South Texas History Museum Enhances the Visitor Experience Using Wi-Fi and BLE

By Drew Lentz, Blog Contributor
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The Museum of South Texas History, which opened its doors in 1910 as the original county jail site and gallows in South Texas, is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of innovative technology. However, with a donation from a local technology company, the support of Aruba, and a good bit of elbow grease from the museum staff, MOST History is leveraging the latest wireless technology to help visitors get the most out of their museum.

Enhancing Museum Visitor Experience Using Wi-Fi and BLE
Bluetooth location services have many applications. Hospitality and entertainment expose a significant amount of ways that this technology can be used to provide unparalleled interaction for guests and the places they visit. In an age where people are looking for new ways to gather experiences over possessions, providing the best experience possible is one of top ways to get high marks from visitors, encouraging repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Rocking the Boat
In a museum setting, the traditional model of great exhibits, amazing content, an easy to navigate layout, and a family-friendly atmosphere are traditionally the way that establishments get their share of visitors. This model hasn't changed over decades even though the technology that the visitors bring with them to the museum has. In each person's pocket is a device that opens up a new world of interactivity for every exhibit and a personal tour guide to the facility. Technology allows visitors to dig deeper, learn more, interact, and make their visit personal, but that has to be supported by the museum.

Using BLE for Wayfinding and Blue Dot
One of the first things that was provided to the Museum of South Texas History was the ability to provide wayfinding and the blue dot experience to museum visitors. By using Aruba BLE beacons throughout the facility, users can select any of the exhibits or place marks within the museum app and get turn-by-turn walking directions to whatever they want to see. With the campus spread out over one city block, two floors in the main area, and hundreds of exhibits, this was absolutely helpful to the staff and new visitors. Using BLE beacons, visitors with physical impairments were able to quickly identify the best routes to exhibits utilizing elevators or lifts as opposed to stairs. People searching for specific exhibits, or directions to the closest restrooms, now have the power to quickly self-navigate instead of asking staff members. This increases their experience while allowing the staff to focus on their jobs.

One of the great opportunities while using BLE beacons is the ability to trigger events based on location. Whether it's watching a video of historic events, a mock up of what steamships looked like traveling down the Rio Grande River, or a reenactment of what life was like in earlier times, being able to trigger content while a user is in a specific location, provides an experience that is contextual and deeper than any single exhibit.

A Strong Network and Wireless Foundation
From popping-up photos of famous documents to effortlessly loading videos of exhibits in action, a sturdy wireless network is the foundation for interaction. The deployment at the Museum South Texas History uses Aruba IAP-315 access points to deliver the content, maps, multimedia, and interactions. That content is triggered in a custom built app by 40 battery powered Aruba BLE beacons specifically and thoughtfully placed throughout the facility. The application for the museum interaction was built using the Meridian app developer and is powered by Aruba Meridian framework on iOS devices.

With thousands of visitors per month, this icon of South Texas and historical landmark continues to catalog the history of the US Mexico border every day. With the Aruba wireless and beacon deployment, gaining access to that history and being able to relive key moments can now be extended to the palm of your hand!