The ROI of lowering queue times

Have you ever wondered what the ROI would be if queues were shortened and your clients’ queuing times were lowered?Queue Of Abstract People On White

Queues are everywhere.  At checkout lines in stores.  At the airport, to check in to your flight; for security screening; and waiting to board.  At ticket office windows.  To pick up your keys at the car rental desk.  To check in and out at hotels.  To find an empty spot at parking lots and parking garages.

Most people, hurried and short of time, regard queuing or standing in lines as an unwelcome waste of time.  This perception has clear business implications, as potential customers simply leave, and potential business transactions evaporate.  This is the fundamental reason why, reducing or eliminating queues should be a top concern for any customer-centric business.

Granted, in some cases savvy merchants take advantage of people spending time in lines, and feed information to captive audiences hungry for any meaningful distraction.  That’s why we are tempted with impulse-shopping items like chewing gum and tabloid magazines at the supermarket checkout lines.  But, for the most part, spending time in lines is a downer.   Let’s see some examples.

Crowds at the checkout lines

We all know that the customer volumes at supermarkets vary greatly throughout the day and on different days of the week.  People come in waves: early morning on weekdays may see an influx of customers stopping by for a coffee and breakfast items on their way to work. There is the lunch crowd, coming in for a sandwich, salad or soup at the delicatessen counter.

The largest tide of customers arrives when people leave work and stop for provisions and dinner items on their way home.  Well aware of these trends, and knowing full well that most of these customers are in a rush, retailers lay out their stores to facilitate finding the desired items quickly; they locate coffee shops and ready-to-go food counters close to the doors, and pay special attention to checkout lines.  Additional lines open up.  Self-checkout lines are introduced. Ordering online (with or without home-delivery) has steadily risen.  Pretty soon self-checkout anywhere in the store, using mobile devices will be commonplace.

Retail industry insiders like Envirosell have long reported an occurrence that was not possible to capture by simply tallying sales, or eyeballing the length of the open checkout lines.  A significant number of potential customers were walking into the store, quickly gauging line lengths, then making a U-turn out of the store when anticipating a very long wait at the cash-wrap.  Or they were limiting their purchase to a few, essential items, so they could be admitted through the fast checkout lanes (10 items or less).

The financial impact to a store of these behaviors may be estimated by measuring its frequency. And that requires measuring people flow through that environment.

Airport crowds

Sometimes it seems that going through airports is a series of exercises in waiting.  You wait to check in.  You wait for the security screening.  You wait for your flight to begin boarding.  You wait to board.  You wait to get off your flight. You wait for your bags.  People In Queue Photo

Airport business managers are frequently assessing whether it is possible to drive more passengers through retail areas to generate additional revenues.  Should more resources be deployed to reduce passenger wait times at checkpoints?

The rationale is clear: wait times, though inconvenient to customers, may be beneficial to businesses if these customers spend time shopping at businesses located in the airport terminals.   Note that not all waits are equal.  Waiting for a flight departure with the freedom to browse and shop is a plus, while waiting at a seemingly never-ending security line is not.

A study by SITA found that the average passenger retail spend at airports declines by 30% when they were tied up for an additional 10 minutes in security lines.  Delays are a function of the number of passengers present, check-in technologies in use, and the level of staffing available to assist customers.  Measuring the varying parameters clearly makes sense from a purely financial standpoint.

SITA’s study also found that real-time information about disruptions and passenger flows is needed for proactive decision making by operations.  In other words, timely passenger flow data is essential.

Just as important: passengers’ frustration levels rise when they are stuck in lines and have no idea about expected wait times.  Unsurprisingly, passenger satisfaction goes up as data becomes available.   A March 2015 article chronicled the experience at the regional Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Cincinnati, OH, which deployed a system to track and display average wait times by counting passengers’ active Wi-Fi devices per line.  The system was able to give passengers vital information to decide which line to join and seize some level of control over their wait time. BloombergBusiness reports that similar systems have been successfully deployed at other airports around the world.   In those experiences, when provided with information, passengers act much calmer, and find the overall experience of standing up in queues much less daunting.

The back story

Managing lines to minimize queue times has important financial implications and is achievable.  Managing queues requires data to measure passengers’ flow in real time, help pinpoint problem areas and gauge the effectiveness of any solution, operational or technical, deployed to address them. Once the data is in hand, strategies for lowering queue times can be implemented.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker  provides basic building blocks for sizing crowds and collecting real-time data that enables pedestrian flow analysis through public and private spaces.

Affordable while easy to deploy and integrate, these solutions become essential tools for learning and monitoring queues and shared space utilization with direct ROI implications for your business.

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Big Brother Brasil is back!

Big Brother Brasil Logo 2

Good news!  On January 20th begins the 2015 season of Big Brother Brasil, or BBB15.

