19th of April, 2016

Adelaide Zoo first zoo in Australia to roll out iBeacon technology

 

 

An exciting new technology which will allow Adelaide Zoo visitors to access location-specific information about the Zoo, its animals and conservation work at the touch of a button will be launched this year.

In partnership with the Specialist Apps Company, Adelaide Zoo is introducing enhanced content, straight to Bluetooth-enabled devices through iBeacon and eLocker technologies.

Visitors will be able to download an App and then access a range of experiences at different locations around the Zoo through their Apple and android devices.

The general public and students of all ages will have access to location-specific information based on video, audio and text-based media.

Students will be able to access learning trails and use their personalized experiences back in the classroom to continue their learning about animals and conservation.

iBeacons are small transmitters which utilize Bluetooth and wifi to detect nearby devices subscribed to a specific app and provide notifications of available information.

 

 

iBeacons trigger messages on visitor devices, alerting them to points of interest around the Zoo and providing interesting and practical information such as species facts, the location of the closest facilities and educational tools.

Zoos SA Zoo Learning General Manager Jonathan Noble said the new technology would be a fantastic educational tool, allowing students to unlock previously unseen information and use it to learn about important animal and conservation issues.

“The app can be adapted for various visitor types including general visitors, international tourists and school groups,” Jonathan said.

“Learning opportunities for students at the Zoo will be transformed with the app to provide an interactive learning experience including quiz’s, games and information.”

 

 

iBeacons and eLockers and are being used by many leading museums and galleries around the world including the National Trust of South Australia and the Sovereign Hill Museums Association in Ballarat to bring tours to life and provide contextual resources as well as to highlight the latest news or other interesting facts at the touch of a button.

The new technology is expected to be introduced at Adelaide Zoo in the later part of this year with new learning trails added in 2017.

Geoff Elwood, CEO of Specialist Apps said "This is a really exciting new chapter for us!   The use case for an interactive beacon driven mobile application in Zoos is obvious.   We are very excited to be working with the brilliant and passionate folks at the Adelaide Zoo!  And the best part about this new initiative for me at a personal level, is that it gives me even more of an excuse to come and visit the giant Pandas!   :)"

Zoos South Australia are a not-for-profit conservation organisation. They provide conservation education, as well as supporting and conducting many conservation, breeding and research programs. As part of these conservation efforts, they run Adelaide and Monarto Zoos. They work within the WAZA guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals.

Wednesday 24th February, 2016

University of Adelaide rolls out iBeacons and proximity technology for campus tours

The University of Adelaide, in collaboration with Specialist Apps, has become the first university in the world to develop a guided, interactive campus tour app utilising the leading-edge technology of iBeacons and Proximity eLockers.

The campus tour for smartphones and tablets has been installed across the University's North Terrace campus.

The new app, called UA Xplorer, provides a unique, tailored tour experience that can be used either while on campus or from afar.

 

"UA Xplorer is ideal for prospective students and their families who can't visit the University, or for visitors who will be given site-specific information as they walk around campus," says Professor Pascale Quester, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) at the University of Adelaide.

"The app – which interacts with iBeacons and proximity technology at 17 different locations across campus – helps to give people a better understanding of the history, heritage and state-of-the-art facilities at the University.

“The introduction of this new app is another example of how we are working to engage future students at the University, as well as many visitors to our campus. Importantly it can also be used to visit the campus even without leaving your own home.”

Information in the app is targeted to three specific audiences: high school students, general visitors, and parents or guardians.

 

The University of Adelaide is the latest organisation to utilise eLockers and iBeacons on campus, with the technology also in use by leading schools, museums, zoos and public spaces around the world, including the National Trust of South Australia, The Science Centre in Singapore, and the Stadtmuseum of Aarau, Switzerland.

