Can iBeacon deployments cause WI-FI interference?

I’ve now worked on innovations projects that use Bluetooth BLE and iBeacons for over three years. In my series of blog posts over this time I have extolled the virtues of iBeacon whilst using the technology to deliver an Apple and Android mobile app for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

I moved on from that role six months ago and am now in a new role delivering experiences and insight using iBeacon, NFC and RFID for events in the UK and abroad providing both analytics and end-to-end experiences using these new technologies.

To answer the WI-FI question directly – No it doesn’t (As with all these things this assumes the Wi-FI network is set up correctly)

I am posting this question about WI-FI purely because when this question was posed to me in the summer and I needed to provide sound evidence and answer it, I found it really difficult to get a straight answer. Konstantinos Konstantinidis was invaluable in providing the evidence I required.

The technical reasons why you should not be worried at all about Wi-Fi interference and iBeacons are set out below. Please use this handy diagram to refer to the channels.



First of all, the 2 2 MHz channels at the edges are unlikely to affect anything Wi-Fi related. The lowest channel is 1, centered at 2412Mhz and highest is 13 centered at 2472MHz.

802.11g/n OFDM transmissions have 22Mhz channel width but only 16.25Mhz used by sub-carriers, so there’s zero overlap with BLE channel 37 which is centered at 2402MHz and 2MHz wide and certainly no overlap with the BLE channel 39 which is centered at 2480MHz.

This would only potentially interfere with channel 14 which is ONLY supposed to be used for DSSS in Japan, hence it’s physically impossible for these channels to interfere with Wi-Fi.

This leaves just channel 38, which is centred at 2426 MHz and potentially can interfere with Wi-Fi. It’s quite near the centre of channel 3 and 4 (2422/2427) so they might be slightly affected, but 2 and 5 will probably be negligibly affected as it’s going to be at the edge of their 16.25 MHz band.

So, to summarise, 2 channels might have negligible interference, and 2 might have more measurable. In most well planned installations these two wouldn’t be used, which is why the clever folks that designed the standard picked that slightly off centre frequency for the centre one.



A visual guide to the DISCOVER KEW iBeacon mobile app

DISCOVER KEW reveals stories based on where you are in the Gardens, and makes it easier to find your way around. It The helps you look closer at your surroundings and understand why plants matter.  

When you use the app, we use location aware bluetooth sensors to identify where you are. This allows us to send you information based on what’s nearby and suggest specific plants, trees and buildings to look out for.

This post is a visual guide to give you a closer look at the type of functionality, the design and the different types of media we now use in the gardens via a network of iBeacons. There are screengrabs and a short video to give you an an illustration of how the app works and what the experience is like for visitors to Kew.

To find the mobile app in iTunes or Google play search ‘DISCOVER KEW’. 

The app has 4 sections. These are accessible from the icon menu visible along the bottom at all times.

The sections are:
● Home
● Plan
● Discover
● Map

We use a geofence to give relevant content to visitors dependent on their location. 

Tap on any section from the home screen for more information.

We have a plan section where we make it easier for people to navigate a 300+ acre site.

With development this would be where visitors can toggle on and off
the places they wish to visit, create a route on the map, and filter
to see what is nearby.

When you come into contact with a beacon you are in a discovery zone. When you are near to the Maidenhair tree you can see the following screens and media. 

We show you the tree in flower, a botanical illustration from our archives, an audio clip from our tree experts, a letter from the library. 

The map shows your exact location with key attractions marked, to help you navigate through the Gardens and plan your day. For the first time visitors can see where they are in relation to landmarks on site. The blue dot (near Elizabeth Gate) shows the visitor their exact location.

2016 presents lots of opportunities to develop time and behaviour based rules aimed at improving the user journey and the overall experience. 



Barbican Centre Print_low

#MTPCon2015 – learning, sharing and working together – Speaker useful links

Barbican Centre Print_low

Photo by Dorothy

Martin Eriksson introduced the day, with nine speakers and 1245 Product Managers attending.  It is fast becoming one of the ‘must attend’ events on the PM calendar and no one left disappointed.

