Starting Friday, the first day of SXSW Interactive, the fest will launch a new location-based feature called SXSW Recommends that, you guessed it, will make recommendations of festival content.
The feature works with the SXSW Go app and on the the SXSW.com website, but within the app, it will utilize a set of more than 1,000 iBeacon device, small wireless transmitters that use Bluetooth to offer location information, deployed across 600 SXSW venues.
What does this mean for festgoers? Scott Wilcox, SXSW Director of Technology, says that it will allow the app to deliver personalized event recommendations based on location, favorited events, time and popularity. It will seek out gaps in a festgoers schedule using an algorithm developed by SXSW and send notifications about potential must-attend panels, shows and other programming.
And on top of that, Wilcox says, “It will tell you why we’ve recommended an event. With our ability to leverage geofencing technology, we can recommend things that are a good match for somebody that are also nearby.”
Last year, the fest deployed the iBeacons across the fest in order to allow for attendees to get to know each other with features called Around Me and Attendee Match. Those using the app could opt-in to communicate with other people using the app with similar interests.
At the 2015 fest, the iBeacons had 7 million sightings (meaning how many times they detected a device nearby) and sent more than 400,000 proximity alerts.
They fest will be sending out an email to attendees letting them know about the feature, which can be toggled on or off. Recommends is already working on the SXSW.com website, but the location-based feature will be activated on Friday.
Wilcox said that it’s unlikely the most popular events, the ones most likely to be inaccessible because they’re filled past capacity, will be the ones that the app suggests, but the algorithm can be tweaked once the festival starts based on how it’s working.
“We built the system so we can tune it in real time,” he said. “There’ll be a process of massaging it, getting data in, seeing how people react. We’ll be tuning it throughout the week.”
SXSW began investing in Eventbase, the company it works with on this technology, in 2014.