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A Thousand Beacons Will Help SXSW Attendees Connect

The Bluetooth devices will allow users at the music and film festival to see who is on stage or which film is showing at their location, while enabling them to link up with people of interest within their vicinity.
By Claire Swedberg

This year, when an individual arrives at the venue, the SXSW GO app running on that person's phone receives the unique ID number transmitted by each beacon, which then links that visitor to that specific location and pushes relevant content to her phone. For instance, if she had created a list of favorites that included someone else who is within range of the beacon at that same time, the app will send her a notification listing that attendee's name on top, as well as the names of all other individuals within the beacon's vicinity. The data includes a picture so that she can identify the person visually.

Around Me can also be used simply to identify a band playing at one of the venues. An attendee can not only see the name of the musician or group to which he is listening, but also view a list of other bands that will be playing on that stage throughout the remainder of the day.

SXSW's Scott Wilcox
Additionally, the app can carry out its own "Attendee Matching" function, in which, based on an individual's profile of profession and interests, it will recommend someone else in the vicinity who may be of interest.

With the Session Live function (which debuted in 2014), an individual whose phone has BLE functionality enabled can receive notifications upon entering the room of a specific program, inviting that person to join a related online chat, and listing others in the room.

The beacons also provide push notifications for those awaiting shuttles to take them from one venue to another in a different part of town. When a user's phone receives a transmission from a beacon at a shuttle stop, the phone transmits that data to the app, which then captures the most recent bus location data, based on each vehicle's GPS unit, and sends a notification to that individual indicating when the next bus is expected to arrive.

"People today are already hyper-connected; they want to experience digital as well as physical connections," Wilcox says. "With the beacons, we can tell them who's here." This, he adds, "will increase the value for those who attend. Our main goal is to enhance the visitor experience."

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