Martin started by telling us most products fail. But learning, sharing and working together helps improve the Product Managers chances of success.

This post provides useful links provided by the speaker on the day as part of their presentation plus more general links around the ideas, concepts and content they presented and discussed.

The nine speakers were:

Jarred Spool
Founder User Interface Engineering

Customer journey map – measure frustration at every point , usable experiences that sit between frustration and delightful experiences

Crutchfield camera’s – product descriptions added 237% more customer spending due to brilliant reviews and product information

Experience rot  Features added beyond the need – huge complexity – destroys the user experience Start with no Solve customer problems

Takeaway quote

Great designers fall in love with the problems

Amanda Richardson
VP Product HotelTonight

Hot crazy matrix

Brag book – link on how to create one

Own your language and eliminate self doubt

Takeaway quote

Own your language

Shiva Rajaraman
VP Product, Spotify

Break things now and again

Red Bull space jump – YouTube had 8% of all web traffic that day

Spotify engineering culture

Look at Pulses – playlists compiled using big data

Takeaway quote

Your country is not your world 

Martina King 

What is the Featurespace offer

Change point detection – what is it?

Find out more about Prof Bill Fitzgerald – good summary in his Obituary in The Independent

Takeaway quote

Prof Bill Fitzgerald’s brilliant work goes on….

Post Lunch speakers

Nilan Peiris
VP Growth, TransferWise
The company grew from 60 staff to over 400 in 6 months.

Inland spoke about how to build a culture that grows itself.

TransferWise –  founder information

Product = people – Devolve decision making to teams – key reason for huge growth and quick problem solving.

What is cadence?

Takeaway quote

Grow at the rate you solve problems

Dana Chisnell 
Consultant at United States Digital Service 

Authentication is despised by users in US Government websites – it’s broken and Dana is trying to fix it. This is a problem across the US Government digital landscape.

US Digital Services Playbook

Do lots of little things, continuously

Redesigning happens at every level

Collection of UX articles from Dana

Civic Design at Scale

Takeaway quote

…small changes made all the difference

Dave Coplin 
Chief Envisioning Officer, Microsoft
Work isn’t working – Metro article based on Dave’s book

Tech trends for 2015

Technology should provide value

Need to have space for creativity and mindfulness

The future will see move from us revolving around technology to technology revolving around us with the drive for more and more connected devices.

Microsoft’s Dave Coplin: How can humans outsmart the digital deluge? Mindfulness being the key theme 

Takeaway quote

Remember computers are useless….our job is to ask the right questions 

Nathalie Nahai
Web Psychologist

Losses loom larger than gains for users

Endowed progress

Sunk cost fallacy

Web Psychology introduction

Slides for Nathalie’s presentation Web of Influence

Persuasive Product design – five key principles

Takeaway quote

….if you are consistent you are more likely to get users to complete goals  

Ken Norton 
Google Ventures 

Most people try to improve their work by 10%, spending most of the time trying to avoid small mistakes.

The Moonshots – all 14 known moonshot projects

How to hire a Product Manager by Ken Norton

Use data not opinions

Quora questions for Ken plus his answers

Takeaway quote

Measure impact, not effort

These links and further reading articles will help those who attended read around the key themes and provide some links to help provide more detail or perspective on the talks from Mind The Product 2015


I was inspired to start blogging after the MTP2014 conference and you can read my blog post from last year here:

iBeacon: The toddler years, a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development

Copy of IMG_0813

(pic credit: my daughter eight years ago🙂

I’ve been interested in iBeacon technology for two years now. It seems like a lifetime ago in some respects. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and journey so far. Being involved in this technology at an early stage has on the whole been a positive experience. I’ve found people and organisations in this space to be collaborative and interested in progress and to a certain extent there is a willingness to share pain, in the hope we all learn from it.