Devoted fans know the plot well: a group of complete strangers is brought together to share the Big Brother House for about three months, without any contact with the outside world during that time, while being relentlessly followed by TV cameras.  Participants compete with each other, and are slowly dropped from the competition until only one is left standing.

Produced by Rede Globo, the show has been a running success for many years, becoming the most popular reality TV show and the most talked-about reality-based program in Brazilian TV history.  BigBrotherBrasil 2015 Brothers & SistersThis year’s contestants were chosen through a series of regional contests taking place between May and November.  The new brothers and sisters are now ready to start the new season.

It is clear that the BBB franchise has plucked the right chords with its devoted audience. The Brazilian edition of BBB has not changed much its format over time, continuing to captivate and entertain.  After a successful 2014 season, very few changes were introduced to enhance the winning formula.  Mostly, this year’s task is bringing the audience together to interact as they do in social media.

Keeping an eye on brothers and sisters

Once again, BBB has a Control Room that keeps statistics of each and every contestant: Big Brother Brasil 2015 - Central de Controle e Monitoramento

The Central de Controle e Monitoramento keeps detailed statistics such as actual weight, calories spent over time and steps taken, in addition to each contestant’s whereabouts.

Where is everybody?

Fans will remember last year’s season, Big Brother Brasil 2014 (BBB14). That was when BBB, introduced indoor location technology to follow, in real time, contestants’ movements throughout the Big Brother House, displaying their location on a large online dashboard.  That way, in addition to the ever-present cameras following brothers and sisters everywhere, indoor location tracking gave audiences real-time information about the House and the whereabouts of its denizens.  Who spends time with whom?  Where are they this very minute?

Again, in 2015 all contestants will carry a small electronic tracking device to enable passive, unobtrusive tracking of everyone’s movements over time.  This time, rather than a map of the house, the Control Room displays percentage of time that each brother and sister spends in the various rooms of the house:Big Brother Brasil 2015 - Control Room - Brothers and rooms where they spend time

Who will be the winner this season?  We’ll have to wait and see. The clock is ticking.

The behind-the-scenes story

As before, brothers and sisters carry a RF (Radio frequency) device, a Wi-Fi tag, that enables locating them in real time and tracking their movement over time.

Accuware’s real-time locating system (RTLS), Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker provides location data which is displayed on TV Globo’s website. By combining a RTLS and Accuware Wi-Fi tags, locating and tracking people and resources for entertainment or commerce through a physical space is now possible. Another ingredient of TV Globo’s winning formula.Accuware Compact Wi-Fi tag

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Looking for a silver bullet in location awareness?

Are you looking for the silver bullet in indoor location technologies? © Feverpitched | - Silver Bullet Just Ahead Green Road Sign And Clouds

Many people are.  Unfortunately, the range of indoor location technologies varies widely and there is no silver bullet when it comes to an effective solution for the implementation of location awareness in any venue.   It depends.

We often hear from individuals who just learned about one trendy technology and want to use it to do just about everything.   Others doubt these technologies because of a disappointing experience in their past.   Typically, this disappointment is either result of incorrect expectations or the use of inappropriate technology for a specific implementation.

A few things to consider: the venue, the specific application and the technology options.


The size, structure, density and stability of a venue can have considerable impact on the accuracy and specificity of any location-aware application you deploy.


Large venues, such as office buildings, hospitals, malls, airports or open-air spaces present their own challenges in that they truly are a patchwork of individual spaces, each possibly requiring a different approach.Bricks-and-mortar retail store

Each separate space, its shape, height and building materials complicate matters.  Large atriums are notoriously harder for many location technologies to deliver good accuracy, as are garden areas or warehouses with very high ceilings.   Let alone areas filled with large metal structures, clad in marble, or made of concrete reinforced with steel.

Narrow hallways and doors are best suited for technologies that require choke points.  Having lots of solid walls is best for those technologies that require radio signal dampening for optimal performance, while glass walls may be a serious hindrance for them.


Venues rich in ambient radio signals are the best environment for technologies that take advantage of them, and the worst possibly place to deploy even more hardware that broadcasts in the same spectrum.© Sculpies | - Shopping Crowd Topshot Photo   For instance, in places packed with Wi-Fi systems, it might not be advisable to deploy too many devices that compete on the same frequencies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons.

There is also the unavoidable fact that people are part of the scenery, moving about the space.  Human bodies in motion interfere with ambient radio signals, impacting the effectiveness of some location technologies.  For instance, fingerprinting ambient signals at night, when no one is present, will almost certainly produce different results from locating during daytime hours, when the building is crowded.


If the dynamics of the venue change frequently, this is very likely  to impact location results over time.  For example, it may be harder to maintain a locating system that relies on ambient radio signals in environments where Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth beacons are moved around or are set up and removed frequently, such as at special events that are torn down within a few days.  Also,  spaces where large metal displays are frequently repositioned or bulky inventory is repeatedly rearranged may present challenges.

