Beacons at Heart Rhythm 2018

Image of the beacon chip
If you attended Heart Rhythm 2018 in Boston, you may have noticed a small rectangular object on the back of your badge. That object was a tracker, called a beacon, that could be read by receivers located throughout the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) and in the Exhibit Hall. For the first time, the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) utilized beacon technology to assist in planning the meetings of tomorrow. Every session room within the BCEC, networking lounges and other areas such as Hyde Park, were set up with receivers to track attendee movements in and out of sessions.

HRS staff has already begun analyzing data collected from the beacons to share with the Scientific Sessions Program Committee at the first planning meeting for Heart Rhythm 2019. For the first time, staff and volunteers will have access to detailed attendance figures for every session held during Heart Rhythm 2018. In the past, HRS relied on manual counts, a very unreliable method that provided no information beyond a number. Beacon data provides more accurate numbers, and added information about the type of person which was in any given room, be it a physician, nurse, fellow or scientist. These counts will help HRS better understand the right mix of sessions, lounge space and session room size. Knowing what is popular and unpopular allows for data-driven decisions that will benefit future attendees of Scientific Sessions.

The beacon data will also be useful in helping staff assign session rooms to avoid overflow issues in the future. For example, on Thursday, May 10, a Late-Breaking Clinical Trial session was assigned to a room that was much too small for the crowd of over 1,500 that watched both in the room and in overflow areas throughout the BCEC. An onsite dashboard allowed staff to see live how session rooms were filling and what areas were busiest, and quickly respond. Data collected will allow staff to refine the onsite experience to maximize attendee satisfaction while controlling costs by eliminating unpopular activities. Beacon data will also help us curate session suggestions received from members to ensure we are offering the optimal “mix” of science.

The beacon technology had the added benefit of pre-populating the credit cart utilized to claim CME credit, making it easier for attendees to track their attendance at sessions throughout the week. In the session rooms, beacon data was added to attendee credit carts after each had stayed in a room for at least 15 minutes. If an attendee listened to half of one session and half of another, the data would populate both sessions into the cart. To date, nearly 2,000 people have claimed credit from Heart Rhythm 2018.

The beacon receivers were also deployed in the Exhibit Hall. Smaller exhibitors were able to receive a listing of anyone who was in their booth for at least two minutes – this is helpful when a company can only send a limited number of staff to the meeting and cannot keep up with the interest in their product or service. Larger booths had several receivers, allowing exhibitors to track which parts of their booth were the busiest. It is interesting to note that while all exhibitors were able to access attendee data after at least a 2-minute stay time in the booth, the average attendee visited only eight booths out of the over 150 in the Exhibit Hall.

Attendees were able to opt-out of participating in the beacon program, but for those who chose to participate, thank you! We hope that you see an improvement next year.

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