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FileMaker 15: Collecting User Data with iBeacons

In this video, Martha Zink expands upon the iBeacon functionality in FileMaker 15. Share shares how FileMaker can create a log every time a user checks for iBeacons nearby from a FileMaker app. With this information, a business can get a general idea of what users find most interesting within a location.

Video Transcript:

Hi, my name is Martha Zink and I’m with Soliant Consulting. This is another video on iBeacons and FileMaker 15. Today, we’re going to talk about how iBeacons can benefit the business.

I’m going to use my previous example; we’re looking at a FileMaker app where a user is in a museum. They can open up the app, hit the refresh button and get information about the art work around them. I’m going to click on the “Refresh” button on my iPhone. It’s going to search of any iBeacons that are near me. In this case, it’s found one, and it’s the Persistence of Memory.

If I walked around the room and hit that refresh button again, presumably, I should see other iBeacons depending on where I’ve moved and what else is around me. So, now we see there are two iBeacons that were found. This is not a dialogue I would show my user; this is just for the demo so that you know the kind of information that FileMaker is gathering. Once that happens, it tells me the two pieces of art that are nearby. A user would be able to click into these and get details about it.

I think there is a lot we could do with users. I’ll actually be doing a separate video to talk about how much information a user can get from these iBeacons and the benefit that comes from that. But, right now I really want to focus on the benefit for the business, in this case, the museum.

Let me open up the database in FileMaker. In the previous video, I talked about the six different things you get from an iBeacon. You get:

  • ID
  • Major
  • Minor
  • Proximity (how far is it)
  • Accuracy
  • RSSI (Strength of the signal)

When the user hits the refresh button, the user gets a list of pieces of art related to the iBeacons near them. The part that may not be obvious is when that script runs, not only does it evaluate for the iBeacons and show a list of the art, but it also creates a history of the iBeacons that were found. This isn’t hosted on a server. I would probably run this server-side just to be a little bit faster here, but the example remains the same.

If I go to the “Create iBeacons Records” script, there is a layout called iBeacon history, which is on this layout. Basically, it goes through and populates a field with all of that iBeacon info. If you think back to that custom dialogue that came up on my iPhone, it provided me with a comma-delimited list of the six things for every iBeacon. And in the last example, I have two iBeacons.

If we were to scroll down to the very end of this unsorted list, at the very bottom we should see the last two things I found when I hit that refresh button on my iPhone. Let me make this window a little bit bigger here, and let’s talk about all this stuff that is on here.

Again, the user doesn’t know this data is being captured. But, basically, I now have a record that tells me that at a given time and a given date, these were the iBeacons that were within range. I can then extrapolate that.

These were the works of art that were nearby when the person refreshed their FileMaker app. I have a separate table that is an art table, nothing fancy here.  It’s not meant to be user-facing by any means. But, basically every piece of art has a Beacon ID which we’re attributing to a museum, and then a major which defines this piece of art specifically.

This piece of art is 4, Starry Night is 3, and so on. All of these have the same BeaconID. In FileMaker, I can now relate these two values to a piece of art which is the blue field in our list. The yellow fields are highlighting the date and time when that ping happened.

This is a lot of data here. It’s a little bit hard to look at when you’re looking at a bunch of numbers. But what if we were to group up the data over a period of time? Now, I’m going to look at the data from all dates. I’m going to look at all 1,014 records. I can sort this data by title and by hour. This calculation is taking for example 5:22 pm and just making it the number 5. 11:42 am is just 11. What I am trying to do is create a grouping so that I can get some smart data about these different records. I’ll sort my data here.

I’m going to go to a layout here called the “BeaconHistory – Chart.” What this layout gives me is some information about the hourly breakdown of the iBeacons. Because each iBeacon is presumably tied to one piece of art, I’m able to group those up and look at when those iBeacons were pinged over a given day. We’re assuming here that the museum is open from 9 am – 5 pm. You’ll notice that Three Musicians peaks right after lunch at one o’clock.

We can’t look at this data exclusively. We’d have to look at it and compare what works of art are nearby. For example, if Three Musicians  is close to some other piece of art that is really popular, then we would want to compare them. We may realize Three Musicians gets a lot of attention at this time, because this other piece of art is also very popular around that time.

It’s not to say that this data stands alone. There are a lot of things to understand about the physical location of these items. But, that’s the beauty of the iBeacons. By knowing when someone is in range to an iBeacon, we can analyze the data, we can understand the physical location of things, and we can make decisions based on that.

If we wanted another piece of art to potentially get more attention, maybe we move it closer to something else. These are times when things like the exit and the entrance matters, maybe the proximity to a cafeteria and restrooms too. All different things that, again, depend on physical location and could really impact how a business decides to continue doing business. Do things get moved around? Are things in the right place? Do we attract attention by relating things by type of art or by popularity? I think it’s a cool way that a business could collect data.

Even though all that the iBeacon provides is an ID, with FileMaker we can do anything with that data. Now we can collect dates and times; we can relate it back to a specific piece of art and make educated guesses based on that information.

I think this could be cool for something like a warehouse, where you could see how often a warehouse iBeacon is being pinged. You could look at the times, just like how we did for the museum here, and notice when people are in that part of the warehouse the most.

I want to be clear one more time here. I think I mentioned this in my last video. In order for these records to get created, or in order to FileMaker to be aware of iBeacons, a script would have to run. Something will have to happen for FileMaker to start looking for them. It’s not like you walk into a room and FileMaker just knows you’ve walked into the room that has the Mona Lisa. You’d have to actually hit that refresh button or do something in FileMaker that would trigger that functionality.

While that’s a limitation in some ways, I think it makes this feature really important. And I think it’s going to have some really great uses. I look forward to hearing about all the different use cases that come out of this.

Alright, so that is a quick little video on the functionality of iBeacons and how a business can benefit from the data. I hope you find this useful. I’d love to hear how you’ve implemented this or how your plan on implementing this.

Stay tuned. I’ll have at least one more video on iBeacons and how it can really empower a user for something like a trade show or a road show.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Soliant TV. Thank you for watching!

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