Pedestrian traffic levels are one more variable likely to skew results.  Therefore, the right technology must be deployed in each space to adequately deal with the expected level of pedestrian traffic in it.

Note that these factors will not prevent implementation, but will demand greater care and more maintenance, such as more frequent recalibration to maintain the desired levels of accuracy.

Applications of location awareness

As expected, implementations are likely to vary based on the required applications.  Here are a few examples.

  • Wayfinding throughout a large venue is a basic convenience that can be easily addressed by providing turn-by-turn navigation via a mobile app. © Ldprod | - Woman using mobile phone while shopping in supermarket
  • Branded mobile apps can provide a range of convenience features for shoppers:  users may create shopping lists at home and be assisted at the store to find those items, take advantage of promotions, and be reminded of related products located nearby.
  • Branded apps may enable speed-buying or leisurely exploration with opportunities for impulse purchases.  In addition, apps can contribute to building richer customer profiles.
  • Learning about in-store customer behavior can be a source of insights into the effectiveness of store layouts, marketing programs for stores and brands, and staffing plans.  Tracking mobile devices’ whereabouts  provides the raw data for understanding performance of a single store or an entire chain.
  • Delivering coupons and promotions when customers enter a store or a specific aisle can be an effective tool for contextual marketing, with the potential to delight customers with relevant  information delivered at the right time and place.

Each one of these applications can be implemented using various technologies.


The choice of location technology will impact accuracy, user experience, performance, mobile platforms supported (iOS, Android), installation and maintenance costs.  Here are some examples:

Locating systems that rely on fingerprinting of ambient signals (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) support all OS platforms with accuracy ranging from 2 to 5 meters, depending on signal density, physical environment and quality of the initial site survey.  Deployment costs are low on hardware (if any).  Bluetooth and Wi-Fi logosUsers must install and activate an app.  Periodic maintenance is needed in dynamic environments.  Best for people and asset tracking in large, busy areas; can also support navigation.

  • Fingerprinting plus sensor fusion can deliver accuracy as high as one meter.  All other factors remain the same as above. Best for turn-by-turn navigation and geofencing.
  • Proximity-based applications using BLE hardware, such as iBeacons, provide great user experiences.  They require app installation in the user’s mobile device.  Location accuracy close to the beacon is good.  Deployment and configuration are simple.  Reconfiguration and maintenance can be problematic for large installations without centralized control. Applications such as navigation in large venues, which benefit from higher accuracy may require a large number of beacons, increasing cost substantially.  Best for proximity-based content delivery.
  • Proximity-based applications using Wi-Fi hardware can deliver excellent performance when used with Wi-Fi tags and Android phones.  Likely to work inconsistently with iOS devices. Required hardware deployment is simple and inexpensive.  Unaffected in dynamic environments.  Best for safety applications, and for people and asset tracking with room-level accuracy.
  • Wi-Fi-based real-time locating systems are simple to install and manage, delivering accuracy ranging from 2 meters and up.  Does not require app installation. Unaffected in dynamic environments, performs best in spaces with lots of solid walls and physical obstacles.  Low accuracy in large open spaces with high ceilings.  Hardware costs increase with venue size. Best for anonymous pedestrian traffic analysis, people and asset tracking using Wi-Fi tags.

It is easy to appreciate that no single technology can deliver optimal performance at a reasonable cost for all applications in every environment.  Beyond differences in the underlying technologies (Wi-Fi, BLE, RFID), there are behavioral differences in the dominant platforms in the market, iOS and Android, that complicate matters.  Here are a few examples:

  • We are well aware that iOS and Android systems behave differently, but also different versions of those operating systems can perform quite differently as well.  An example: the frequency at which Android phones from different manufacturers scan for Wi-Fi networks.
  • iOS discourages using Wi-Fi MAC addresses for device identification, making device detection and tracking difficult, though not impossible.
  • iOS 7 and higher support BLE beacon detection at the OS level, enabling implementation of iBeacons -based applications with minimal impact on battery life, while on Android, BLE support is (currently) available at the application level, which makes performance quite different.
  • Android devices automatically scan for available Wi-Fi networks every few seconds, even when actively connected to one of them.  iOS devices scan less frequently while not connected to any network.
  • iOS natively supports iBeacon detection in the background, while Android devices require a custom app or service.

In brief: location-based applications meant to deploy on all platforms require careful balance of functional requirements with the most appropriate technology for the lowest total cost.

Our recommendation

Treat your implementation of location technologies as you would the installation of other infrastructure.   Because you are likely to have a variety of use cases and requirements, it is best to evaluate all potential use cases up front instead of one at a time, and deploy a platform that supports your ongoing needs.  Much like installing plumbing or electricity: when you purchase a product that uses electricity, you don’t buy that product and the electricity together, but rely instead on the electrical system already installed.