I’ve likened iBeacon to a toddler because anyone with children will hopefully see the comparison. A toddler is someone between the ages of one and three (iBeacon was born at the i0S7 launch) and Wikipedia helpful adds

“The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development.”

I think that sentence sums up nicely where iBeacon is at present. I’m in a network where some believe it will be underpinning the internet of things in the future. Providing the infrastructure so we will never be offline. Conversely, I also see people questioning the merits of it, believing it to be no more than a version of QR codes – without the user effort.

My perspective is that It’s in it’s infancy, but, definitely learning to walk. The challenge is to provide compelling use cases, enabling it to establish itself. From my perspective and experience the technology works, the challenge now is the production of useful apps, with user centered experiences, seem-less interactions and user education and awareness.

My role as a Product manager for the Royal Botanical gardens, Kew has meant I try to use evidence and not just opinion, You can read three articles I did as part of a post about a year in the life of an iBeacon project, and it will set the context for you regarding the pilot project.

I have been lucky enough to speak at some beacon events over the past 12 months because Kew is one of a few companies that have gone beyond the stage of experimenting with a couple of beacons. I trailed an initial idea about how they could be used to advance Kew’s science message with Tony Hulme. Then I was able to move to implementing Beacons at Kew and Wakehurst and developing a pilot mobile app. This hasn’t been without its challenges, both internally, externally and developmentally. You can download the iPhone app here with Android version coming very soon.

I spoke about the need for evidence earlier. Over the past month we’ve been looking at the stats so far for the app.

The evidence:

  • Nearly 5,000 downloads from app store 50K Google analytic events recorded since Jan 2015
  • 4000 events linked to audio tour using 12 beacons at Kew in the last four weeks.
  • Eating venues are top performers, outside of beacon zones, because our public WI-Fi is better, people dwell longer and we prompt people to download the app using table adverts.

Feedback from users

  • Stats from Survey Monkey feedback (32 respondents)
  • The main user base: 35-44 year olds (35%),
  • London based (62%)
  • Most (72%) are comfortable with BlueTooth and happy with info about data and privacy
  • Most useful feature was the map which shows the beacon locations
  • 73% found app easy to navigate

Analysis done recently as part of work to enhance the user experience with Harriet Maxwell shows that we have a constant battle if we want users to have a great iBeacon experience. It starts as soon as people download it. We have channel content which is there for everyone, even if you never visit Kew and then specific experiences when you enter a discovery zone (ie come into contact with a beacon) for instance 12 beacons trigger two minute audio clips about specific spices at Kew. Whilst other beacons are used to give you contextual information about our top attractions dependent on your proximity to a beacon. In all we have 25 beacons deployed at Kew, some have been out in the wild for seven months now and 70% are still on the original batteries.

At Wakehurst we offer you the chance to uncover, discover and take a challenge when coming into contact with eight different trees on a trail through the woods. Here we have 13 beacons deployed and since not one beacon here has required a new battery, but they get 1/10 of the use of the beacons at Kew.

Over the next month or two with the constant help of our technical partners dot3 digital we will be working to produce an Android version of the app, move to a more enhanced platform provided by dot3 and try and tackle user issues in areas such as downloading, understanding and awareness of the technology, navigating content, interactions, interpretation, and getting feedback.

So we’re toddling, we’ve had a few bumps and now the challenge is for us to use the data collected from the platform to make decisions about future use of beacons and refining what we have already so far with the help of a few willing individuals and dot3.

For us it has never been about flooding the Gardens with beacons. We have specific geographical challenges, a desire to grow our audiences and the desire to improve channels to help get our science messages across to visitors.


Learning how to be a good Product Manager

As a Product Manager keen to take on board ideas and learn from excellent individuals and organisations, I recently had the opportunity to go on a three day Product manager course based in London. The course was run by Tarigo and was facilitated by Garry Avery. Garry has had an impressive business career, working with the likes of Hewlett Packard, Micromuse (a highly successful start-up) and consulting across the technology, financial and medical sectors. It was clear he had a history of embedding sound product management principles wherever he went. I much prefer course leaders and trainers who don’t just do training for a living. We were able to use tens of examples of real world applications from Garry’s experiences and apply these to reinforce the principles being taught to us on the course.

