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Project - Using iBeacons to create location-based learning zones

iBeacon works on Bluetooth 4.0 technology and can be used trigger an app to deliver content to a mobile device when a user arrives at a specific location.

An iBeacon is a small unit that can be fixed to the wall and enables a mobile phone app to detect when a user entered, exited or is hanging around in a area, and prompts the app to deliver location-specific content. This technology is similar to Near Field Communication (NFC) but it has greater range. You can get a stand-alone iBeacon device for about US$50. However, many mobile or computer devices with the latest Bluetooth can acted as a beacon.

An iBeacon can trigger an app to deliver content when a user's smartphone is within a 40-50 meter range of the beacon device. Different content can be delivered at different trigger points with the 50 meter range of the beacon, which is ideal for drawing users towards a particular physical feature.

The compatible devices are: • iOS devices with Bluetooth 4.0 (iPhone 4S and later, iPad (3rd generation) and later, iPad Mini (1st generation) and later, iPod Touch (5th generation). • Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0 and Android 4.3 and later (Samsung Galaxy S3/S4/S4 Mini, Samsung Galaxy Note 2/3, HTC One, Google/LG Nexus 7 (2013 version)/Nexus 4/Nexus 5, HTC Butterfly (aka Droid DNA). • Macintosh computers with OS X Mavericks (10.9) and Bluetooth 4.0 using the MacBeacon application from Radius Networks

Examples of iBeacon technology:

I think that it is worth discussing whether a VUW mobile app and iBeacon technology would have some interesting and useful applications at VUW, both for active-learning techniques and for providing helpful information to students.

For an iBeacon to work, we would need a VUW, or third-party, mobile device app that could communicate with a VUW media server and deliver the location-specific content. Here are several example ideas for how iBeacons could be used at VUW to provide students with targeted information.

(1) The VUW library:

Problem: We want more students using the library, checking out the latest arrivals, and help students find their way around the collection

Solution: Install an iBeacon at the entrance and that pushes out an invitation to people’s phone when that get near the main doors. If a user accepts the invitation an app delivers information about all the things that the library has to offer, a list of new books and a series of maps. The user can use the map to get them to the section that they wish to use. Additional iBeacons could be setup in each section to trigger content delivered about how to use a particular area of the library and resources to help the students access something.

(2) Exploring the university campus:

Problem: We want to get students out the classroom and exploring campus, but we want to give them a challenge.

Solution: Install iBeacons near a selection of physical features and send the class out on a “knowledge treasure hunt”. We give the students a few clues and ask them to located some objects on campus (e.g. a native tree, a display, or an art installation). As they approach the beacon and get closer to the object they received a “getting warmer” feedback until a close proximity point triggers the deliver location specific content. The content could be a series of questions that they need to answer as they explore the object or an interpretation that they must use to describe what they have found. You could deliver a pre-recorded video of the teacher, or a visiting expert that once discussed the site to share their thoughts about the object.

(3) Learning zones with a laboratory

Problem: We want to students to have the same content at the same time when they are in specific areas of the lab (but we only have limited printed copies of documents and print versions aren’t interactive)

Solution: Install iBeacons to create virtual geofences in a space and depending on where the user is located it would deliver them different content. For example, we could geofence a lab space up into four large boxes and depending on what one you're standing in would determine what content you would receive. We could deliver a video or animation of the lab exercise, or a recording of someone explaining it (maybe even the person that invented the technique!).


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