Similarly, a location awareness platform can be installed and maintained such that developers need only access the APIs, and deploy hardware only if and where needed.   Creativity and innovation thrive when they no longer have to concern themselves with procuring the right technology for the new application at hand.   The key is finding a partner whose sole focus is location awareness.

Back to the original question: if you have been looking for that elusive silver bullet, consider that it will be more practical and much safer to have at hand more than one to choose from.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker (Indoor Triangulation System)

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Location awareness in Hospitality

If you have recently attended HITECH 2014 in Los Angeles, or you are just planning ahead to enhance customer experiences at your properties, technology should be front and center in your plans.  And surely, location-aware mobile apps are in your short list.© Styleuneed | - Hotel Sign With Five Stars

The new paradigm for operators is inter-connectivity of all systems and services.  The Holy Grail is delivering superior experiences to earn customers’ repeat business.

Inter-connectivity touches almost everything, from the phone systems, to the point of sales (POS) across the property, including guestroom keys, safe locks and TV service.  All of these systems feed their data into property management systems (PMS) to compile detailed profiles about guests’ habits and behavior.

Mobile devices already play a starring role, substituting for room and safe keys, managing checkout, serving as virtual concierges to provide guidance and connect with various services, from car rental to laundry.  Some operators are taking things one step further by automating the check in process: as soon as guests set foot in the lobby, their assigned room number is provided, as are directions to the room, the mobile device is enabled to unlock the room and access a range of services.

Naturally, these will be BYOD mobiles, which include not just smart phones, but also tablets.  In the near future, these devices will enable ordering room service, booking local attractions, reading newspapers, managing checkout, tuning the TV, closing the drapes and turning the lights on and off.  The whole world at the guest’s fingertips, and all dutifully remembered by the PMS.

With the proliferation of guests’ mobile devices moving around the property, it is a certainty that many of these services will be location-aware.  From guests managing services in their rooms to operators tracking their guests’ whereabouts, there are many opportunities.  Here’s a peek at some examples of what location awareness can do for guests and property management.

Guest Experience

It is worth noting that location-awareness is a key ingredient of contextualization, that is, the quest to create touch points with guests (customers) in their current context. Satisfaction GuaranteedThat context includes their current location, maybe time-of-day, perhaps weather conditions, past and recent history, sometimes demographics, and perhaps the current stage of the transaction with the provider.  The goal is to deliver personalized and relevant information just-in-time, at the right place.

A branded mobile app is essential.  Guests could use this app to make a reservation, reschedule, cancel or confirm.  Naturally, these activities would take place before arrival.  At arrival time, location-based services kick in.  Some examples:

Automated Check in

Many seasoned travelers would like to dispense with lines and unnecessary hassles before getting to their room.  © Kadmy | - Hotel Reception With BellSo, their mobile devices would automatically check in as soon as entering the lobby, would receive an assigned room number and provide turn-by-turn navigation all the way to the room.

Upon approaching the room, the door would unlock upon request (e.g. maybe entering a PIN, for security), and the room would be lit and ready for the arriving guest.

Solution: a proximity-based system at the lobby would detect the mobile device, triggering the automated check in.  An accurate indoor positioning system would provide turn-by-turn navigation.  An indoor tracking system would detect the device approaching the room, unlocking the door.

In-room Guest Services

Guests will have access to in-room services via a branded mobile app installed on their devices (smart phone, tablet).  © Diego.cervo | - Businessman Using Digital Tablet Pc In Hotel RoomThe app would provide control over the operation of the air conditioning, drapes, lighting, TV tuning, safe locking and unlocking, and so on.  Some of these would require entering a PIN number (e.g. safe operation) for extra security.  These local controls would be enabled while the user is in the room.  Some, such as air conditioning setting, may be enabled remotely.

Solution:  a proximity-based system would enable the guest’s mobile devices to manage all room systems while physically inside it.  For instance, Accuware Proximity Engine.

Venue-wide Guest Services

The branded mobile app that enables guests to choose a restaurant and make reservations, check the amenities at the business center, or the pool and spa schedule, will also provide wayfinding.  © Soleilc | - Hotel And Hospitality IconsTurn-by-turn indoor navigation from anywhere to anywhere throughout the venue is a basic convenience no guest will do without.

When approaching the receptionist at the restaurant, the guest’s name, and any pertinent information including picture, if available, will be automatically displayed for the maitre d’ to deliver a cordial greeting by name.

Purchases at bars and restaurants, at the souvenir shop or convenience store could be invoiced to the device and charged directly to the room upon guest approval.

Concierge services personnel will be able to address guests by name when they approach their desk.  Information requested by guests, such as programs or schedules of attractions in town, could be delivered directly to their devices.