The things I took away from the course aren’t my original thoughts and certainty for seasoned PM’s aren’t new. They can loosely be grouped into the following areas:

Don’t fire-fight – use sound strategies and Product management principles

  • Product managers must rely on evidence not opinion to produce winning products and services
  • Product Managers should be about the “what” not the “how”
  • Record information on your competitors weekly (be disciplined about that!)
  • Good Product managers have discipline, process and structure
  • Phase one business cases can be prioritised using a departure board. If they haven’t taken off over the last 12 months remove them from your backlog
  • The Product manager owns the list of work on the launch list, that doesn’t mean they own all the work
  • A PM’s annual review can be structured around the living business plan doc for the products they have delivered

Make effective decisions 

  • Business cases are important – they save you money, make your money and mitigate your risks
  • If your product shipping dates are challenged, drop features. Don’t hire more developers.
  • Saying NO to your organisation has just as many benefits than saying YES to the wrong ideas.
  • Product Managers work in profit and loss not cash flow.
  • Agile and Waterfall methodology can work together. Very few do pure Agile project management


  • Product positioning statements help both you and your colleagues understand the product at an early stage
  • Your competitor analysis document may start blank but it’s importantly to update it weekly with information you’ve seen or heard or learnt about competitor product
  • Market research should happen before you build and should never stop and should include features, price, dates and technologies
  • Market research questions are there to find out why someone would buy/use your product and what would motivate them to do that
  • If the phase one business plan is funded it is archived and v2 starts and is saved every six months again.
  • Produce a launch check-list as this helps you to be able to have a communication about deliverables constantly


  • Communication at every level, and at every opportunity is a fundamental principle
  • If you are communicating externally, segment your audiences and communicate appropriately
  • Persona’s are important and if you can live and breath them the product will be better for it
  • Product launch isn’t just an afterthought. it needs to be thought about from the very start.
  • Insights and anecdotes are important and need to be communicated to the project team

Own your product/s

  • Start with mega trends (huge ideas that create disorder) and work with them
  • Good Product managers must understand the reasons why they succeeded or failed. Without this understanding and reflection we cannot get better and produce great products
  • As product managers we must constantly ask ourselves “why does someone buy your product in your market?”
  • No development team should make changes to the product unless agreed by the business (you)

I think these points are useful for new product managers starting out or seasoned ones looking to learn from every product experience.


Communicating your iBeacon project – Tips for communicating to your organisation using four historical presentations

Over the past year I have worked to deliver an iBeacon pilot for The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. You can read more about this twelve month project. The work with dot3 has seen hundreds of emails exchanged, just as many hours spent working on the concept and project and like any project, various ups and downs. BUT we now have an iBeacon enabled app that has been available to download for 6 weeks now. The Android version is coming soon also.

The truth is – the people you’re trying to communicate with, or convince about iBeacons won’t care about what you are offering them until they understand exactly how it’ll benefit them. Those benefits could be one metric that is very specific for their team or much more general and help to achieve an overall organisation goal. I’d like to say that every person I’ve interacted with regarding this project walked away knowing exactly how it benefited them but that would not be true. I have learnt a lot over the past year and below are some thoughts about effectively engaging your organisation and then communicating your vision externally.

In order to move the project from the idea stage to a successful pilot, an internal bid for funding and finally assemble a project group that could help deliver the app I’ve had to constantly communicate the iBeacon work to the organisation over the past year. Every opportunity I’ve had to communicate to individuals, monthly IT team meetings, quarterly directorate meetings and external talks and chats to interested groups have all been exploited.

When communicating new technology and ideas it’s important to grab every opportunity to introduce people to these new ideas and ways of working. Some people will get it instantly, others need more time and a few have the potential to become a blocker which presents the most danger.

