iBeacons and Meerkat App Bring Human Element to SXSW

Over 100,000 attendees are expected at South by Southwest (SXSW) where the annual event offers a smorgasbord of music, film and interactive technology in Austin, Texas from March 13-22.

However, the big news is how once again technology is rapidly invading event space as the organisers of SXSW have teamed up with Eventbase to place over 1,000 Gimbal’s series 21 iBeacons in 265 of the events official venues to offer tracking and communication via the official mobile app, which is also the largest deployment of iBeacons for an event.

Typically this form of technology interacts with your mobile phone when you enter or leave an area and send messages depending on your interests along with any promotions that can be pushed to visitors, but this latest event partnership is concentrating on using beacons to offer a human element that will allow visitors to network effectively.

Finally it seems that there is a realisation that there is more to iBeacon technology than retail marketing or advertising which is refreshing as nothing frustrates people more than receiving unsubtle and intrusive messages telling us to buy more stuff that only annoy the recipient.

We have a low tolerance of being used as a walking billboard, but location-based interactions with other visitors are something that could revolutionise the event space. For example, imagine checking into a conference and instantly be able to see exactly who else is in the room and filter through the results based on profile tags that allow you to network effortlessly with other visitors.

Although we all naturally rely on connectivity through our digital devices, what we really want is to connect with each other and for me personally this is where this technology starts to become interesting.

It’s as though you’ll know everybody in the room, and you can reach out and connect with the people you most want to connect with as opposed to having it be completely random who you walk up to – Eventbase co-founder Jeff Sinclair

There seems to be a welcome focus on enhancing the visitor experience where more and more people understand the importance of creating meaningful connections and this technology is allowing just that which is much more welcoming than the over familiar aggressive sales tactics that we have seen.

Could we be entering a world of audience matching, interaction and engagement or would you still find elements of this bordering on the creepy side? The outcome of the SXSW event and the technology behind it should be quite revealing so expect to read much more about these topics over the next few days.

Elsewhere, maybe it’s time for Foursquare and Twitter to step aside for the moment asMeerkat, the app that lets you live stream events to your friends via Twitter is a rising star that has no plans on burning out just yet.

This new kid on the block may have just spurned a new phrase and wonder how long it will be until we hear “I’m Meerkatting” when live streaming video from your smartphone.

Broadcasting live from a location to all your followers is probably the next natural step from taking selfies, but it also opens up a whole new world and brings an event to a much larger audience if it is being viewed all around the world to potentially millions of people as the attendees break the fourth wall.

As people all over the world follow SXSW, many event organisers must be having an epiphany of sorts with the realisation that events are no longer confined to the venues themselves and are reaching an incredibly large audience all over the world, so they everyone involved will have to up their game.

Equally, will we begin to see celebrities unleashing the potential of Meerkat to communicate directly with their fan base? One of the biggest criticisms of technology is that it often separate us rather than unite us all, but I am hopeful that we will begin to see the opposite as engagement and interaction take priority over trying giving visitors the hard sell.

What are your views on the latest trend of using location-based technology in Events? What are your experiences and how have you used it for marketing or connecting people?

What opportunities and pitfalls do you see on the horizon with a growing number of visitors broadcasting your event to the world?

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