In cases when guests await the delivery of an order while away somewhere in the venue, it may be convenient for service personnel to be able to locate them.  For instance, a guest orders a drink or snack and then steps outside to take a phone call on their mobile, and sits at a table on the terrace.  Or is focused playing at a casino table.  In these and similar situations, it might be desirable to be able to track the guest’s whereabouts, so that the order can be quietly delivered, in person, right where they are at.

Solutions: an indoor positioning system such as Accuware Indoor Navigation would provide turn-by-turn navigation with sub-meter accuracy. Proximity-based systems or an indoor tracking system such as Wi-Fi Tracker would enable media delivery to the device, and would enable charge approvals for guests physically present in the premises. An indoor tracking system can follow a device’s movements indoors and help locate them with accuracy.


Staff tracking

As we well know, it is hard to manage what we don’t measure.  © Annsunnyday | - Hotel And Restaurant Staff IconsIt is important to know where staff members are throughout the day.  Are there service personnel shortages at critical times during the day?  Is everybody stretched too thin?  Should there be additional personnel called in to assist at peak times?  Are staff members available at all key posts throughout the day? Staff tracking can provide the raw information for informed decision making.

Solution: A tracking system like Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker used with Wi-Fi Tags or Accuware Wearabouts using Smart Tags can provide the data for detailed analysis.

Asset Management

Managing valuable mobile assets can be challenging in large properties.  There may be dozens or even hundreds of assets in continuous motion, from golf carts to forklifts, from projection and sound systems to large flat screens.  Keeping track of their whereabouts and being able to locate them quickly is essential to delivering excellent service, performing preventive maintenance, preventing theft, finding missing assets, increasing staff efficiency and optimizing asset utilization.  In all cases, managing assets requires knowing their actual location in real time and historically over time.

Solutions: a tracking system like Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker used with Wi-Fi tags or Accuware Wearabouts with Smart Tags can deliver real-time location and historical usage information.

Guest Flow Analysis

How do guests use the venue?  Where do they spend most of their time?  At what times during the day, week and month?  Which are the best attended facilities in the venue?  Which the most popular activities and amenities?  Did high attendance at some event correlate with any uptick in interest on additional services?  What truly happened?

Solution: a tracking system like Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker can monitor in real time the movement of active devices through an area.   Alternatively, mobile apps integrated with Accuware Wearabouts can deliver real-time tracking in environments rich in ambient signals.  Time-stamped data collected about guests’ whereabouts can provide insights into visitors’ movements, and be turned into time-based heat maps that depict the ebbs and flows of crowds.

Behind the scenes

Accuware products provide the location-based platform to enable all this functionality.

Wi-Fi Tracker is a real-time locating system (RTLS) designed to track the location of active Wi-Fi devices, including smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi tags and custom Wi-Fi devices anywhere inside a building or throughout a campus, with accuracy down to the floor and room level.

Accuware Indoor Navigation  and Accuware Wearabouts a software-based system designed for mobile apps to obtain their current position using ambient radio signals.

Proximity Engine, a feature of Wi-Fi Trackerenables location-based actions, such as delivering media, triggered by the presence of registered Wi-Fi mobile devices at specific locations of interest.

Analytics, also a feature of Wi-Fi Tracker, measures, logs and displays visitor traffic in real-time and historically over time by counting the number of active Wi-Fi devices nearby.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tags to be used with Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker and Accuware Smart Tags, to be used with Accuware Wearabouts enable tracking the movements of personnel and valuable assets.

Used singly, or in combination, these products enable cutting-edge applications that deliver tangible business value.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker (Indoor Triangulation System)

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Location awareness in Museums

If you are a creative director, a curator, an innovator at a cultural organization, how do you envision harnessing technology, and specifically location awareness technologies to engage your audiences?De Young Museum, San Francisco, California USA

By cultural organization we refer to learning settings such as museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers, historical sites, national parks, visitors attractions, botanical gardens and arboretums.  As Interactive’s Forrest Regan eloquently states, “. . . pretty much anywhere that has a story to tell and visitors to tell it to.”

Different audiences, variety of needs

Learning institutions share common objectives: engaging visitors through pleasurableMusical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, USA experiences that meet their interests and entice them to come back again and again.  For most of these organizations, the goal is to deliver social value by enabling learning opportunities and building audiences, particularly families, school groups and youth.

In response, many institutions strive to allocate their resources wisely to create environments that address visitors’ expectations.  But, what are these expectations?  An effective audience segmentation is key to answering this question, as is the deployment of information and infrastructure in support of a variety of needs.Museum of History, Cordoba, Argentina

For instance, from Dr. John H Folk’s study, visitors’ motivations may include personal curiosity, experiencing the venue and its surroundings, acquiring knowledge, performing research, or simply facilitating a cultural experience for friends and family, especially children.  Catering to such different needs is made possible through a blend of structured activities like curated tours, supporting the design of visitors’ personalized tours, and enabling structure-free experiences for contemplation or discovery.