The following post contains four historical presentations I have used to communicate the idea, project updates and ultimately what we delivered.

The shift that took place when viewing these presentations now is quite clear. The old adage of not running before you can walk is can also clearly be seen.

The stages over the four presentations are:

  • communicating the technology
  • real world application examples
  • how the technology could fit within your own organisation
  • testing and the results
  • high level buy in
  • delivering the experience/s that you promised at the outset

The IBeacons proof of concept presentation was used in February 2014 for team audience. It was just as much about exploring product management principles as it was about explaining the technology and use of it within a self contained proof of concept.

I have had the conversation many times internally and with dot3 that essentially the fact that we use iBeacons shouldn’t matter and doesn’t matter to our users if things work as they should.

At phase one of the project though the technology, architecture and how the thing works has to be broken down and explained for people. This has to be done with varying degrees of complexity depending on the audience.  This audience was IT professionals and were familiar with the language and technologies.

The Corporate Services Quarterly Presentation was presented in May 2014. Over 100 people attended and included our Estates, HR and Finance departments. This presentation was much more about explaining the potential, the numbers, the proof of concept work and how the technology could be used specifically for Kew and Wakehurst.  Here I was looking for credible numbers and credible examples. People can relate to successful ideas much more easily if they can make an association or leap of faith with a brand or experience they know. So it was important to use examples that would resonate with them.

The third presentation was for the Museums Beyond the Web at the Natural History Museum in October 2014. The summer months had seen a lot of hard work for both me and our technical partners dot3. I was able to do a lightening five minute talk for the assembled 250 delegates. People attending may have heard of iBeacon, maybe some were running pilots or thinking about them and the emphasis here was providing the Kew experience with relevant sneak preview of how the screens within the app looked. It was also important to express the wider vision and ultimate aims of the project. I wanted to make sure that the work we were doing was about adding a context and layer of information that made visitors look up and appreciate things they may have previously missed.  The Jacobean iron work on Elizabeth Gate is a prime example of this pointed out in the presentation.

The last presentation happened a few weeks ago as part of the talks for #Beaconweek. It’s tone was much more reflective and was an opportunity to communicate whether the goals and aspirations twelve months earlier had been met, part met or changed significantly as the project evolved. There was no mention of how the technology works, or how we built the project. It was much more about what we had achieved and allow people to see the aims and objectives and make a judgement for themselves how far we had delivered on them.

In conclusion for your organisation to embrace beacon technology you must communicate how iBeacons benefit individuals and teams. On a personal level be clear and consistent when communicating with colleagues. Try and link what you want to say to be about individuals and teams and their specific challenges, specifically what benefits it can bring to them. A positive attitude when all around are losing theirs is very important. Be open and collaborative and expect challenges. Product manager blog posts talk about being the CEO of the project and to a certain extent this is true if you want the project to be a success. Face challenges head on and don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe especially if it doesn’t follow the conventional route and challenges the “we’ve always done it like this” mentality.

Our pilot app has had over 1000 downloads in iTunes and the challenge now will be making sense of the analytics and engaging the organisation to apply their individual and team knowledge so that beacons could potentially be used as a tool to answer some of their problems going forward.


Kew iBeacon pilot – six week project update and iTunes feedback

The Discover Kew pilot app has now been available to download for six weeks in the iTunes store. The Android version is currently being worked on for release next month. The mobile app uses iBeacon technology at both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place.

The pilot aims to test the following:

  • Evaluate the robustness of iBeacon and app technologies inside buildings and in outdoor locations around Kew and Wakehurst
  • Evaluate visitor appetite for the delivery of interpretation on their own devices
  • Explore new revenue streams open to Kew using mobile engagement via our Kew Foundation

When the app launched in the middle of January and as of yesterday (February 23 2015) has had 819 downloads. The app is hosted on a cloud based content management system (cms) that will allow us to see a host of useful analytics going forward that will help to build the case for further investment or back up the need for further refinement and work if some things don’t work as expected.

