Conquering COVID – Mobile Apps, GPS and Tourism
Right before COVID hit, we completed research with the European Space Agency showing it is possible to use space assets such as GPS in mobile apps to trigger Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, delivering a targeted, location-driven and immersive experience for visitor attractions. Flo-culture’s innovative approach was to create a customizable system that can be easily modified and deployed at an affordable price. The last 6 months have rendered mobile apps that can monitor and manage visitor placement and real-time movement more of a must-have than a nice-to-have for attractions. Businesses are now not only challenged with providing entertaining and educational offers but must also address the increased scrutiny on keeping their customers safe and protected.
Please Touch museums are out and contactless QR codes are making the best comeback since Churchill told Lady Astor he would drink the coffee.
As recently as January this year, my girlfriend and I visited St Andrews Castle in Fife. It was business as usual, she paid with cash, we picked up paper tickets, paper guides and big dodgy headsets to listen to audio snippets on some outdated, slightly sticky handheld device.
Well, other than her paying, these days are already long gone. In the wake of COVID-19, visitor safety will be the top priority. Attractions will strive to implement new hygiene and operational standards to ensure guests feel safe and secure. In fact, they will have to. The UK’s We’re Good to Go scheme is already puffing out the ole white smoke for visitor attractions that follow Government and industry guidelines and have a process in place to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing.
Digital technology is often seen as a double-edged sword by visitor attractions but can now help visitor attractions adapt following COVID? Mobile Apps will take on an increasingly important, and useful, role for attractions and their visitors in the post-COVID world. The challenge: how do you keep wary and concerned visitors educated, entertained, safe and likely to return?
In a recent government survey, nearly 90% of respondents who regularly visit attractions said that in the post-COVID world, they 1) would prefer self-guided vs guided tours, and 2) would prefer to use mobile apps on their own device vs one provided by the attraction.
While COVID remains a significant challenge, we are excited to be well down the road in developing products that will address many of the tourist industry’s COVID-driven pains relating to visitor management and customer satisfaction. Using real-time GPS mapping, attractions will be able to monitor occupancy limits and bottle-necks and will be able to provide automated notifications to their visitors, on their own mobile devices, helping them avoid lines/queues and stay safe. With GPS precision for the mass markets now down to around 1 meter, we can also help businesses bring their attractions to life using GPS to trigger 3D directions, and tell their stories in a more innovative and immersive manner than before.
Even Mark Zuckerberg has decided to follow Flo-culture’s lead, with Facebook currently plowing hundreds of millions into making a spectacle of themselves with Facebook Ray-Bans. They do not have AR incorporated yet but have hundreds of researchers walking the streets figuring out how to provide “a feeling of presence” with the limitations of COVID in mind.
With the world of travel slowly opening again, new protocols will have to be introduced for tours and attractions to ensure both visitors and staff feel safe and protected. The desire that experiences be contactless, yet interactive, provides a great opportunity for we self-proclaimed vanguards of technology-driven solutions, to develop mobile apps which provide safety, education, and immersive experiences through a seamless combination of physical and digital.