The role of technology

Interpretive technologies can play a large role in helping visitors engage in greater depth, sparking a variety of experiences from closer appreciation to actively exploring and sharing.  The widespread use of mobile devices, either personal ones brought in, or rented at the venue, has further fueled change.  Audio tours and paper brochures give way to smartphone or tablet-based digital tours of varying sophistication and structure.Cleveland Museum of Art's Artlens

At the structured end of this spectrum, curators can plan interpretive guided tours and immersive journeys through their venues, blending digital technology with the exhibits.  If sharing is encouraged, visitors may share their experience using social media, choose from a variety of tours recommended by other visitors(often annotated), take part in audience surveys, and more.  For the unstructured experience, content search and discovery, wayfinding, and varying degrees of in-depth interaction are now possible.

Branded mobile apps, such as Cleveland Museum of Art’s Artlens, give learning institutions the ideal vehicle for connecting with their audiences. Most institutions have developed online content describing their collections, exhibitions, events, and research resources available.  They also highlight access to their facilities, including parking, shopping and dining.   Digitized materials housed in content management systems (CMS) can deliver curated content via multiple channels, supporting searches and exploration by audiences located anywhere.  At their venues, Wi-Fi has become the content delivery backbone that also provides access to search and social media.   The stage is set for a powerful delivery platform.

What about location-awareness?

Location awareness in interpretive technologies

There are numerous applications of location-based services at cultural institutions that enable mobile apps to deliver highly contextual information.  Here are some examples, grouped by category.



Wayfinding through a venue using turn-by-turn navigation instructions is the basic functionality. Cleveland Museum of Art's Artlens take-a-tourAccurate real-time device positioning within the venue is the starting point.

Giving users the ability to select a curated tour or build a personalized one requires telling users where they are and how to move along successive steps in their journey.

Discovery along any route requires letting visitors know accurately where they are and what is around them that could be of interest to them.

Location-aware content delivery

Location-based content  can be delivered as visitors stand in front of exhibits and views, Cleveland Museum of Art's Artlens - near-you-nowproviding highly relevant contextual information on demand.

Content delivery may be triggered by proximity or actual physical location, as the intended content may be different.  For instance, proximity-based content may be appropriate for a small vase on a pedestal, while location-based content may be most appropriate when approaching a locomotive at a railroad museum.  In the latter case, every section in the perimeter of the exhibit may deliver different content.

Blending augmented reality and location enables delivery of synthesized, Cleveland Museum of Art's Artlens - Augmented Reality location-dependent contextual information, such as pointers to available on-demand information about an exhibit, as CMA’s Artlens illustrates.  At the extreme end, picture, for instance, walking through a large room while viewing on your tablet information about a historical event that took place in that very space, content and perspective changing as you move around or rotate 360 degrees, like stepping into the scene.  Now, that’s an experience you won’t easily forget.


Participatory activities such as interactive games can draw audiences into deeper engagement and understanding of the material presented.  Complexity and sophistication may vary.

For example, high-tech treasure hunts can be very effective at deepening visitors’ engagement with the exhibits.  Mobile apps may deliver location-based clues as visitors move through the space, solving riddles, finding answers to questions, uncovering hidden clues, interacting with the works, possibly interacting with others while learning.

This form of guided exploration focusing on details may be particularly suitable in many cases, such as, when comparing techniques, colors and composition among artists of a given period across an exhibit, or analyzing and contrasting large fossil specimens at a natural history museum.

Visitor Services

A mobile app that delivers turn-by-turn navigation and wayfinding provides basic Cleveland Museum of Art's Artlens find-mevisitor comfort at sprawling venues.  The needs are many and well known: knowing where you are in a large complex is helpful; finding one’s way to the restaurant, the shop, the restrooms, the meeting point for the guided tour that starts in 15 minutes, where specific exhibits are, or where the elevator to the observation tower is located.  Last, but not least, can you find your way back to where you parked your car in the parking garage?

Solution: Accuware Indoors for Navigation can deliver positioning for mobile apps with 1-2 meters of accuracy, enabling navigation throughout multi-story venues.


Visitor flow analysis: measuring success

It is essential to measure the results of planning and investing in interpretive technologies.Heat Map  Did targeted audience members follow the designated path through the information delivered?  Where did visitors spend most of their time?  At what times during the day, week or month?  Which were the best attended exhibits, presentations, interactive activities and lectures?  Did high attendance at some exhibits correlate with any uptick in interest on any specific information?  How many people walked in, and then made a U-turn and left because of long-lines at the special exhibits, lack of docents to assist them, or other issues?Accuware Analytics - Unique visitors chart    What truly happened?

