2012 – a year of growing mobile interpretation

South Downs mobile interpretation

South Downs mobile digital interpretation

In 2012 UK many heritage organisations, government funded bodies and NGOs have seen dramatic budget cuts. What this probably means for traditional interpretation is that the days of costly A0 sized interpretation boards may be numbered, as mobile interpretation takes over.

These budget cuts have been coupled with the rise in smartphones as the everyday device that people use to manage their whole lives and to network with friends. 54% of people in the UK now own a smartphone, and an estimated 6 million more smartphones will be sold this Xmas. I think it’s inevitable that mobile apps and mobile scanning will become even more popular and a major factor in future interpretation over the next few years (the average person now has over 40 apps on their mobile and spends 90 minutes PER DAY using apps). Most people now have their mobile with them 24/7 and 81% of people keep them on 24 hours a day!

Whilst it’s true that digital rather than traditional interpretation is closer to my heart, it’s also true that the number of calls received in the last 3 months out of the blue has increased almost exponentially. These calls have been mostly from heritage organisations seeking to understand more about mobile interpretation options. I think the key reason for this interest is simply cost, as developing half a dozen mobile web pages or a mobile App for visitor points of interest, scanned from a QR code or NFC Tag, can be created for about the same cost as one big interpretation board.

QR codes are still gaining in popularity (almost 90% awareness), and are now starting to appear more in outdoor trail environments, such as the South Downs Way, Montgomery trail and Ashdown Forest walking routes. The future of QR codes looks bright as an easily underdood simple link to online or text based content where there is no mobile signal.

NFC Tags are a little more problematical, as Apple decided not to include NFC Tag scanning in their latest iPhone 6. However, Apple DID include NFC payment with Apple Passbook. With an estimated 150,000 UK stores taking NFC enabled mobile payments within the next 3 months (Tesco, Waitrose and Boots included), then NFC is sure to take off in the next two years, especially as NGC Tags are cheap and waterproof and content links can can be locked. They can also be programmed to do complex stuff such as open pre-installed apps, open up GPS, switch on mobile Wi-Fi search etc, all from one NFC Tag!

Augmented Reality (AR) is the big newcomer to interpretation. Geo-triggered AR is a bit too complex and costly currently, but simple visual AR is winning out in interest. Visual AR will be featured on the South Downs from Xmas 2012, as it only requires an AR app and mobile camera, and therefore works just like QR code scanning that mobile users are already accustomed to. Start building QR code, NFC and AR readers into new mobile trail apps and this will gain even more appeal with smartphone users.

It’s not clear yet whether QR codes, NFC Tags, AR or another mobile technology will dominate by 2015. However, by providing a combination of all of these on attractively designed interpretation signs, plus text and information for non mobile users, then at least there is a good chance of future-proofing mobile interpretation materials that naturally  allow low-cost coverage of many more visitor points of interest not currently covered.

Mobile connectivity remains an issue in more remote areas. However, by using text only options for mobiles, such as a quiz or geocache trail where no mobile signal is required, then mobiles still have a place. For this reason mobile Wi-Fi booster solutions (including wind and solar powered) are also gaining in interest to help improve mobile signals in remoter areas. The recently launched 4G network will also help mobile connectivity as it rolls out to 98% of the UK population over the next two years, with a mimimum 4 mile range from most mobile masts.

Finally, the fact that many mobile phone providers are offering a smartphone, talk plan and decent mobile web browsing from £5 per month, means even the poorer sections of our communities can also be included in the digital interpretation revolution.

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Heritage sector QR code survey research results

QR codes wanted to scan near you…

New research undertaken by ITiC shows that QR codes are well received in the UK.
The online research is still running and you are welcome to contribute – click here

The research, run throughout June, gathered over 70 responses through around 4,000 email, online and social media link recipients. The key conclusions showed that QR codes have a great future ahead of them for use in the Heritage and Conservation sectors, offering easy on-site interpretation for visitors using any mobile phone with a built-in camera, QR code reader and mobile internet access.

