September 29, 2014
The Guggenheim Museum, a premier art museum in New York City, is making its exhibits more interactive by integrating beacon technology. The beacons are small, box-like sensors that use Bluetooth technology to detect when a smartphone is in proximity. The museum will use its 20 to 30 beacons to track traffic flow through the building. In the future, the beacons may transmit informational alerts to visitors’ phones as they approach a painting or sculpture.
Beacons have the potential to engage museum visitors on a new level. The alerts could perhaps spark a visitor’s interest by providing more information about an artist or artwork when the visitor is in the vicinity. However, the museum has to be careful not to annoy visitors with pings and they have to persuade visitors to opt-in of the service.
Currently, the museum is trying to balance the aesthetic of the museum with the new technology. The CIO of the Guggenheim Foundation Robert Rosenthal wants to keep the beacons out of sight to preserve the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright design.
The museum’s team has tried hiding the beacons behind light fixtures, but the light fixtures disrupted the connection between the beacons and the nearby mobile devices. Now the Guggenheim’s beacon supplier is developing embeddable tags and stickers that could be hidden in the exhibit’s signs.
For internal operations, the beacons could provide valuable data about the traffic flow in the museum. “That data could also help suggest the most effective routes through the museum when a particular floor or exhibit is closed,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Exhibit designers could also plan new exhibit spaces based on traffic patterns.