Solution: Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker can track in real time any active Wi-Fi device moving through a monitored area.   Time-stamped data collected about visitors’ whereabouts can be used for detailed analysis of visitors’ movements, and turned into time-based heat maps that depict the ebbs and flows of crowds.

Staff tracking: where is everybody?

We know that it’s hard to manage what we can’t measure.User's locations on the dashboard  It may be important to know where staff members are throughout the day.  Are there personnel shortages at critical times during an event? Is everybody stretched too thin? Should there be additional personnel called in to assist at peak times? Are staff members available at all key posts throughout the day? Staff tracking can provide the raw information for informed decision making.

Solution: Either Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker used with Wi-Fi tags or Accuware Indoors for Tracking using Smart Tags provide the building blocks.

Behind the scenes

Accuware can make all these venues location-aware to enable the required functionality.  Here are products and services available to make it happen.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker is a real-time locating system (RTLS) designed to track the location of active Wi-Fi devices, including smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi tags and custom Wi-Fi devices anywhere inside a building or throughout a campus, with accuracy down to the floor and room level.

Accuware Indoors  for Navigation is a system designed for mobile apps to obtain their current position using ambient radio signals, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons such as iBeacons.  Both iOS and Android apps are supported.

Accuware Wearabouts enables iOS and Android mobile apps to obtain their current position using ambient Wi-Fi and/or iBeacons signals, also enabling external applications to track the mobile devices’ whereabouts.

Accuware WiFi Tracker’s Proximity Engine functionality enables location-based actions, such as delivering media, triggered by the presence of registered Wi-Fi mobile devices at specific locations of interest.

Accuware WiFi Tracker’s Accuware Analytics functionality measures, logs and displays visitor traffic in real-time and historically over time by counting the number of active Wi-Fi devices nearby.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tags are used with Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker to track the whereabouts of personnel and valuable mobile assets.

Accuware Smart Tags are used with Accuware Wearabouts to follow the movements of staff or assets.

Used singly, or in concert, these products and services enable cutting edge applications that deliver real value.

Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker (Indoor Triangulation System)

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Location-based In-store Analytics in Retail

Location-based analytics in physical retail environments provide business insights valuable to stores and brands by analyzing in-store customer behavior.Father and daughter at the supermarket

All retail environments, both physical and online, are concerned with understanding what customers do inside their stores.  For bricks-and-mortar stores the questions may include: at what time do customers come in? Do they rapidly dart in and out seeking specific items? (E.g.  milk or bread.)   Do they linger, exploring different sections?  (E.g. shoes, lingerie, cosmetics and the latest jeans.)  Do they notice and stand in front of new displays?  Do they pay attention to endcaps?  Women's clothing store windowDo they appear to scan various sections in search of something?  What percentage of them go through the checkout (a conversion)?  Or simply exit the store without buying anything?  Are visitors’ paths through the store similar?  Are “shallow” visits prevalent?  And if so, why?  Does it happen that potential customers walking in the store take a peek at the length of the checkout lines and leave because they are too long?   What times during the day/week does this happen?  And by the way, are these new or repeat customers?  How often do they return? At what times?  Do they come on Saturdays? Or right after work throughout the week?  It’s a long list.

Data analysis enables physical store managers to

  • segment their customers according to buying behavior, such as time of day or items basketSupermarket laundry products section
  • learn where customers spend their time: they enter the store, visit specific departments, given aisles seeking product categories, then looking at specific items before purchasing (or not)
  • understand what sections of the store are less visited, to inform layout changes
  • learn the effectiveness of their cash/wrap section at busy times by measuring queue lengths
  • assess the success of in-store promotions and marketing efforts
  • measure the impact on sales of long lines at the registers during the busiest times of day.

Brands also benefit greatly from this data.  Every brand tries to stand out.  The best placement is often off-the-shelf, on a dedicated display or an endcap where the brand and its products are showcased.  Fashion clothing store windowHow many customers actually seek it? How many stop by?  How many others looking for other products in the same category pay attention to it?  Is there correlation between the number of interested visitors and increased sales?  Most definitely a brand will avoid being displayed in a section with few visitors, or with plenty of visitors at the wrong time of day (e.g. dinner foodstuff when visitors come in for breakfast items).  Clearly, analytics based on measuring visitors behavior can be very relevant for product placement, promotions and marketing campaigns, most of which often command large budgets.

How is data collected?

Achieving the greatest insights requires following the average customers at deeper levels of granularity, from the store, down to section, aisle, category and specific products within it.  Woman using smartphone at supermarketThe traditional way to do this relies on trained observers (people) deployed through the store, discreetly observing customers’ behavior, recording their observations, often aided by video cameras.

