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Bluetooth Beacons Bring Services, Info to SeaWorld, LA Zoo Visitors
Both organizations are trialing a solution from The Experience Engine to deliver content to phone users as they walk through the parks, visit exhibits, or pass restaurants and gift shops.
The zoo will begin installing a number of beacons, Hilliard says—the exact quantity has yet to be decided—throughout its entire park this coming summer. "With more beacons, we can provide more information," she says, such as reminding visitors that the bird show or elephant-training program will begin in 15 minutes, as well as providing the route they would need to walk to get there. Based on data indicating where people are clustering, managers could also send messages that could serve to redistribute the traffic flow, such as reminding guests crowded within a specific area that the restaurant is serving lunch, or offering information about other programs being held in another area of the park.
In February 2014, SeaWorld rolled out its Discovery Guide app at its three SeaWorld locations (San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio), as well as at three other parks it operates—Busch Gardens Tampa and Williamsburg and Sesame Place. The app pushes information about the park to visitors' mobile phones, and also offers a scavenger hunt and a map that indicates the easiest route to a specific location, based on a user's position within the park, as determined by his or her phone's GPS functionality. In November, Morse says, SeaWorld began testing a variety beacons at its SeaWorld Orlando park, as well the TE2 Mission Control software used to send data directly to the Discovery Guide app. "Beacons will allow us to offer a more personalized experience," she adds, since they can provide location data that is more precise than what is possible via GPS, and thereby enable the park to send information in three categories: dining (when a visitor is close to a restaurant), merchandise (when an individual nears a gift shop) and education (by delivering information related to an animal exhibit near a guest's current location).
This year, Morse says, she expects to continue experimenting with the TE2 beacon system, and to expand how it is used to include more exhibits. If the technology works well in Orlando, it will also be installed at the company's other theme parks, such as SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld San Antonio. Using Bluetooth beacons to deliver personalized information to a smartphone app, she reports, is a way to give visitors what they want. "For kids, this is their life," she states. "They think nothing of the immediacy of information. In fact, if it's not there, that's a big deal." However, she notes, the Discovery Guide app's most popular feature is the one that helps visitors locate their car, based on their phone's longitude and latitude GPS readings when they signed into the system at the time of parking.
The technology also works with wearable BLE sensors in cases in which mobile devices might not be convenient. At a water park, for example, a BLE device could be built into a lanyard, while at an airport, a BLE device could be attached to luggage.
According to Sahadi, potential users continue to come up with their own use cases for the system as well. For instance, if a store at a theme park or stadium is selling a perishable product and needs to reduce its inventory of that item, a manager can log into the Mission Control software and send a discount offer to visitors within the immediate area. Or if Mission Control was being fed weather report data, it could identify an approaching rainstorm and issue alerts to visitors in uncovered areas, indicating where they could find shelter. "What we learned early on is that the use cases to connect with a guest are limitless," Sahadi states, The important point to the solution's success is that it must provide a value to consumers, he says, adding that as long as they gain information of value, consumers will download and use the app.
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