Industry:Interactive Solutions for Museums
Revenue: $ 1.5 million
Employees: Over 350
Duration:two-phase, 5 months and 8 months
Team included: System architects, Senior software developers, QA engineers, Project manager, UI/UX Designer
SivinTech Group is a software development company with a strong team of senior experts, catering for its global clientele with innovative cost-effective solutions across different industry verticals.We take you from potential to performance, help you develop your business with planning, architecture, design, development, QA and customer support.
For EMLink client SivinTech takes on engineering challenges for a customer to help him bring usual museum audio tours to a next level.
Customer company specializes on building audio tours and guides for world museums of all sizes. General museum audio guide system includes a piece of hardware with connected headphones, playing audio content while visitor is going through an exhibit. An ordinary guide has been around since 90-s, and while those devices were becoming more and more interactive, getting closer to a smartphone, general principle was always the same. And now, something bigger has to be added in order to win the competition. Customer clearly understood what they need to do to push their product further: a new level of interactivity had to be created — a channel of communication between the audio guide and an exhibit showpiece.
Two key points were highlighted:
- Location awareness. Device has to detect which room it is currently located in, and perfectly break it down to individual room areas.
- Showpiece communication. Showpiece should be able to "talk with a guide" for it to react on certain events which are pre-orchestrated to create exciting experiences. One-way communication was only necessary since there is usually many visitors in one room, and there was little value in allowing one individual visitor to impact an exhibit. Modern technology could give a smart architect great freedom, but no magic would happen if solution is pricey. While individual exhibits in world's top museums are sometimes very technological, a general solution absolutely must have a justified price. More, it becomes much less attractive for a museum superintendent if he has to replace existing guides, buying hundreds of new devices for an upgrade. At the moment of EmLink kick-off museums usually had a rich family of different guides, varying from iPod Touch to a custom device, and each device was usually running a custom museum application in a single-app mode.Since customer company knew market outlet very well, they managed to quickly create a generified guide device profile.
Such device is:
- Often not directly connected to a network, either Internet or a museum LAN.
- Usually has, or reasonably easy upgraded to have, a Bluetooth v4 module. Bluetooth version is critically important here since v4 enables so-called Bluetooth Low Energy profile which is a modern de-facto standard for today's bluetooth-enabled devices.
Running a programmed museum guide application. Such application is usually an iOS-native, Android-native, or based on Apache Cordova, also known as PhoneGap, a framework allowing hybrid cross-platform mobile applications.
Very soon a clear solution became visible. Customer wanted to create small beacon device, which is able to broadcast a BTLE signal, and place those beacons over designated points of interest, all over the museum public area. Interpolating beacon signal, a guide device could understand its location and enable it's interactive options. At a second stage of the project, custom data could be included as part of this broadcast, finishing the original idea of creating even more spectacular tours just for everyone.
Next, customer realized that more existing museum problems could be solved with this system. One of them is security: such system could prevent occasional trespassing or protect guides from visitors unintentionally forgetting to return them after finishing their visit. And a few more planning and monitoring capabilities could also be added for museum staff, which was also a goal of a second phase of the project.
Such solution should be a set of pluggable modules and applications which customer could utilize to build end solutions for each particular museum they serve.
So during all phases of this project SivinTech agreed to:
- Conduct a technical investigation and create a proof-of-concept for a museum guide having local position awareness capabilities and real-time data transfer.
- Create embeddable modules for all target guide platforms, enabling 3rd-party developers to easily utilize all interactivity features in all kinds applications they build for museums.
- Create a beacon firmware.
- Create a solution for configuring Points of Interest and zones for a museum exhibit, available as a standalone web-application.
- Create a solution for museum security and service staff, allowing them to monitor available guides. This application should be available as a standalone web application or a set of embeddable modules to include into existing museum security applications.
Create a solution for customer employees and subcontractors to manage interactivity information, passing it to a private endpoint, and receiving on each guide device when they approach a designated point in a real time.
- implement necessary DevOps harness for seamless management of hundreds of beacons, including initial setup, automatic configuration propagation, updates etc.
It should be noted that currently room awareness is usually implemented in a similar fashion, using Apple's iBeacon. SivinTech choose custom implementation since:
1. iBeacon pieces are not connected and don't transfer arbitrary data to a devices.
2. We couldn't use it anyway. EmLink actually happened before iBeacon was introduced.
The simplest example of real-time interactivity is a TV screen, playing additional narrative in a museum hall. Museum visitor now should remove his headphones which come with the guide to hear the speaker. But with current video timestamp translated to a device, same video on a device can be not only automatically started when visitor enters this room, but also immediately synchronized with the screen, providing comfortable non-intrusive experience.
Security officers are now able to easily monitor what is happening with the guides. Software modules on guide devices allow an alarm to be started when certain event occurs, a non-mutable sound on device speakers, including screen lock with showing instructions message, telling what exactly happened and what to do now. And in some end applications it is even immediately transferred to a security terminal, showing which alarm is triggered, why, when and where.
Few solution modules are available as a standalone web and mobile applications only. Those are configurations tools, used to produce internal configurations, mapping museum exhibits to points of interest, creating zones, choosing optimal beacons placement, and doing other job necessary to build.
After investigation and implementation of phases customer has received a new competitive advantage, being able to bring a product of a new quality to the market. During final stages of the project a solution built by SivinTech tied other parts built by customer's subcontractors into a single integrated system, now consistently serving thousands of visitors in one of the world's most recognized museum.