Beacons, NFC Showcase 200 Years of ‘Silent Night’

The Christmas carol's anniversary is being celebrated in the Salzburg area of Austria, with a beacon- and NFC-based solution from Xamoom to bring exhibits and points of interest to life for those with a smartphone and an app.
Published: December 12, 2018

When Austria’s Salzburg State Tourism Board launched the 200th anniversary celebration of the first public performance of “Silent Night,” it employed Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology to bring the Christmas carol’s story to smartphone users. The system now in place consists of 100 beacons, as well as NFC and QR labels, and an app from Austrian location-based solutions company Xamoom.

The lyrics to “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht” in German) were written by Joseph Mohr, a young priest stationed at a church in the village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, who’d hoped to put those words to music for the Christmas Eve Mass in 1818. Moore then took his lyrics to Franz Xaver Gruber, who composed accompanying music to be performed by guitar.

A beacon at the new Silent Night Chapel in Hintersee

Since then, the song has become one of the most popular Christmas carols. Oberndorf bei Salzburg, located approximately 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) north of the city of Salzburg, has been visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists as the song’s birthplace.

Gregor Matjan

This year, the anniversary is being celebrated in 13 towns throughout upper Austria, as well as in Oberndorf bei Salzburg and the Tyrolean Ziller Valley. Nine museums in the area are taking part in the program, while each town also has between two and six “Silent Night”-related points of interest, such as churches, chapels and houses.

Every year, the advent season serves as a high period for tourism, says Gregor Matjan, the Salzburg State Board of Tourism’s director of digital media and online marketing. In December 2017, 630,000 tourists visited SalzburgerLand (with at least a one-night stay-over), in addition to single-day visits. Visitors are mainly domestic, while others hail from Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Italy.

This year, SalzburgerLand expects to receive up to 700,000 overnight visitors. The “Silent Night” anniversary will include a new musical, titled “My Silent Night,” as well as museum exhibits, advent singing and theater plays of the “Silent Night” story.

The tourism board sought to celebrate the anniversary of “Silent Night” with a memorable solution that would bring the carol’s story to tourists as they moved around the area. Matjan says the board chose the Xamoom solution based on its combination of location-based technology, which includes beacons, NFC and QR codes, “and the easy-to-use and flexible CMS [content-management system] which allows changing contents without configuring each beacon locally.”

A worker installing a beacon

The board installed beacons at such locations as the St. Nikola parish church, where the carol was first performed, as well as at the “Silent Night” museums. NFC- and QR-based labels are installed within museums and other locations where tapping a phone or scanning a QR code can access location-based data.

Xamoom’s CMS aims to provide easy accessibility for users, and to be flexible and multi-lingual, according to Georg Holzer, the company’s CEO. The system allows the tourism board to change content at any time from any location. Altogether, the tourism board installed 100 of Xamoom’s iBeacons with built-in technology from, along with around 200 NFC and QR code smart posters or labels.

Tourists must first download the app. Once they come within range of a beacon, as long as they have their device’s Bluetooth functionality enabled, they can receive a push notification indicating they are near a “Silent Night” attraction, such as a chapel, a museum or a Christmas market. They can then use their phone to scroll through information about that attraction, view schedules and ticketing information, or make a ticket purchase. Moreover, they can store information that they can view in the app after finishing their visit to the community.

In the meantime, the tourism board can tweak the information at any time, such as updating schedules or the attractions that will be accessible on a particular day. Xamoom preconfigured the beacons and provided instructions for their deployment, Holzer explains, including the location at which each beacon should be mounted.

The tourism board was able to install the beacons, labels and smart posters. “I installed it by myself,” Matjan says (though with the help of communal workers), “but always with permission and support of the local authorities—the public lighting or building department. There were always one to two town workers who helped me with mounting and provided a mobile elevating work platform.”

In addition, the system provides reporting such as app usage rates, the number of engagements with a specific label or beacon, and the number of follow-up clicks. The tourism board expects the number of solution users to rise throughout the Christmas season. “Our goal was to reach 2,000 active users,” Matjan states. Already, however, the board has been surprised by how much the content has been accessed by tourists. “On some days, we have average session lengths of up to 30 minutes, or even over an hour, which shows that users are intensely immersing themselves in the app content.”

The beacons and the NFC- and QR code-based technology will be taken down following the Christmas season, but the communities will continue to offer the app. When it comes to other beacon-based deployments, Matjan adds, “It is still open if we are going to use it for another project.”

The solution brings points of interest to life for those with a smartphone and an app.

According to Holzer, Xamoom was launched in 2014 out of a project to bring attention to local authors and musicians in their home town of Klagenfurt. They dubbed the deployment “Project Ingeborg.” At that time, Holzer was a journalist who cofounded the technology company with software developer Bruno Hautzenberger. The solution consisted of 70 NFC smart labels, which were installed in public spaces throughout the city of Klagenfurt.

The labels were used to provide access to smartphone users regarding authors and musicians in a way that would be fun and engaging. Xamoom partnered with the public bus company and installed the labels at public bus stops. It found that the labels were used approximately 350 times per day. The company has since expanded to include beacon technology, which it has deployed for similar public cultural projects in other Austrian communities.

Xamoom offers its CMS license with QR codes, NFC labels and iBeacons at a rate of €399 ($453) per month, while an iBeacon app is available for €249 ($282) per month. It is now working with potential customers in other parts of Europe, as well as in Thailand.