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Page history last edited by Nancy Proctor 15 years, 8 months ago

Bluetooth Tags and Beacons 


Bluetooth tags can be used in much the same way as infrared tags, but have a larger range (up to 10m/30ft), and do not require line-of-sight. This can make Bluetooth preferable to IR as a triggering technology in situations where the visitor might not be able to find the trigger easily, either due to low vision or the organisation of the exhibit. Bluetooth is a radio-based technology, so the tags will trigger within a sphere of influence rather than in a precise, point-to-point manner like infrared; however, with a much more limited range than WLAN, the granularity of Bluetooth triggering can be refined down to 1-2 meters. Combination IR and Bluetooth tags also exist, and have been used primarily in retail and other promotional environments to ‘beam’ audio-visual content, such as ring tones, video clips and songs, to users’ own phones and PDAs. 


Although its shorter range and one-to-one correspondence between tags, locations and content can make Bluetooth seem a simpler and more accurate positioning solution than WLAN software-based systems, as a radio-based technology Bluetooth is subject to the same vagaries of atmospheric conditions and numbers of bodies in a given space, so signal strength from Bluetooth tags can fluctuate. When tags are located near one another, Bluetooth readers can also ‘dither’ between two or more overlapping signals. 


Among the early Bluetooth pilots was a 2004 trial at Madame Tussauds in London. A Bluetooth audio tour solution was also demonstrated at the Melbourne Museum in Australia in 2003. At Madame Tussauds, Bluetooth tags were embedded in selected figures and used to trigger multimedia tour content, locally-stored on a Bluetooth-enabled PDA. Some of the portraits were located close enough to one another that visitors experienced dithering between their tags, which caused the interface to flash between the content menus for the two adjacent portraits. This is, presumably, a problem that can be resolved through judicious placement of the tags and clever design of the user interface. While perfectly responsive with a small number of simultaneous users (e.g. two), reportedly the tags sometimes failed to trigger content if a larger number of visitors gathered around the same portrait at the same time. Clearly, as with any new technology, there are platform issues to work out, and the constantly- moving goal posts of new hardware and upgrades to the PocketPC operating system have not made this any easier. However, Bluetooth is potentially a very powerful solution for location-based services for visually-impaired visitors in particular, where line-of-sight technologies are not practical and a relatively fine granularity of positioning is required. Bluetooth also has the advantage of being installed in a wide range of new consumer handheld devices, including phones and laptops as well as PDAs. This means not only that the general public is gaining everyday familiarity with the technology, but also that more visitors are likely to arrive at the museum with their own Bluetooth-enabled devices. If good solutions for either streaming or beaming content to these devices are developed in future, Bluetooth could provide an unprecedented level of access to museum interpretation.


Comments (3)

William Bode said

at 9:57 am on Sep 11, 2008

We had a city-wide event which produced an audio tour of sites around town displaying local metal craftsmanship. The event organisers provided an audio tour via the website for download (podcast) and a Bluetooth access point at the local train station and in the public through-fare of our city-centre museum. Although the only around a 1,000 people downloaded the audio track in about a three week period the bigger number to take note of was the nearly 150,000 Bluetooth enabled and transmitting devices (cell/mobile phones,pdas, laptops, etc) logged by the Bluetooth server. The Bluetooth devices were small simple and standalone only requiring power (after content was loaded up) and a place to hide near (100 meters) the sign. Has anyone else had experience with this type of delivery system? Pro and Cons Here is a link to the device they used. http://www.bluegiga.com/229x-1
Unfortunately they took the devices away and now I don't have budget to test further, yet.

Michael Gyldendal said

at 8:20 am on Apr 20, 2009

At the Danish Museum of Science and Technology we have worked with Bluetooth technology for a couple of month now. We use Blip Notes (http://www.blipsystems.com/)
It’s a rather expensive solution, but very interesting. When you enter specific zones in the museum you automatically receive video- or sound clips connected to certain objects-
Ex. original footage from Ellehammers attempt to fly in 1906 or you can see the oldest Danish car “Hammelvognen” participate in the race London – Brighton in 1954.
We have great expectations for the Bluetooth experience and hopefully we can set up a more comprehensive version designed for school students in the autumn. Our plan is to make a Mobil 2.0 solution where the students decide the evolution of technology via their cell phones!

Nancy Proctor said

at 9:53 am on Apr 20, 2009

Thanks for this case study, Michael! If you have more data or results you'd like to share, feel free to create a 'Case Study' page dedicated to your work.

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