Enter location technology-based analytics, enabled by the proliferation of smart phones: we can track people’s whereabouts by determining the location of their mobile devices over time.

Collecting device location data for retail analytics depends on several key factors:

  1. the ability to track visitors unobtrusively, without requiring people to connect to any system or activate mobile apps on their devices
  2. the ability to track all device brands
  3. obtaining location accuracy with granularity down to the aisle level, covering multiple floors and buildings, if necessary

Why location accuracy matters

Detecting and triangulating a device’s position by sensing the signals emitted by its Wi-Fi radio is a very practical approach, given the widespread availability and use of Wi-Fi services inside buildings.  Also, many people never turn off their phones’ Wi-Fi radio.  A location accuracy of about 2 or 3 meters is possible, enabling aisle-level  granularity.

The question is often asked as to whether it is possible to use a store’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to collect the data.  Clearly, it is possible to collect some data, but unfortunately, location accuracy will drop down to 10-12 meters of worse, making aisle-level granularity impossible.  The reason why is that existing Wi-Fi systems are deployed for connectivity, not for location. Access points located in the center of rooms or sparsely distributed through a space make it nearly impossible to triangulate devices’ location with acceptable accuracy.  Collecting section-level visitor counts is possible, but aisle-level location is not.

In-store analytics

Collecting the right data is only the beginning.  It must be aggregated, processed and presented to deliver the desired insights.   Accuware customers provide several great examples.

They deliver real-time in-store shopper behavior analytics, enabling stores to get to know their customers by providing store and brand managers with actionable insights. Supermarket produce sectionThe systems being deployed at some of the largest retailers in North America, South America, Europe and Asia leverage Wi-Fi technology to deliver deeper analytics to retailers, helping them improve their store execution performance and merchandizing effectiveness.

They provide real-time, in-store shopper behavior analytics with aisle-level accuracy and seamless POS integration. This lets retailers follow their customers through their in-store experience: where they went inside the store, how much time they spent in different areas of the store, observe what captured their interest and ultimately what they puchased.  This type of analytics, which has been available for online shopping, is now being brought to the bricks-and-mortar world powered by Wi-Fi technology.

Behind the scenes

Accuware’s hardware-based products enable automatically compiling the raw data to deliver all these insights.  Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker detects the Wi-Fi signals emitted by devices like smart phones and tablets, determining their location as they move about, or their proximity to a desired spot, or just counting their numbers.

Privacy is always a concern.  However, note that it is impossible to identify who the people are or obtain their phone numbers.  No personally identifiable information is ever collected. Only device’s unique identifiers, their MAC addresses, which can be easily hashed or scrambled for greater privacy protection.

To collect location data, sensors are placed throughout a store (e.g. in every corner), to detect mobile phones whose Wi-Fi radios are active.  The system estimates in real time the sequence of locations as mobile devices move through the site.  Average location accuracy of about 2 or 3 meters is sufficient to know whether the device is on a specific aisle, standing in front of an endcap or queuing at the checkout line.  A new era of retail analytics is now possible.Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker (Indoor Triangulation System)

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Indoor Location at Big Brother Brasil (BBB14)

The new season of Big Brother Brasil  began on January 14, 2014.Big Brother Brasil Logo

Big Brother Brasil, also known as Big Brother, Brazilian Edition, is the biggest and most popular reality TV show in Brazil, and one of the most talked-about in Brazilian TV history.  The current season is BBB14.

Big Brother Brasil 2014 - contestants

Produced by Rede Globo, or simply TV Globo, the show is about a group of complete strangers that share a house for up to three months, relentlessly followed by TV cameras, without any contact to the outside world: no access to TV, radio, computer, phones, newspapers or outside people.  Housemates, referred to as “brothers“, compete with each other, the object being to be the last remaining contestant in the House.

The TV audience follows the brothers’ every move via live video through various websites. They also comment and vote.

BBB14 brings a new dimension to the show: the location of all brothers is monitored in real time with one-meter accuracy.  The audience can now follow everybody’s location throughout the House via a live feed from SALA DE CONTROLE (the Control Room).

Big Brother Brasil 2014 - Sala de controle

Who will be the winner of BBB14?  We’ll just have to keep an eye on everyone, wait for three months and see.  It will be exciting.

Behind the Scenes

How are brothers tracked? Each of them carries an RF (Radio frequency) device, a Wi-Fi tag, that enables locating them in real time and tracking their movement throughout the House over time.

Accuware’s real-time locating system (RTLS), Accuware Wi-Fi Tracker provides indoor location data which is displayed on TV Globo’s website. Viewers can now tell who is by the pool right this minute.  By combining a RTLS and Accuware Wi-Fi tags, locating and tracking people and resources for entertainment or commerce through a physical space is now possible. Another first for TV Globo!

Accuware Compact WiFi Tag

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