Geoff Elwood, founder and CEO of Specialist Apps, the original developers of eLockers and iBeacons, said: “We are delighted to be working with the University of Adelaide. It is wonderful to be working with such an iconic institution in South Australia. It is indeed very exciting to be involved in bringing leading-edge proximity based technology to one of Australia's leading universities.

"This is a further major milestone for us in South Australia and in the development of intelligent, context and location aware campus tour smartphone apps, making use of beacon and geolocation technology.

"iBeacons and Proximity eLockers are technologies that can greatly enhance a visitor’s experience to a university campus."

6th January 2016

Visitor Engagement and Learning with Beacons

The quiet time over Christmas and New Year in Australia is always a great time to relax, recharge and reflect.

2015 was an incredible year for us in many ways. I got the chance to visit many countries, and we scored a heap of new projects and contacts around the world, but I think the most valuable experience of the past 12 months has been the massive amount of development and learning we have done along the way.

As we enter 2016, a number of major projects from last year are just coming on stream, some of which are yet to be officially announced or promoted.   Practically all of these projects involve Beacons, Proximity and an intelligent visitor engagement App of some kind, whether it be for a Museum, a Zoo, a School or University Campus Tour or an Interpretation Trail.

There are common threads running through each of these projects, with parallel requirements and issues that have needed to be solved as the projects have evolved.

Sustainability

Without doubt, one of the key concerns for anyone delivering a new visitor engagement App is sustainability.   There has been a litany of “cool” looking projects that hit the App store in a burst of fanfare, only to vanish 6 months after inception, simply because the content of the App cannot be maintained or refreshed on a regular and on-going basis.

If curators and managers need to go back to developers each time they want to update content or information in an App, it is not a sustainable model.

Trails / User Profiles

Context is king.  The ability to push information to a visitor at a specific point in time at a specific location adds an incredibly exciting new dimension to visitor engagement.  It is made all that more powerful and meaningful when the user has the ability to personalize the experience to their preferences.   A simple mechanism that has evolved to enable this is asking the user to select their “visitor profile” when the App first launches.   Content delivered through alerts, beacons, events and maps is then all tailored and customized based on that user’s selected profile.

Accessibility

Traditionally one of the most complex and difficult tasks for any public institution is the requirement to cater for visitors with special needs.  A contextually aware visitor engagement App can help solve some of this complexity by tailoring content delivery to a visitor’s needs.   For example, if a visitor has an audio impairment, close caption titles can be automatically enabled on videos presented through the App.  

For historic institutions such as Sovereign Hill that are not readily able to provide wheelchair access to mines, cottages or older buildings, beacons located at street level can provide wheelchair bound visitors with information about the areas they cannot otherwise reach.

 Language

Possibly the single greatest need and justification for a Visitor Engagement App at a public institution is the ability to present information to the visitor in the language of their choice.

We have developed a number of approaches to address this requirement, depending on each clients specific needs.   For example, a large museum in Singapore is delivering interpretation text to visitors in the language of their choice (English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil) through a simple lookup code and through map references.  Beacons are used predominantly for general exhibit information and event notification.  The use of a simple lookup code avoided the need to install and configure many thousands of beacons within a very short timeframe and provided a relatively low-tech solution to a very real problem.   

Another example is the work currently underway with the Bendigo Tramways following a successful feasibility study, to deliver interactive talking tours in English and Chinese that are triggered by beacons located along the tram path.

Others such as the Stadtmuseum Aarau (Switzerland) and Sovereign Hill have addressed language delivery through extended visitor trails, where the trail chosen is automatically switched to the respective language and the user is then guided to points of interest in their language. 

Each of these approaches has certain advantages depending on the clients individual needs, but they each leverage an underpinning content management architecture (Proximity eLockers) that has evolved extensively over the past 12 months to cater for such requirements.

 

Mapping

A relatively obvious use for beacon technology is the ability to provide interactive maps in indoor locations.  Given some of the physical constraints of beacons, we are not advocating GPS style location tracking using beacon triangulation.  Rather, we are able to employ beacons to show “nearest” or “last known” location, and points of interest nearby.  Beacons can reliably be used to automatically select map sections in a large building complex, and more importantly can be dynamically enabled / disabled based on a user’s trail / profile selection.  

