Tag Archives: Hardware

Smart Resolutions: Three Things You Must Do in 2013 to Simplify Your Audience Engagement

4 Jan

01.06.2012-IslandLivingStupidNewYearsResolutionsToForgetAndACoupleGoodOnesToKeepAh, New Year’s resolution time. In our personal life, we often resolve to eat healthier, be kinder or make those phone calls to long lost friends once a month. But professional resolutions can provide a boost to your year as well. All resolutioned out? Don’t worry; we’ve come up with three social media resolutions for you for 2013. Make these three simple new year’s resolutions for your social media program this year and ensure that your organization will be more engaged by the time the ball drops again!

Get Sane About Your Social Media
If you’re still logging into Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest separately to post, and posting in real time all the time, it’s time to save your sanity and get a social media dashboard. As more social networks crop up, it’s increasingly important to maximize your time and control over your social presence by using an integrated dashboard that allows you to post to multiple networks, schedule posts and review your statistics. A good dashboard also allows you to keep tabs on important search terms, hashtags, mentions and other relevant details that allow you to engage effectively with your audience.

If you’ve been itching for a dashboard but aren’t sure where to start, we have some suggestions for you (no excuses now!):

  • TweetdeckIf you’re just managing a Twitter account, Tweetdeck is a powerful tool. Available for both your desktop and mobile , Tweetdeck allows you to follow specific feeds, search terms and hashtags, to schedule tweets and to filter out the information you want so that you can be a more engaged and powerful Twitter user. It also allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard.
  • HootSuiteManaging multiple accounts and/or multiple networks–both Facebook and Twitter–is a breeze with HootSuite. HootSuite is great for teams that manage social media because you can assign tasks as well as monitor specific feeds and search terms, schedule tweets and create custom reports.

Admit that Mobile Must Be a Part of Your Interactive Strategy

If you’ve been in denial about mobile, 2013 is the year that you must come to terms with it. Numbers don’t lie, and in order to engage consumers, you have to market where they live. Not convinced? Consider this:

  • 1.08 of the world’s 4 billion mobile phones are smartphones. 3.05 billion are SMS enabled. (Source: Microsoft Tag)
  • Almost 8% of all web traffic in the US is mobile traffic. (Source: Pingdom)
  • 88% of adult Americans have a cell phone, whereas 57% have a laptop. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 45% of all adult Americans own a smartphone. (Source: Pew Internet)
  • 55% of adult cell phone users use the Internet on their mobile phones, double the number from three years ago. (Source: Pew Internet)

Mobile use is so ubiquitous, it’s impossible to deny that having a mobile-accessible site, web app and other tactics that allow your organization to engage with your audience via mobile devices is essential in 2013.

Spend Smart on Technology
Thanks to the fact that technology continues to get better, faster and cheaper, it’s time to reassess how you’re spending your money this year. Are your technology expenditures freeing up your staff to do more meaningful work? Are you investing in flexible hardware that will change as your needs do? Do the systems you have make your organization look up to date and cutting edge, or do they seem outdated to the average user?

At TourSphere, we’re in the thick of this resolution as we launch our new kiosk product. Many of our clients are choosing to create tablet or iPad kiosks instead of traditional, bulky and inflexible kiosks. Using the TourSphere Builder, they are creating flexible web apps that they can change in an instant and simply placing tablets and iPads in place of bulky kiosks. Some apps answer basic visitor questions, allowing staff to provide more meaningful services, while others provide additional information on sites or exhibits, more deeply engaging users.

No matter how you do it, it’s important to focus on being more engaged with your audience in 2013, and that means doing your best to communicate with them in the places they naturally go. Whether that’s being accessible by mobile device, more deeply engaging them within your site itself or ensuring that you’re part of their social media feeds, develop your plan for 2013, and stick to your resolutions!

Tell us: What’s your social media, mobile or engagement resolution for 2013?

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 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.

The Pros and Cons of On-Site iPod Touches

7 Sep

The TourSphere Checkout System

I’m not going to complicate this for you.  We’ve worked with museums with anywhere between 10 – 500 iPods. There are great things about having iPods onsite at your museum, but it comes at a cost (literally and figuratively).

In our experience, here are the pros and cons.  I hope this helps you evaluate what’s right for your organization:

PROS:

  • Accessibility – Users without a smartphone or iPod Touch can still do your mobile tour.
  • Connectivity – If you don’t have wifi or 3G access in your museum, onsite iPod Touches (loaded with your app) can provide a great experience for your visitors. Because the content lives natively on the device, you don’t need connectivity.
  • Revenue – You can charge for the rental of a device or, as some of our clients do. One client even raised their admission price by $2 and now includes a “complimentary” iPod Touch rental with every admission – users stay longer, learn more and tell their friends about it.
  • Cost – When you compare the cost of iPod Touches versus proprietary museum hardware, it usually compares very favorably, especially when you factor in maintenance costs and overall functionality of the device for the price (also known as “bang for the buck”).
CONS:
  • Theft – There are several ways to minimize the risk but this is still a risk.  And as much as we hate to say it, theft from staff can be as worrisome as theft from visitors.
  • Checkout Process/Staff Buy-in – If you’re switching from a more traditional audio guide system to an iPod Touch-based system, then it’s not a problem. However, if you’re going from no system to an iPod-based system, then this means more work for your front-line staff. Usually people aren’t thrilled with that.
  • Maintenance – Hardware does this weird thing sometimes… it breaks. Even with the special optimizations we make for museum-based iPod Touches, devices still sometimes malfunction (their track record is great, but nothing is 100% perfect). We do try to help give you peace of mind by offering maintenance programs, but the basic point here is that, no matter what hardware system you choose, be prepared for the occasional headache.
  • Cost – Even though this was listed as a “pro”, I’m going to also list it as a con. Why? Well, because no matter what, hardware still costs money. This is why we advocate, if you decide to use onsite devices, always starting with the minimum number you think you’ll need – and you can always order more later.
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