Tag Archives: Connectivity

No Cell Service or Wi-Fi? No Problem.

26 Nov

TourSphere apps are web-based, which means that they require either cell service or wi-fi so that the user can download and use the app live at the site of the tour. We have many clients, like parks or sites with bad cell phone service, who ask us if there are any options for them to use a TourSphere app. Our answer? Of course! When your site has no cell service or wi-fi, there are three options to consider.

Create a Native iPhone and/or Android App

The advantage of native iPhone and Android apps is that they are downloaded onto a mobile device as bundled content, and don’t require the streaming that a web app requires. This means once they’re downloaded onto the user’s phone, he or she can utilize the full-featured app no matter what type of service or wi-fi is available. In fact, we can actually convert your TourSphere app into an Android or iPhone app to accommodate sites with no wi-fi or cell service.

While this seems like the perfect solution for our clients without cell service or wi-fi, there are a few disadvantages to this option. Apps with audio and video can take up a lot of space on a mobile device. Plus, they require the user to plan ahead, which is a gamble. If the visitor doesn’t check your website to discover you have an app available, they may miss the opportunity to use it, because it won’t be accessible on-site. Finally, choosing either an iPhone or Android app can make your app unavailable to those users without that particular device, where a web app is accessible to all users with web-enabled devices.

Provide On-Site Devices for Users

Many museums and tourist sites provide iPod Touches or iPads for their visitors and pre-load their iPhone app onto the device. These devices are then either loaned or rented to visitors. Providing pre-loaded devices solves the planning issue for visitors, since they can arrive on site with nothing on their phone and still access the app via a borrowed device. This can also provide a stream of revenue for your site, if you choose to charge for the rentals. By providing the pre-loaded app on a device, you can enhance the visitor experience for every visitor instead of just those with access to your app via their own device.

However, providing hardware has its cons as well. There is a significant up-front cost to buying hardware to lend to your museum visitors. There’s also a staff burden in keeping the devices maintained and updated, as well as keeping track of the devices once they’re loaned out. Finally, the staff needs to make sure that they update each device individually when there is any update to the iPhone app, which can be time-consuming.

In 2013, TourSphere will be introducing a solution to this issue by providing a new native app publishing method for on-site devices. This solution will allow for remote and automatic app updates, reducing staff time spent maintaining the apps.

iPad Kiosks

The third option for museums and tourism sites that don’t have wi-fi or cell service is to put the tour directly into exhibits and on-site with iPad Kiosks. Traditionally, kiosks are extremely expensive pieces of hardware, but by building a TourSphere app for an iPad and mounting it directly into the exhibit, you’ve created the same opportunity for learning and information as an app on the user’s mobile device, but don’t require the user to access the information on their own phone.

iPad Kiosks basically provide a touch-screen display at a minimal price as compared to a traditional kiosk. The app can also be locked so that users can only view what’s available to them and not surf the Internet or access other programs. While the tour is not in the hand of the user, it provides an excellent and low-maintenance way of providing interactive, engaging information for your exhibit.

If you’re interested in web apps but don’t have wi-fi or cell service on site, contact the TourSphere team for additional information about your options.

 

Connectivity for Visitors (Part II)

10 Feb

Connectivity for Visitors Part II

This multi-part series about connectivity will shed some light on the multifaceted challenges you need to overcome to provide a solid Internet connection for all your visitors. Part I was mostly about the general approach and to give a technology overview. If you have any specific questions about connectivity, you would like us to write about, please feel free to comment on this article and we will try to answer these questions. In this second part of the series, I want to talk more about WiFi in museums.

We are accustomed to having WiFi at home. It’s an easy and convenient way to hook up all the devices that require an internet connection – our laptops, smartphones, internet radios, internet TV, and, most recently, even our thermostats (http://www.nest.com).

Our home networks are (or should be) encrypted using the so called WPA2 standard (for the interested reader who wants to know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi_Protected_Access). Meaning, every device connecting to our router must send the password in order to get network access. Most people forget that they have entered this password into their various devices at some point, because it gets stored locally on the devices. Be assured, it is there and keeps your home network safe from neighbors who don’t have their own broadband internet connection and like to use yours.

A publicly available network or open network in a museum is a different sort of thing. You would like to grant access to the network without your visitors having to enter passwords, etc. Also the amount of devices connecting to your network will probably exceed the number of devices you have at home by orders of magnitude.

For easy setups with off-the-shelf WiFi routers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the broadband connection good enough to be shared with a lot of people? Think of all these smartphones as small computers (that’s what they really are).
  • Do you need a separate WiFi network for your operations that is decoupled from your public network? You don’t want people to browse through the shared documents that are shared between your staff, do you?
  • How much streaming content are you offering to your visitors? If you have very video-heavy applications, be prepared to have the bandwidth available.
  • How big is my museum? How thick are the walls? Can I get access from each and every corner of my museum?

If you want to get a little more sophisticated with your WiFi setup, you should check out high-power indoor Wifi devices such as the ECB3500 from Engenius.

Also, be aware that you can extend existing WiFi networks with additional routers to cover the more difficult spots in your location. If you have any questions regarding WiFi setups, you can also contact us at www.toursphere.com/contact to discuss your specific situation.

Connectivity for Visitors (Part I)

24 Jan

Connectivity for Visitors (Part 1)

This multi-part series about connectivity will shed some light on the multifaceted challenges you need to overcome to provide a solid Internet connection for all your visitors. Part I is mostly about the general approach, plus a technology overview. The parts after this will talk about specific solutions for common situations.

If you have any specific questions about connectivity that you would like me to write about, please feel free to comment on this article, and we will try to answer your questions.

When talking to museums about connectivity, we often hear that they “have” WiFi and therefore it’s not problem to give all visitors Internet access.This assumption is not necessarily correct. In fact, it’s not correct for most locations that have heavy traffic.

If you happen to work for an institution that sees about 30-100 people daily, don’t bother to read on. You’re probably fine with the WiFi configuration the way it is as long as not all of these people show up at the same time.

For all others, at least spend some time to think about the implications for your organization.

These are the main factors to consider when planning a WiFi network for visitors:

Speed-related

  • Connection speed of the overall broadband connection that comes into the building
  • Number of lines
  • Base load on that connection for the institution’s operations
  • How many visitors need to use the connection at the same time? (Peak & average)

Content-realated

  • Does the content you are providing require a lot streaming (e.g. audio,video)?
  • Are visitors just consuming data (e.g. taking a tour) or are they also uploading data (surveys, gaming activity, etc.)

Security-related

  • WiFi with password vs. open access point
  • Separation of the internal network (staff/private) from the visitors network (public)

Infrastructure-related

  • Do you have an IT person or a system administrator?
  • How large is your institution (square footage) and what is the general layout of the place (multi-story building, thick walls, underground)?

In the next parts of this series I will talk more about the impact the answers to these questions have on the planning process.

Subscribe to this blog if you don’t want to miss the other parts of this series. Do you have questions about your WiFi connection? Leave a comment and I will try to address specific questions.

%d bloggers like this: