Beacon-based Scavenger Hunt Is a Hit at Ball Game

By Claire Swedberg

The Durham Bulls introduced a Radius Networks BLE solution that not only enables fans to play games, but also lets the team and its partners manage parking and deliver promotional offers.


North Carolina baseball fans used their smartphones to hunt down rewards and gifts at the Durham Bulls minor league game this past Monday. Radius Networks‘ RadBeacons enabled audience members to identify their location as they hunted for scavenger hunt items around the park—the first 20 winners of whom received a prize, such as game tickets or T-shirts.

The Durham Bulls is a Triple-A minor league team owned by media company Capitol Broadcasting, and its home is Durham Bulls Athletic Park, located on the American Tobacco Campus. The team developed the idea of the proximity beacon technology installation to help it—as well as it sister companies, WRAL-TV and Fox50, and other tenants at the American Tobacco Campus—to communicate with customers via their mobile phones and apps that could provide coupons, as well as promotional and parking information. The Bulls began working with Radius Networks this summer to launch the first phase of such a system. This summer, Radius Networks installed approximately 100 RadBeacon USB beacons around the ball field, the parking area and other open areas of the American Tobacco Campus, and developed an app that was used during the Bulls’ opening game to introduce fans to the technology. The RadBeacon USB can be powered by any available USB power source.

The Beacon Scavenger Hunt app

Upon arriving at the game, audience members were invited to download the app, known as Beacon Scavenger Hunt, from Google Play or the iTunes App store, explains Marc Wallace, one of Radius Networks’ founders.

Durham Bulls’ Scott Carter

Once participants had downloaded and installed the app—which did not require any personal information from the user—they were instructed to enter a special event code, thereby revealing six icons, each of which had its own clues. (As future events are planned for Bulls games or by the Bulls’ sister companies, the same app could be used with a different event code.) By pressing on an icon, says Scott Carter, the Durham Bulls’ director of marketing, a user could then access clues regarding the location of that icon’s beacon.

The phone then began receiving ID number transmissions from nearby beacons and forwarded those IDs to Radius Networks’ hosted server, which determined the phone’s location based on that data. Based on the received information, the participant’s phone displayed an update regarding how far away the next target was located, and also provided hints regarding the location of that icon. Once the phone came within read range—about 10 meters (33 feet)—of the target’s beacon, it “collected” that icon and the user was directed to the next target, until the phone had accumulated all six icons. At that point, the participant could then take the phone to a booth dedicated for prize distribution to receive a T-shirt or ticket to a future game.

To win a prize during Monday night’s scavenger hunt, players had to be among the first to finish. “We had one fan complete the hunt within five minutes of gates opening for the game,” Carter says. “Safe to say she was into it.”

Initially, the team wants to use the system to enable games such as the scavenger hunt, though in the future, it plans to use beacons deployed in other parts of the campus for additional functions. In the parking area, for example, the beacons could be employed to help baseball fans find parking spaces more efficiently. In this case, a user would download an app dedicated to the parking area. As the individual entered that parking area, his or her phone would receive beacon transmissions. The software on the server would approximate the fan’s location, and then send relevant data based on that location—such as “parking Area B is full”—thereby allowing the guest to abandon efforts to enter that filled area.

“Anytime we have the opportunity to better understand our fans and make their experience better, we want to explore it,” Carter states. “The Bulls and Capital Broadcasting are always at the forefront of new technology, so being the first minor league park to install [beacon technology] was appealing as well. The scavenger hunt was really just a fun way to test out the possibilities.”

Radius Networks has other customers that hope to use the system to manage parking areas in conjunction with additional technology, such as infrared or pressure sensors that could detect which parking spaces are open. The drivers would then receive updates indicating the direction to the closest empty spaces. These installations, however, are in the early stages, Wallace says.

The RadBeacon USB and an adapter that enables it to be powered by an ordinary wall outlet.