The positives

User testing is invaluable
On launch I carried out a week of user testing at Kew followed by a week at Wakehurst. This was invaluable because I got to speak to visitors, staff and volunteers about the app. This user testing is ongoing because I have the luxury of being based at both sites. Some immediate changes were needed because the geofence wasn’t working correctly between Sussex and Surrey and with the expertise of dot3 these changes were made, tested and a new version deployed and soon live afterwards.

All feedback is good feed back
The graphic below is a visual representation of the feedback we’ve already had on iTunes (click on it to make it larger).  It has been 90% positive which shows that there is an appetite from people to receive relevant information based on their location. The post about geo-location services always on has meant for the next update we will be changing it so you turn it on and off with access to the Kew app in order to preserve battery life. Direct feedback like this is invaluable as we iterate and learn each day.


CMS simplicity
The dot3 platform is a really nice piece of kit. It’s quick and easy to use and allows us to create new channels in the app, update existing information immediately and deploy specific content to specific beacons effortlessly.

This project has meant people who want to know more about the beacons technology and how it is being received are either approaching Kew or making contact through events such as #beaconweek. I was lucky enough to talk at two events recently for Kontakt who supply the Kew beacons and Smile Machine for the Mobile Creative network event. Smile machine and Imagination worked on an amazing Rolls Royce experience that used beacons that is now set to tour Europe and the World.

Real world application is key
Everyone takes on board information about technology or new things at different speeds and in different ways.  This pilot is allowing me to showcase the technology and potential but also to then ask teams such as the Family Interpretation, Schools team and Library, Art and Archives team to apply their knowledge and expertise and discuss how their content, rich media and expertise can be showcased going forward via a beacon network.

Users like the experience
Edmond O’Driscoll the technical director at dot3 has loaded the following 10 second video to show how an iPhone reacts to coming into contact with a beacon at Kew.

The negatives

Pilot projects unearth issues – fact
I want people to be able to download the app on site. As part of the more recent Apple operating system updates if you  have a beacon networks on site Apple show your logo on the lock screen (bottom left hand corner) even when people don’t have the app. There is, I believe a good opportunity to increase downloads using this prompt. BUT you need decent wifi to support that and so one of the areas that will need further resource and funding is public wifi going forward at Kew.

Hard wearing outdoor beacons weren’t available when we deployed six months ago
There are now much more hard wearing beacons available that weren’t around when we first deployed our beacons last summer at Kew. Some of the beacons at Kew have been up for six months in some cases because they were put through weeks/months of testing before going live. If the pilot is successful and outdoor beacons are still required, I’d like to use these more rugged and longer lasting beacons for the outdoor spaces.

Staff who have the app may get annoyed
The app is aimed at visitors who come for a morning, an afternoon or all day then leave. Some feedback from staff has been that they get notifications too often when navigating the garden for meetings over a week or month.

This is an issue for staff anywhere using beacons, not just at Kew and we need to come up with a solution to stop or manage it going forward. At the moment stopping location services on the specific app stops the annoyance but also means the key feature of discovering content based on their location is inactive.

The next update for iTunes is already being worked on by dot3 to fix a host of small issues and work on the Android version is taking place now.  I plan to give regular updates about the project, the challenges and with dot3 hope to be able to provide some information about overcoming the technical challenges in due course.

Discover Kew – being clear about your privacy and data with iBeacons

The Discover Kew app uses a network of iBeacons which use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Beacons are small pebble shaped devices that have been placed in designated areas at both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place.  They constantly transmit a tiny, unique signal which, when identified by an enabled device, can trigger notifications or updates in a dedicated app when the device enters within range.

Kew are investigating whether this technology can be used to provide information to visitors about our plant and tree life, science and history.  

We take your privacy very seriously and the Discover Kew app will never ask you to register, or request personal information and data about you at any time during our pilot project.

