northern Europe’s most experienced mobile app development agencies with clients such as Carlsberg, BMW, and Lego as well as a range of startups.

He can be followed on twitter at @tim_grand or you connect with him on linkedin

3 thoughts on “Coachella the iBeacon Way: How Bluetooth LE Will Change Events

  1. Just a note of clarification–while there were ibeacon powered scavenger hunts at CES and Macworld, that was not part of SXSW’s app program this year. It will be interesting to see what Coachella actually delivers as an experience this weekend!


  2. What we found at Macworld this year was, very few people actually download the mobile apps, beacon enabled or not. As low as 20% or less of audience will download. With Passbook integration we are able to boost that to 60% of the audience.

    Events that just throw beacons into their apps are going to be disappointed unless the mix Passbook and/or Google Wallet into the mix as well.


  3. Don’t forget that iBeacons can be catalyst for peer to peer communication and proximity based social engagement. When a particular beacon is detected by an app, this can trigger communication between nearby users or with merchants using peer to peer communication (and mesh networking) using things like Apple Multipeer Connectivity Framework.

    I expect that proximity based services will spur a shift to contextually based social communication and sharing.


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