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UN Exhibit Uses BLE to Demonstrate The Danger of Landmines

By Andy Maskin April 4, 2014

A one-day exhibit at the New Museum in New York City and sponsored by the United Nations Mine Action Service sought to educate the public about the dangers and horrors of landmines throughout the world. What made this exhibit unique was its use of a mobile app and BLE beacons (aka “iBeacons”) to power the experience.

Users were encouraged to download an app ahead of time called “Sweeper“. From the start screen you can proceed with the experience or learn more about landmines. If you choose to start, you are told to walk around the exhibit.

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The exhibit was arranged with large scale photographs of landmine victims, as well as small informational stations about different types of landmines typical across the world.

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Visitors were encouraged to wear headphones. If they didn’t have their own, headphones were provided. Every few feet, when the user entered the range of a particular BLE beacon, the user would hear an explosion, and a voice would explain that you had just stepped on a landmine. The voice would proceed to describe the horrific injuries you have received and the extent to which you have been killed or maimed. Lastly, it went on to describe the overall threat of landmines across the world and how they represent a terrible threat to civilians. On the app, when a landmine is encountered, it shows the type of landmine that you encountered and offered the opportunity to share the event socially to Facebook or Twitter. It also had a prominent button allowing you to donate to the cause of ridding the world of landmines.

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The beacons were not coordinated with the explanatory signage, so there was no telling which landmine you were about to come upon. The beacons themselves were sourced from Roximity and worked fairly well. A staffer mentioned that they tuned the app to listen for the beacons at medium range. Too short a range would not trigger the “explosions” unless you were extremely close to the beacons. If the range were too large, the beacons could trigger before the guests even got off the elevator. It is a testament to the fact that with current technology, deploying a BLE beacon-based campaign includes a bit of art as well as science.

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