The following information explains how we will use non-personally identifiable data to improve the iBeacon experience as part of this pilot project.

When you use the app, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew may use GPS and iBeacon (or other similar technology) to determine your current location within the gardens and to display a location map, content, media and other data.

We do not share your current location with other users or partners. If you do not want us to use your location, you should turn off location services for the app (see your account settings or your mobile device settings). This will inhibit the app’s functionality as certain features of the app cannot operate to their full potential without location services being enabled.

The app may collect certain information automatically, including, but not limited to, the type of mobile device you use, your mobile device’s unique device ID, the IP address of your mobile device, your device’s operating system, the type of mobile internet browsers you use, and information about the way you use the app.

We may aggregate this information with that of other users and transmit it in an anonymized form (so that no individuals are identified) to our external service provider to help us improve the app and our service.

We may use Non-Personally Identifiable Information for the following purposes:

  • to analyze trends and usage of the app through aggregated data
  • to improve the features and functionality of our app
  • to better understand your needs and interests, and
  • to better understand the needs and interests of End-Users.

For more details on how the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew uses your information, see our privacy policy at

A year in the life of an iBeacon project for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Wakehurst Place | Part three

Third of three parts


Spring had sprung as I moved from the proof of concept stage – May 2014 

May saw the iBeacon project and pilot take off for Kew and Wakehurst. May 14 I tweeted that the proof of concept work had gone well but in order to progress it wasn’t something we could do alone.


See the tweet here and feel free to follow me too.

Dot3digital were able to provide the platform and experience in order to support me in realising the potential for beacons. The aims of the Kew beacon pilot are:

  • evaluate the robustness of iBeacon and apps technologies inside buildings and in outdoor locations
  • evaluate visitor appetite for the delivery of interpretation on their own devices
  • evaluate new business models open to Kew using mobile engagement

Testing the technology and user experience – July and August

The pilot business case was signed off by our Executive board in July.

This was the summary of the business case:

The new mobile app for use by our visitors will be launched by the end of the year and tested over the winter. The app uses a network of iBeacons (Thirty beacons at Kew and fifteen at Wakehurst). The ibeacons technology is designed to let phones know our exact location, and deliver content, images, video or sound files that is relevant to your location that visitors will hopefully enjoy and learn from. We will test the potential of the App with visitors and from a technology perspective.

The project aims to determine whether an app which includes beacon interactions enhances the experience of visiting Kew, the types of experiences that create the best value for visitors, and the physical locations in Kew which might benefit most from beacons.

We will learn more about whether WiFi is required to support elements of the beacon experience, to stream video etc. We’ll be getting user feedback about phone battery life and beacon battery life, and be testing the cloud based contentful platform used to update content.

As the leaves start to fall | implementing bark trail for Wakehurst – September 2014

A Kew app for the first time will have a channel for Wakehurst.  This is a real positive and I have been able to work with Astrid Krumins who is part of the family interpretation team. The beacon network at Wakehurst is made up of a brilliant bark trail designed by Astrid that introduces you to nine different North american trees. At each tree you will meet, uncover, discover and be challenged.  

IMG_7880  IMG_7903 IMG_7869 IMG_7912

Four pics showing just four of the trees on the tour:

Top left Giant Sequoia
Top right Pacific Madrone
Bottom left Pignut Hickory
Bottom right Sweetgum 

Testing, testing and more testing | October 2014 

With any project linked to technology there are many hurdles to overcome before you can progress. Setting up the beacons, testing their signal strengths, their ranges and, yes, worrying about squirrels—all have been part of the daily challenges.

I hope to provide more insights into the testing for this project as the pilot progresses. Testing the screens and interactions in the content management system and uploading the content and correct images takes time, effort and a lot of careful thought

The end in sight | November 2014 

In a nutshell: iteration after iteration—everything from beacon placement and ranges to content management debugging, culminating in the app store submission in the December.

