Departmental creative collaboration is a myth. It’s the Loch Ness Monster, it’s Father Christmas, it’s time marked as ‘Research’ in time sheets. It’s fictional. The e3 iBeacon challenge was the latest project within e3 aimed at actually tapping the collective genius of the agency to explore a technology, test it and develop internal ideas on how it could be used. We chatted to Dom Baker our Creative Director about collaboration, the iBeacon challenge itself and the importance of human interaction with emerging tech.

Dom Baker and Tim Dundon iBeacon Monkey

So what was/is the iBeacon challenge? 
Dom Baker: The idea is always to explore new technologies, expose it to the fertile minds at e3 and use the amazing minds to become a living lab, and explore the possibilities. Kind of similar to a hackathon style approach but with more play and less pizza.
The germ of this particular idea grew from a water cooler conversation between one of our Senior Developers Tim Dundon and meself . The thought was to explore the potential of ibeacons through a pure, “what else can we do with this” perspective.

The first part of the iBeacon challenge was to use the assorted skills of the agency to push the possibilities of the tech, to do this Tim and I assembled 12 two person teams, specifically mixing up skills and disciplines from across e3. To kick it all off Tim and me gave them a quick demo of the beacon basics and then off.
Each team then picked a random theme out of the lucky hat, with themes ranging from music, dating, solve a problem, have a laugh, make a game, they then had a week to go away, have a think, have a play, really push the ideas and create an experience which in some way featured beacons in whatever way they saw fit.
They then had three minutes to present their ideas back to the judges and the other teams with the winners getting their idea taken to production. The ideas the teams came back with were, not surprisingly brilliant, every single idea was a doozy, making judging very hard.

Meanwhile to keep the teams on their toes we  built a game on a series of iPhones to ‘hunt’ for iBeacons hidden inside odd looking toy monkeys around in the office. But to find these monkeys hidden in the e3 jungle you needed to solve puzzles. We gave everyone the same instructions and set them off on a Friday afternoon hunt, beer/wine in one hand, a phone in the other, while we tracked their progress, logged the times and noted whoever was quickest. The winner won Amazon vouchers, booze, hours of fun and eternal joy. 

The idea for the challenge was a very quick turnaround from chat to live, over-talking gets in the way of doing, which is what exploration is all about, hands on, playing, pushing, pulling until we really know the shape and possibility.

Monkey e3 media iBeacons

Why iBeacons specifically?
Why not? They're not even a particular new piece of technology it was just a serendipitous conversation. iBeacons are however a nice easy piece of technology to play around with. They’re versatile, which is why Marketers are always nattering on about them. That’s because they are incredibly powerful if you use them in the right way, the Royal London Society for Blind People's Wayfindr app is a great example of that. It's just an iBeacon, a smartphone and TFL's live data, but it solves an important problem. Finally, I think they're interesting because they're getting very cheap and more accessible and this gets you thinking about what a world where they are virtually free and therefore ubiquitous would be like.

Wayfindr App: User talks about experience by itnnews

Why did you do this?
For three reasons. Firstly it was about creatively exploring technologies, capture the data, analysis it, share it, and get everyone up to speed on their capabilities.  The second reason was to create a culture of exploration and love of learning across the agency.  Lastly, it’s about getting people who don’t normally work directly together to interact and recognise each other’s particular genius, tapping their collective skills and generally having a bit of fun. 

I also believe that the more we tinker with technology the more ah-ha moments we have, the more information we have about how it works, the better we can explain it to clients. This is because we've seen it from many angles, seen it applied to a real world challenge so making it easier to confidently push projects into new and exciting areas. 

This is the culture we want to create at the agency - an instinctual sense of exploration, creatively pushing the boundaries but with a plan to develop a well-informed company-wide opinion of what we're working with. To me, the best part of that is the emotional resonance that comes with this creativity. I would love to get to the point where everyone starts suggesting what we should be testing, playing with next. We've got a whole raft of things in the pipeline. The only question is 'what's possible?' 

To read more about what we do with emerging technology, take a look at our previous work.