Here’s a first look at some "killer" indoor mobile positioning using the Wifarer app on Android at a local museum. A hands-on video, images, and description of the app is provided… enjoy!
A recent article in the local newspaper (see Times Colonist) got my attention. The piece was touting a new mobile experience being offered at the Royal BC Museum. The Museum, thanks to the efforts of Wifarer) have rolled out an interesting free indoor positioning service that visitors can access via their smart phone. Developed by Victoria, B.C. based Wifarer, the application is currently only available for to those use Android mobile devices – I’m assuming the the iOS development environment has limitations that prevent the developer from creating and launching such an app via the iTunes store.
The BC Museum Wifarer Experience – how it works
Visitors to the museum are encouraged to scan a QR code or visit the Google Play store and download the Wifarer mobile app. Once installed and running the application uses Wi-Fi positioning technology to connect the user to a nearby venue and then enjoy an interactive, location aware experience. To use the app at the Museum you don’t need to activate your device’s GPS, rather, the application is run over Wi-Fi (at the museum you will connect your device to the BCmuseumWifarer wifi hotspot) and positioning is determined via wifi positioning techniques. Once running the user can easily start a tour and access loads of information. Hitting the "My location" option takes the user to a map (floor plan) of the venue and reveals the users’ current position on the map with a blue dot. Start walking around and you’ll see the dot moving in real time along with you. Because the Museum venue has 5 floors there’s options to toggle the view to any floor you wish – cool! As you walk around the museum there will be "info" icons popping up periodically, this means that additional information (like a story, audio, or video) is available at the particular location. A wealth of data and media is available about the Museum through the "What’s Here" option, users can quickly view news updates, audio clips, videos and much more through a friendly menu with an extensive list. Finally, simple navigation is also provided via the application. For example, if you need to locate a restroom you can easily do so using the "Directions To" option and the app will return a map display showing a suggested path to take along with text descriptions and distance to target location – cool!
Wifarer Indoor Positioning
The application has been created by Wifarer, Victoria, B.C. and the company already boasts an impressive client list of museums, airports, shopping malls and convention centers, see http://www.wifarer.com. In all honesty, I have to say I’ve never used such an impressive indoor positioning application and the app definitely made me sit back and say WOW! The possibilities are endless and I have to think that the opportunities for shopping malls and convention centers are MASSIVE! I was very impressed with the wealth of information made available via the museum through the app and the experience fits very well with what one would want and expect from such a venue. I imagine walking tours delivered in various languages to museum visitors, games like geocaches can be introduced, visitors will be able to share stories, photos and more through social media, offers and promotions can be delivered through the app and much more. I recall in the past testing various indoor positioning and venue maps (like a shopping mall app and airport apps), however, none of those apps came close to delivering such an immersive and enjoyable experience. I know that in the past, Nokia research had been working on some indoor positioning tests (I was involved in a trial of such Nokia technology at SXSW in Austin, TX a couple of years ago) although again, that test app feel way short of what Wifarer has accomplished here!
Hands On Video using Wifarer at the Royal B.C Museum
For the Royal BC Museum this is truly a huge win. The Museum now adds even more cutting edge technology to their experience and they have also used local technology to make it all happen. The Museum has been very open and engaged with the public over the past year, taking to social media to expand their reach, inviting journalists and others into the Museum for special behind the scenes previews (I’ve been an invited guest to several of these awesome events myself) and now adding yet another option for guests to enjoy their visit and have a truly immersive experience… well done. For more about the Royal B.C. Museum see http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca and also follow on Twitter @RoyalBCmuseum
What I like Most About the App:
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to the topic of indoor positioning.. the possibilities are just endless! Imagine the uses for coupon delivery or Groupon-style partnerships, and then there’s the topic of use in emergency response… imagine firefighters and first responders using these apps when running through a smokey building etc… quite impressive. Overall the most compelling features of this particular app I thought were:
- The speed and quick response time of the positioning
- The navigation and routing provided – a secondary feature but really killer
- Taking advantage of WiFi positioning. No data connection is needed and smartphone users don’t have to activate their battery draining GPS
- The incredible amount of data and media that can be delivered via the app
- The immersive experience was so much fun
- Ease of use.. really, anyone can use this app
- The endless possible uses and possibilities to monetize the app
- The packaging and branding.. the app is branded perfectly for the Museum in this case, right from the get go when users can load via QR code, then the WiFi hotspot is co-branded (in this case it was obvious that I select the WifarerMuseum hotspot
About Wifarer… The company has developed revolutionary and proprietary technology that enables accurate navigation and path finding within a venue, where GPS does not effectively function. Our technology provides venues with the ability to guide, assist and communicate with their visitors in ways never before possible. Wifarer works closely with academic and government institutions, including the University of Victoria and the National Research Council of Canada. Find more about Wifarer online at http://www.wifarer.com and on Twitter @wifarer
Simply instal and run the Wifarer app on your Android mobile
The app will detect venues nearby
The Wifarer custom app for the Royal B.C. Museum
Routing through the venue provides distance and directions
Handy info tips are provided at "hot spots"
A wealth of media is delivered to the end user
An indoor positioning system (IPS) is a term used for a network of devices used to wirelessly locate objects or people inside a building (Source: Wikipedia)