The pilot will rely upon our 100 strong volunteer network engaging with people as they enter Kew or go on one of the many tours put on throughout the day. The app acts as a virtual tour, alerting you to information relevant to your location; steady daily downloads will ensure the aims and objectives of the pilot can be assessed. If successful, a second phase of development ensues after procurement.

Project constants | what we learnt

Contextual content 

A limited budget and changes internally to staffing structures meant that any piloting of beacons had be be carried out with help externally and using content from already published books, website pages, interpretation text and tours and scientific blog posts and science updates.

We will be testing delivering text, pictures, audio and video; analytics will show the appetite for these different types of media.   These metrics will be important in building the business case, if the pilot phase is deemed a success internally.


elizabeth gate-3  elizabethgate4

The internet of things 

This phrase covers off how beacons could and do fit into the wider ecosystem.  When investigating the use of beacons for Kew and Wakehurst, knowing Apple and Android are investing not just money but time and resources into every operating system update aimed at enhancing beacon connectivity and the experience does help to make the case for beacons internally.

The quote below is found widely across the internet. I think it sums up everything that could be achieved with a mobile app triggered by beacons where you are able to layer science, history and engaging content to specific locations:

We’re entering the age of apps as service layers. These are apps you have on your phone but only open when you know they explicitly have something to say to you. They aren’t for ‘idle browsing,’ they’re purpose-built &informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors, location, history of use & predictive computation.

– Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch, 5/15/14

Tracking and privacy

This article appeared in August How London Is Quietly Becoming A City Of Sensors and it shows that the reality in the future is that there will be no offline. One of the key challenges for any piloting of beacons is working out how and when to inform and interact in a sensitive way and also making sure people know what is being done with any data collected. I plan to do a post about data and interactions and go into more detail about our tutorial screens very soon to explain what Kew and dot3 did to tackle these challenges related to our iBeacon project.


A year in the life of an iBeacon project for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Wakehurst Place | Part two

Second of three parts


Validating the technology – March 2014

This Guardian article – is 2014 the year of the iBeacons? Like many around the same time was concentrating on the potential iBeacons offered around retail. March and April 2014 saw us build a proof of concept for beacons at Kew; I presented internally to the quarterly IT staff meeting and the wider corporate services meeting with 100 staff.

Internally within IT we had agreed that iBeacon could be a good potential use case for Kew that allowed for product management principles to be applied.  We could now test a new technology relatively cheaply and work with a number of different teams across the organisation in order to provide a sustainable mobile app over the coming year and beyond.

Working with Tony Hulme  in March on a defined 13 day project

Five days were spent setting up the technology then field-testing in different Kew locations. Three Estimote beacons were programmed so that they could detect an app, locate it and then push specific messages to the phone or tablet related to the surroundings. These tests were carried out in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, The Orangery and The Orange room at Wakehurst.

poc2.jpg poc-pow-2 poc3.jpgOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The four pics above show how the app worked, we tested different messages, ranges, media and environments.

Tony Hulme was instrumental  in helping to prove beacons could be a solution for us; he helped to built a light weight proof of concept that people could test and believe in internally.

Image available as larger pdf 

Social media to support, inspire and to amplify – April 2014

At the same time Twitter and LinkedIn were proving invaluable for snippets of information about iBeacon. People were trying different things and telling the world about it. This tweet from April 2014 was typical and provided excellent information I was able to relate to at Kew.


Full article entitled: Museum exhibitions as dynamic storytelling experiences using the latest technology

This tweet from LabWerk was also timely and helped because it reinforced my view that the potential for Beacons outside of retail was there, the challenges was sensitively applying it. I didn’t know then that I would later meet LabWerk when discussing the Kew app and they did a very interesting project with Beacon and the Tulip museum when most people were still thinking about how beacons were to be used. You can read a blog post about that work and the beacons used here. 


In my next post, we’ll see how Dot-3, a Canadian beacon specialist team, helped me realise beacon potential at Kew and Wakehurst.