Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi in the Battle for Attendee Behavioral Analytics

Most people are familiar with GPS technologies that monitor their physical locations on the road, lake or bike trail. They became popular as standalone portable devices and are now integrated in most smartphones and tablets, providing step-by-step navigation for trips around town or around the world.

The next big push in location technology is to move indoors to help event organizers monitor attendee behavior and their level of engagement with displays and exhibits.

Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology have their advantages and their places in the market, and the public (for the most part) identifies each technology with a specific function, from connecting headphones to smartphones or accessing the Internet. When it comes to monitoring attendee behavior and engagement, however, it's important to understand which technology offers which advantages so that you get the greatest return on your investment.

Deploying Bluetooth-Enabled Mobile Apps
Bluetooth location monitoring __ Bluetooth Low Energy, specifically __ requires small sensors, or beacons, that monitor distance based on signal strength between themselves and Bluetooth-enabled devices. This allows organizers and exhibitors to better understand the interactions between visitors and the exhibits or displays.

Because Bluetooth monitors behavior through a mobile application, you can collect detailed information about attendees through app permissions, and even communicate directly through push notifications to better influence behavior.

The biggest hurdle for Bluetooth technology is that it requires participants to download an app and then opt in to the Bluetooth monitoring. The need to opt in greatly reduces the number of visitors who can be polled through behavior analytics. An increasing number of event planners are using mobile-event apps to replace paper event guides and further engage attendees with event content and activities. But even if a high number of attendees download the event app, there is no guarantee that they will choose to allow Bluetooth monitoring.

Bluetooth location technologies are ideal for events and organizations that use mobile event apps and have a loyal audience that will also opt in to the monitoring.

Using Wi-Fi Location Monitoring
Wi-Fi-based location monitoring also requires small sensors that monitor distance based on a signal between a device and recording hardware. The decibel strength between Wi-Fi nodes and devices in the area determines distance.

The main advantage of Wi-Fi for behavior monitoring is that visitors are not required to opt in to participate. Anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device __ such as a smartphone __ will ping to a Wi-Fi location system. The latest statistics show that 90 percent of smartphone users have their device within an arm's length 100 percent of the time. This means that data about visitors and passersby can be captured without disclosing personal identities or other private information. This method increases the sample size to virtually everyone who comes to your event or visits your display.

Because downloads and opt-ins are not required, Wi-Fi location technologies are best suited to monitor the behavior of attendees not yet committed to a brand, or for companies that want to capture analytics for the largest possible sampling of visitors. For public events and brands looking to learn about a general customer base, Wi-Fi is the preferred method.

Measuring and Encouraging the Desired Behavior
Organizations invest a great deal of time, money and resources on public displays and industry events. Understanding the behavior of attendees and patrons is critical to measuring the effectiveness of these marketing efforts, and whether the investment is encouraging the desired behaviors. Armed with intelligence powered by location technologies, you will be in a better position to know what is working and have the data you need to make on-the-fly adjustments to improve your results.

Kurt Sabin is the director of business development for Event Guidance, a provider of behavioral analytics for touring events. Sabin has developed measurable marketing program strategies for several companies, including Sears, Planet Fitness, Warrior Sports and Graphic Resource Group, the parent company of Event Guidance.