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Bluetooth, beacons and world-famous exhibits: how we hatched the Museum Egg

  • Not-for-Profit
  • Innovation and hack days

With over three million visitors a year, the Science Museum is one of UK’s most popular attractions. So when we heard there was a hackathon on the horizon, we couldn’t resist the chance to get creative with the museum’s data and collections. From plan through to prototype, we devised a seamless digital experience that would go on to win prizes – and it all started with an egg.

A unique opportunity to innovate

For two days in February, creatives from all digital disciplines descended on the Science Museum. With a brand-new data set to experiment with, 70 coders, designers, science enthusiasts and hackers all gathered to reimagine what’s possible when you combine world-renowned collections with new technology. Of course, Redweb Labs wasn’t about to miss out on an opportunity like that, so along with three of our Developers, they arrived ready to hack the museum.

Outlining an approach

With endless possibilities, the team established a few aims upfront to focus the project on the essential things they wanted to achieve. That involved giving museum visitors a personal memento of their trip, as well as ensuring the technology was completely frictionless – with no reliance on public Wi-Fi, app downloads, code scanning, or log-ins. If that wasn’t challenging enough, they also decided to do it all without any screens. With only 48 hours to complete the task, it was time to get cracking.

Hatching the Museum Egg

With the parameters in place, the team developed the prototype for a ‘Museum Egg’ – a small, unobtrusive device carried around the museum by a visitor. Users are free to focus on the exhibits and enjoy exploring the museum, as the Egg doesn’t require any visitor interaction. On returning the Museum Egg at the end of their visit, they receive a printed postcard of their favourite exhibits, a souvenir perfectly encapsulating their time at the Science Museum.

The ingenuity behind the Egg

Housed in a docking station, the Museum Egg turns on automatically when picked up. As visitors wander around the museum, the Egg receives data from Bluetooth beacons, detecting their proximity to exhibits and how long they lingered. When the Egg is returned to the dock, it downloads and processes this data to find the top three dwelling times and locations. Using the Science Museum’s Collection API, the Egg matches these with corresponding exhibits – the ones that interested the visitor most – and prints them on a personal postcard. As a bonus, visitors are then treated to a fourth ‘secret’ item not on display – this is related to their favourite exhibits and is shown to just one visitor each day.

Creating museum magic with Bluetooth beacons

The Egg uses a Bluetooth adapter to scan for Bluetooth beacons – low-energy devices that send out data packets containing unique IDs. When the Egg detects a signal from a designated beacon, it logs the exhibit’s beacon ID and time spent there. Once returned to the dock, the Museum Egg saves the data collected and transfers it as a CSV file via Bluetooth. With some egg-cellent scripting (sorry!) and developer wizardry, exhibits are scored according to time and proximity before pulling photos and descriptions from the top three to create the visitor’s personalised print-out.

Andrew Lewis, Data and Insights Architect, National History Museum

"The concept was well thought out on several levels. It was a cute and attractive object that people would probably like, it didn’t burden users with a need to understand it or force them to do a specific task. It was location aware and just needed to be worn. It then used location data to record a list of objects that visitors had visited and finally print a takeaway handout of these as a keepsake. This met a recurring user need for a visit to a museum or gallery - to get a souvenir. It also allowed users to just experience the museum, yet still gave them curated information based on their interests, not dictated by the museum — all very clever."

 

The results

After 48 hours of making, testing and refining, our team had a finished working prototype. Up against a room full of gifted creatives innovating with the Collection API, the judges honoured Team Redweb with ‘The Next Big Thing’ award. If that wasn’t enough, we also got voted ‘The People’s Choice’ by the other teams. But the Museum Egg is just one example of how we combine data and technology to create exciting, personalised experiences. Whether it’s helping top attractions uncover their visitors’ interests or establishing the products customers are most interested in, we use digital innovation to give our clients have a competitive edge.

  • 2

    Won ‘The Next Big Thing’ and ‘The People’s Choice’ award

  • 70

    Like-minded creatives at the hackathon

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