For example, specific pathways and recommended points of interest can be dynamically enabled on an interactive map based on the type of trail a user has selected.

Templates

As already mentioned above, the ability to push information to a visitor at a specific point in time at a specific location adds a fantastic new dimension to visitor engagement… however a key point to consider is what KIND of information you are pushing to the visitor!?   There is not a great deal of point simply showing an image of the same physical item that the visitor is viewing for example.  Providing a deeper description of the object (or animal or plant) in question is one of our key goals, and providing tools so that curators can quickly create rich and meaningful information “packets” is key. 

Throughout the past year we have learnt a great deal about how to present rich content including all sorts of forms of media to visitors on various different handset sizes and screen resolutions (and OS platforms).  Some of the most exciting developments include the ability to quickly embed YouTube, WebLinks and iTunesU links and even the ability to provide “suggested” or “recommended” third party Apps for visitors to download.  Further templates have been developed to support interactive quiz elements, dynamic questionnaires, and of course Rich Text Media.

 

The importance of caching

And finally, once an interactive Visitor Engagement App has been created and is stoked full of rich, interactive and context based information it is absolutely VITAL that this can be delivered to a visitor in a timely and seamless manner.   There is no point producing the world’s next Star Wars movie if it will only play on 5% of the world’s cinemas!  :)   To this end, a critical design factor from the outset is to take into account what kind of wifi / internet access is possible at the institution in question.  In several of our recent projects, WIFI connectivity was patchy or non-existent, so strategies for content pre-caching had to be developed.   This is still an on-going exercise in continual improvement, and there is no magic solution to trying to send a 500Mb video file down a 3G connection, but each new iteration of our Proximity eLockers platform provides faster and simpler ways of tackling an extremely complex problem.

 

Rolling in to 2016!

2016 is already shaping up to be a MEGA year with lots of exciting new projects on the way and more in the pipeline.   The great news is that with each new project, and with each new use case that we explore with Beacons and Proximity and Intelligent Context Management,  more and more possibilities emerge!   When I look back at what we were doing in January 2015, I am blown away by how far we have come in such a short time.

It will be fascinating to look back again in 12 months time to see how much the space and the technology has evolved.

If your interested to know more specifics about some of the projects mentioned above, feel free to ping me a note… happy to share and brainstorm ideas!  :) 

13th October 2015

Prospective parents who attended the Haileybury School Tour at the Castlefield (Brighton) Campus last Saturday were treated to another Australian first.   A purpose built campus tour App utilising the very latest iBeacon technology was used to enhance and augment the tour showcasing students achievements and school facilities.

Each attending family was provided an iPad to assist them during the tour.  Whilst the tour facilitators guided the groups around the school, iBeacons located at key locations triggered specific content to appear on the tour iPads.

The Campus Tour App utilises the eLockers content management solution and allows teaching staff and senior management to quickly and easily “pin” examples of student activities and work to specific beacons.  

Scott Doran, Head of Castlefield Campus said “This is another example of how Haileybury integrates cutting edge technology to enhance teaching and learning across the school.   The ability to showcase our student’s achievements at specific locations to relevant target audiences is just the beginning.”

Geoff Elwood, CEO of Specialist Apps, creators of the Campus Tour App and eLockers platform said “It’s staggering just how many applications there are for proximity aware Apps.  We have already seen the tangible benefits of adopting Beacons in the daily teaching and learning practise at the school, with teachers providing richer lessons and saving valuable time ..  Now, with iBeacons deployed across the Castlefield Campus there are many new opportunities to further enhance school life.  The iBeacons can not only augment School Tours, but can be used for new student induction, directions and alerts.   This is just the beginning on an exciting new era, and pioneering schools like Haileybury are leading the way”