beacons and bier at oktoberfest
Chris Blanz
Co-Founder | CXO

Beacons and bier at Oktoberfest!

Promoted as a free three-day festival every October since 1979, Nashville Oktoberfest in the Historic Germantown neighborhood has been host to German culture, food, and beer. Lots and lots of beer.

About the Event

For 37 years, this giant party has grown to become Nashville’s oldest, and one of the largest Fall festivals in the South. This year’s crowd topped more than 146,000 visitors and included parades, a dachshund derby, a 5k run, hundreds of craft and food vendors, five stages of music, and Nashville’s very own grown-up beer slide.

The Challenges

From our first meeting with the Oktoberfest organizers to the first day of the event, we only had 14 days to help them prepare. Event organizers wanted to give attendees quick access to information about the festival, its vendors, and the schedule of upcoming events.

  • Stretched over about 8 city blocks (~18 acres), the festival itself is massive.
  • Vendor information was limited. Most did not have their own websites. Instead, they use social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to tell their stories, promote event specials, and attract fans/followers.

The Solution

NashOkt Nashville Oktoberfest Beacon Scanner

NashOkt: Nashville Oktoberfest Beacon browser (iOS Version)

The content strategy was simple. Make sure anyone who wants to access information about the festival’s schedule, activities, attraction locations, or food vendor information, could do that quickly and easily.

  • Custom CoverCards gave visitors a visual cue, as well as a quick text summary. In most cases, the summary answered the main questions a visitor might have about a vendor or zone. (Example: For the festival schedule, “Dachshund Race Starts at 3:00!” For a vendor-specific message, “Today’s Special is Beer Brats with Zippy Cheese Sauce.”)
  • Sponsors are an important part of the event. We needed to make sure they were represented, without overwhelming visitors with a never-ending scroll of sponsor logos. Taking inspiration from Radio and TV, we used the PHY platform’s scheduling capability to create individual events for each sponsor, then rotate them throughout the three-day festival in 3-5 minute intervals (depending on the size of the sponsorship.)

Fourteen days after our first meeting with the event organizers, we delivered a fully-functioning beacon proximity campaign, complete with a native iOS app, a native Android app, 80 content CoverCardsTM (including links to maps, schedules, vendors, rotating sponsors, and promotions), awareness sign graphics, vendor identification graphics, and handout graphics. (The Oktoberfest event organizers handled printing and distribution of the signs.)

  • Wednesday, September 24: Project kickoff
  • Monday, September 26: App and sign designs approved
  • Tuesday, October 4: Eighty CoverCards prepped and ready to associate with beacons
  • Wednesday, October 5: NashOkt iOS app goes live in the App Store on iTunes
  • Thursday, October 6: NashOkt Android app goes live on Google Play
  • Friday, October 7 (the morning of the event): 140 beacons were placed throughout festival grounds that includes 17 zones with 7 beacons each, 5 music stages, 2 VIP areas, 21 selected food vendors, and 8 selected craft vendors and content was associated with each, that was relevant to their location.

The beacon hardware deployment started with the organization of beacons in our PHY Physical Web platform. Folder Organization

Administrators can organize large groups of beacons in folders with the PHY platform.

After importing all 140 beacons’ phyIDs, we grouped each in folders according to location/zone, then function, and labeled each group.

Oktoberfest Beacon Zones

Oktoberfest Beacons were organized in overlapping zones.

  • For festival-wide beacon content (maps, schedules, general promotions, etc.), each zone needed to reach the next zone with some overlap to ensure consistent coverage. Thanks to the “deduping” feature in our phySDK, if an app user was in range of two beacons broadcasting the same content, only one instance of that content was shown in the app.
  • Festival-wide beacons were placed on utility poles in each zone at a height of between 12 and 15 feet. This height helped the signal pass over crowds and vendor carts, providing an even distribution of the signal.
  • Stage and VIP area beacon content was treated as a different type of zone.
  • On stages, the beacons were placed as near center-stage as possible, while VIP tent beacons were placed as central to the main attractions as possible (beer/food).
  • Using the PHY platform’s Range Control, vendor beacons were turned down so as not to overload the visitors with too many options. The range was limited about 50 feet using the PHY platform’s proximity filter. These select vendors were in charge of placing their own beacons for this event. Food trucks sometimes proudly displayed their beacons, while others mounted them to the inside wall. Some vendors chose to place them near registers, while others chose to mount them under a table or just inside the awning of their tents.

Physical Web Discovery


  • Easy Onboarding: Although Chrome on both iOS and Android have Physical Web compatibility, getting newcomers setup to access it can sometimes be a chore. We bypassed that hurdle by giving people easy access to something they were already used to… an app. This approach opened up multiple options for visitors to access content.
  • Physical Web Beacon Installation Utility Pole

    Beacons were placed on utility poles throughout the festival at a height of between 12′ and 15′

    Rapid Development: 14 days from concept to launch a custom branded app for iPhones and another for Android devices.

  • Festival-Wide Access: Thanks to the app’s use of the phySDK and its deduping feature, visitors were able to access information from anywhere throughout the festival with the tap of a button, but without the hassle of seeing duplicate content.
  • Rapid Deployment: We used BKON A-1 beacons, pre-programmed with unique phyIDs. This allowed us to place the beacons first, then associate content with each one later. This remote control feature in the PHY platform literally saved days of labor in beacon configuration. Bonus: It also allowed us to quickly change promotional content throughout the event.
  • Engagement: Between the two apps and Android’s native compatibility with the Physical Web, Oktoberfest Nashville (#OktNash) had more than 75,000 scans.

“Some of our guests who walked through, they were inquiring about it because we had the signage to let them know to download the app. We thoroughly enjoyed being part of it. We enjoyed having it as a nice user-friendly tool to direct traffic our way.”
Owner, The Buns on the Run


If you’re looking for a fast, user-friendly way to share information with a massive number of people on their smartphones, Physical Web beacons deployed and managed with our PHY platform are an ideal pair. In retail, this is called inbound proximity marketing, but the value goes beyond simple inquiries and coupon deliveries. Whether marketers are wanting to persuade, inform, entertain or give users the ability to interact with the places and things nearby, the Physical Web is an ideal solution for any event, venue, or retail store. If you would like to know more about how it can help you connect with your customers, contact us.