Image

Other conclusions from the research asking about QR codes at heritage locations showed:

  • People wanted QR codes to add benefit through access to new information online
  • They recognised new interpretation locations could be added easily by using QR codes
  • Need for  links from QR codes to web pages and interactive content, video and games
  • Good response to QR codes linked to an audio trail for a better flavour of a heritage site
  • A useful idea to combine QR codes into a mobile phone ‘app’ and map to download
  • The main reason people didn’t scan QR codes already was just they didn’t know how!
  • The ability to download a free mobile QR reader was useful e.g. www.i-nigma.mobi

If you would like to see more about the second research stage with on-site QR codes on the South Downs, please visit www.itsinconservation.co.uk

If you would like to know more about all of the QR Code research results, they will be presented by Andrew Kerry-Bedell at the Association for Heritage Interpretation 2012 Conference, 17th to 19th October, at Hawkstone Park, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. For more details click here

Posted in Conservation, Heritage, online technology, QR codes, research, South Downs National Park, South Downs Way, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Downs National Park enters QR Code trials

Walking theSouth Downs Way

Walking the South Downs

The South Downs gets QR codes

The South Downs National Park has become part of a special new QR code research project being run by IT’s in Conservation (ITiC) as part of a Building Conservation MSc project through the Weald and Downland Museum.

A dozen or more QR codes are due to be sited at key locations along the South Downs Way in the South Downs National Park. ITiC will be asking for help from walkers and visitors to the park to understand in detail how QR codes can best provide interesting online information for future visitors to UK outdoor heritage sites.

Also included are YouTube channel videos, plus two minute online audio introductions:

The overall aim of the research is to see how QR codes can best help visitors to appreciate our unique buildings, conservation and heritage, and to aid people of all ages in understanding our history and culture more deeply.

Visitors are asked to fill in an online research questionnaire – See it here

For more details on this QR initiative see www.itsinconservation.co.uk

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Four heritage sites get QR Codes to aid visitor interpretation

Using QR Codes at Heritage sites

Dover Castle
Dover Castle in Kent

What the heritage sector is rapidly recognising is that there’s great potential in the use of low cost, small square Quick Response (QR) codes, that have already appeared regularly in magazines, to help people that visit UK heritage sites interpret them better. A special new QR code research project is now being run by IT’s in Conservation (ITiC) as part of a Building Conservation MSc project through the Weald and Downland Museum.

To do this a trial of  over 70 QR codes is being run at key locations across four selected UK heritage sites in the South of England. ITiC is asking for help from site visitors to understand in detail how QR codes can best provide interesting online information for future visitors to UK heritage sites.

Most of the QR codes sited will link to small web pages that are fast to download and easy for visitors to browse on their mobile when they reach a key point of interest. Also being trialled from June to August 2012 is an interactive trebuchet game linked to Dover Castle and a QR code quiz trail at Bramber Castle.

Also included for each site are YouTube channel videos, plus two minute online audio guides for the key properties:

The overall aim of the research is to see how QR codes can best help visitors to appreciate our unique buildings, conservation and heritage, and to aid people of all ages in understanding our history and culture more deeply.

Visitors are asked to fill in an online research questionnaire – See it here

For more details on this QR initiative see www.itsinconservation.co.uk

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Quick Response Codes Audio Guides

scanning a QR code on the South Downs

scanning a s waterproof QR code on the South Downs

To help explain a bit more about why IT’s in Conservation is trialing the use of small black and white square Quick Response (QR) codes at a number of heritage sites, three audio guides have been produced below:

Each is about two minutes long and explains what the QR code research project is all about, how visitors to heritge sites will be able to scan the QR codes, plus information on the 5 minute online research survey we are asking heritage site visitors to undertake.

The research trial will run from June through to the end of August, and the aim is to collate the results into an MSc dissertation that will be finalised in September.

For more information go to www.itsinconservation.co.uk

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More voices on the South Downs – Woodlands

More from the Landshapers series, short audio accompaniments created as a background to the beautiful landscape of the the South Downs National Park and the South Downs Way National Trail.

This third set gives voice to people who manage and understand the woodlands on the South Downs:

Hear the other audio accompaniments in the series

These one to two minute audio tracks give voice to real people’s stories and thoughts of how their lives on the South Downs continue to shape the landscape we see today and how the South Downs landscape evolved, to help us further our understanding of this remarkable place.

For more details see www.nationaltrail.co.uk/southdowns

All audio is copyright South Downs Way National Trail

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More voices from the South Downs – Sheep Farmers

As part of the Landshapers series, a range of short audio accompaniments were created as a background to the beautiful landscape of the the South Downs National Park and the South Downs Way National Trail.

The second set gives voice to sheep farmers on the varied landscape of the South Downs:

Hear the other audio accompaniments in the series

These one to two minute audio tracks give voice to sheep farmers and conservationist’s stories and thoughts of how their lives on the South Downs continue to shape the landscape we see today and how the South Downs landscape evolved, to help us further our understanding of this remarkable place.

For more details see www.nationaltrail.co.uk/southdowns

All audio is copyright South Downs Way National Trail

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