First of its kind auto check-in contact tracing trial

What is iBeacon technology?

Apple’s iBeacon location technology has been around for years now, but is seeing increasing application in a world that values contact tracing for public health reasons. Using iBeacons provides a low energy proximity sensing solution that works across both iOS and Android platforms. Very importantly, from a privacy perspective, the beacons transmit only, and don’t “listen”.

The ability to use the technology for large scale public events, or in small venues means it can be used for everything from welcoming users to their destination, to automatic COVID check ins at locations, to creating a rich user experience based on current context. This blog post will take you through our recent experience of rolling out iBeacon technology for contact tracing at a large public event, and how we’re using the technology with smaller clients too.

iBeacon technology at large scale events

Beervana is a twenty year old craft beer appreciation event held in Wellington’s Sky Stadium each year. It brings beer lovers together with established craft beer brands and their new products for the two days event, serves as a launching pad for emerging breweries, and is known for its innovative collaborations.

PaperKite has an enduring relationship with the event, having created the original Beervana app back in 2017. The Covid-delayed November 2020 event had a new challenge – how to encourage the thousands of attendees to scan their contact tracing app at the event? The answer – auto check-in.

PaperKite built apps, Beervana and Rippl work seamlessly together when Bluetooth is enabled. Auto check-in works by prompting mobile phone users to turn on Bluetooth and have Rippl downloaded with the latest update. Users are then able to automatically check in to participating venues. The contact tracing trial was the first of its kind in New Zealand, and supported by the Ministry of Health, as another way to simplify contact tracing for Kiwis.

The Rippl app is a Privacy by Design built product. We know that privacy is of the utmost importance to Rippl users, and it was important that auto check-ins didn’t negatively impact the squeaky-clean privacy of the app. We therefore ensured that the auto check-in was opt-in, and (as with all manual check-ins) all check-in data remained on the user’s device.

How we rolled out the auto check-in trial

We provided Beervana with iBeacon devices to facilitate auto check-ins. When users opted-in to auto check-ins using Rippl they were automatically checked in to the venue when in range of the iBeacon.

Users with the feature manually enabled on their phone were sent a notification every time a new auto check in occurred.

Why we chose a beta trial

A beta trial worked for us as we could be quick to market and test the technology in a real world scenario. Within the two day event period we were able to test a reasonable volume of traffic for reliability, iBeacon configurations, auto check-in parameters and how the iBeacons interacted with each other and within the Sky Stadium environment.

The beta trial also enabled us to collect feedback from users, before pushing this release to the wider public.

We tested our beacons at a few venues including People’s Coffee LTD.

What were the key validation points of the iBeacon trial?

As part of our auto check-in trial, we needed to agree some key validation points:

Avoid false positives – when you walk past a location/venue that has an iBeacon, you don’t generate a check-in
Reliability – are you able to check in when you are at an iBeacon venue? Can you check you are at the correct venue when two or more adjacent venues have iBeacons?
Precision – tracking the correct time range the user stayed at the venue
Configuration – that the iBeacon is in an ideal position for the venue and the distance between iBeacons is appropriate

The venue also shared non-Bluetooth capable contact tracing public service announcements via social media and at the physical venue during the two day event.

How did we measure success of the iBeacon trial?

We considered six core metrics to gauge the level of success of the auto check-in trial. The trial scored particularly well on the metrics of UX, reusability and accessibility.

How easily the technology was implemented or integrated (in terms of time and complexity).

4 / 10

How easily an existing solution can be extended or upgraded.

7 / 10

Sustainability & Maintenance
How easy is it to keep the solution and associated content up-to-date?

6 / 10

How easy is it to make the solution accessible using this technology?

7 / 10

How much this technology can improve or contribute to a better user experience.

9 / 10

How easy is it to reuse solutions or modules developed with this technology in new projects?

8 / 10

What next for contact tracing auto check-ins?

With our key metrics validated, the next step for PaperKite is to expand the beta trial to even more venues and events. PaperKite has a group of partners testing the technology and helping us define the best approach to deploy auto check-ins on a larger scale. 

Keen to know more about the Beervana app? It was one of those projects that we were able to bring to life with simple animation that we hoped would make users SMILE. Check out our experience of building the app back in 2017

Keen to learn more?

We’d love to chat about how we can work with you to deliver innovative solutions to your digital problems.

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