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HPE shows off engagement project with Madrid museum based on Aruba technology

by Philip Sellers

Last week at HPE Discover in London, HPE showed off a project enabled by technology from its Aruba subsidiary with the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, a fine art museum located in Madrid.  Leveraging Aruba wireless networking and Aruba Beacons and the Meridian mobile app software, the museum was able to create a mobile app experience for visitors of the museum that enhances their visits.  The project was used to highlight the company’s vision for today’s networks to meet customer expectations.

According to Dominic Orr, Aruba CEO, the foundation is a wireless network designed to handle today’s expectations, scale and requirements for networking.   Most wireless networks, according to Orr, were created to augment existing wired networks and were never intended to be primary interconnectivity for users.  The user’s expectation and habits have shifted since most wireless networks were deployed.

Components enabling the experience

The primary challenge of architecture is that wired networking had known constraints and limits whereas wireless doesn’t have those traditional limits since there are no physical ports.  A variable number of users and devices may be on the wireless networks requiring different architecture.   With the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, establishing this secure, stable, smart and simple wireless network was the first step of this project.

beacon_408x436The second component of the solution is Aruba Beacons – Bluetooth low energy devices that allow communication based on proximity.  The beacons allow the museum to push notifications when visitors approach specific areas of the museum and also allow location-based communication so that visitors can locate areas of the museum.  Aruba 320 series APs include integrated beacon management, giving the beacon experience more enterprise manageability.   For users with another wireless infrastructure, Aruba also provides the Aruba Sensors for remote beacon management or even augment Aruba wifi deployments with additional beacon management.

The third component of the solution is a custom mobile app.  For this, the museum turned to a third-party app developer – Mobile Experience – to create the custom app based on Aruba’s Meridian App Platform to enable the beacon technology with the app.  Mobile Experience worked closely with Aruba on the technical details and deployments for the museum.

What do the beacons enable?

By utilizing Aruba Beacons, visitors are able to get the equivalent of turn-by-turn directions within the museum from their current location to a desired exhibit.  Need a bathroom or want to find the restaurant? A custom app can help you get to that location.   The app does by locating the visitor in the museum – BlueDot technology – and by using the beacon for a destination point.

The app also allows the museum to distribute guided tours for an hour, or two hours or even let patrons create their own tour based on interests. The app was build using the Meridian AppFramework, which is owned by Aruba, and allows the creation of mobile apps leveraging beacons.  Merdian also has an SDK which allows developers to package the beacon technology into existing mobile apps.  The app enables the curators to provide additional resources for different exhibits, including video and audio to give background and context to the exhibits – as an enhanced visitor experience.

From a customer perspective, the beacons allow the museum to push notifications based on proximity within the museum.   But the technology isn’t just customer enhancing – it provides incredible value to the museum staff.  The beacons provide the museum with telemetry data – how long did a patron spend at a specific exhibit or piece of artwork and allow them feedback where to enhance exhibits or expand offerings based on interests of their visitors.  All of this feedback is available without interrupting the visitor, so it is not reliant on a feedback form or informal survey at the time of exit – instead it is based on the behavior of the visitor.

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