Estimote beacon deviceSince Apple introduced iBeacons at WWDC in June last year, we’ve seen plenty of announcements from retailers who plan on using the technology to enhance the shopping experience. While there’s no doubt that iBeacons can be valuable in commerce and provide an innovative way for businesses to interact with their consumers, iBeacons have the potential to impact a wide range of industries and become more than just the next great marketing tool.

The technology is powerful and easy to implement, and as an educational technologist, I believe it can make training more efficient, adaptable, and collaborative. I wanted to see for myself how I could take advantage of iBeacons to develop an educational app, so I ordered a set of Estimote beacons, fired up Xcode, and created a versatile audio tour app.

Photo of iBeacons on a table Estimote developer preview packs are $99/ 3 beacons and come in awesome packaging!

Audio Tour iOS App

App icon and main UI screenshotMost audio tours I've seen utilize bulky, outdated hardware. Since the devices have no knowledge of the user's location within an attraction, you are typically responsible for selecting the appropriate audio track for an exhibit or moving through an installation in a linear fashion. To solve this problem, my app uses Estimote beacons to automatically update the app's interface based on the closest exhibit. Since these beacons are much more accurate than GPS, you can press the play button once and walk through an entire museum without needing to touch the app again.

UI ScreenshotAs you move from exhibit to exhibit, the app continuously monitors for beacons and updates the interface accordingly. If you’re still listening to a track from a previous exhibit, the closest exhibit’s information is queued.

UI ScreenshotYou can immediately load the closest exhibit by tapping the Up Next button. Of course, you can also use the play/pause button or drag the audio playback progress bar when you need more control.

I used images from an aquarium in the example application, but this app can be customized to work with any kind of tour and display different types of media. In fact, I’m currently working on a campus tour application and developing additional interactive features, so stay tuned!