The 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film and Interactive Festival — which runs March 13-22 in Austin, Texas — plans to employ the latest beacon technology to help attendees navigate the sprawling event this time around. SXSW has partnered with Eventbase to install 1,000 Apple iBeacons that will deliver location-based information about who else is nearby and what acts are performing nearby. These Bluetooth-enabled devices send the information to the 2015 SXSW Go app.
The iBeacons work by sending notifications and information to a smartphone with the SXSW app when that smartphone is within range. This location targeting enables festival organizers to give attendees the most relevant information, such as which acts may be going on nearby or even what other festival attendees are lingering nearby.
The beacons and app will make it easier for festival attendees to make connections among the thousands of people. Attendees with the app can choose to opt-in to use the beacon technology.
SXSW CTO Scott Wilcox told Re/code, “This feature… gives us the ability to create this extra level of intelligence, so you can see who’s around you, see their profiles and decide whether they’re someone who you want to connect with right there.” Meeting and mingling has gotten more difficult as the festival has expanded. This year, there are 110 stages and 265 venues.
Beacon technology is usually associated with shopping, not festival-going. Retailers from Macy’s department stores to Safeway grocery stores have installed beacons to alert customers about discounts and new products. Sports venues, airports, and museums have also been experimenting with beacons.