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Beacon Technology for the Middle Ages

Portugal's Óbidos Medieval Market featured approximately 50 Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to bring location-based content to visitors of its jousting tournaments, pubs, restaurants and services.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 15, 2017

Visitors to the city of Óbidos, Portugal, this summer immersed themselves in medieval history with the help of 21st-century technology in the form of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based data on their cell phones. With the SMIITY BLE beacons, from mobinteg, as well as apps on their smartphones, individuals could stroll through 14th-century markets while scrolling through location-based data on their phones. The technology enabled them to view information regarding local stores, taverns and events, based on where they were located.

The Medieval Market of Óbidos is an annual festival that immerses visitors in a medieval-period marketplace. Each year, hundreds of actors clad in medieval costumes take over the streets of the historic district, including noblemen, beggars, muledrivers and street performs, such as musicians, dancers and jugglers. The festival, celebrating the town's Middle Ages era, also includes jousting tournaments on horse and on foot, as well as medieval dinners and the market itself, in which medieval style wares are sold. The event is hosted by a municipal company called Óbidos Criativa E.M., which organizes cultural events and tourist activities, according to Ricardo Pedras Ribeiro, Óbidos Criativa's board chairman.

Ricardo Pedras Ribeiro
Óbidos is a small town with a long history. It has approximately 1,000 residents in the town proper, but attracts thousands of tourists annually, who come to see the medieval castle and wall, and historic churches. The annual festival constantly seeks new ways in which to engage with the public, Ribeiro says. The challenge this year (during its 16th such event) was to couple modern-day technology with a full medieval immersive experience. Although Óbidos is a medieval village, he says, "We try to have the tourists have new experiences."

In that effort, Ribeiro says, he considers a wide range of proposals to update each event. However, he was focused on deploying a solution that would not disrupt tourists' normal behavior patterns. Nearly everyone uses their smartphones to enhance their experience, he says, sharing information on social networks, taking pictures, making phone calls and sending messages. So Ribeiro opted for mobinteg's BLE-based solution because it required no additional costs for users, allowed targeted communication only to those who wanted it, and provided a discrete way to provide further services.

The SMIITY beacons were installed on the main streets and squares of the historical center of Óbidos, says Pedro Miguel Geraldes, mobinteg's managing partner. They were deployed at the Terreiro de Armas, where the knights' jousting tournaments took place, and at the Square of Troubadours, where theater, dance and music performances were held.

Users could download the SMIITY medieval market app on their Android- or iOS-based phones. The app, once downloaded, collected and stored data about the market so that a user could operate the technology even if he or she lacked a cellular connection. That's important, Ribeiro says, since cellular coverage can be spotty in the village, and users do not want to pay the cost of their phones roaming for signals.

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