Last week Barcelona hosted the TurisTIC forum, a two-day conference focusing on technology for the tourism sector.
During the Tourism IT Tendencies session on the first day, several talks focused on IoT solutions such as dedicated sensors, beacons, NFC, and location-aware devices to help hotels, tourist operators, and the public sector improve visitor experience, and gain more business.
One of the most interesting presentations focused on the use of iBeacons, and how this new technology (based on not-so-new Bluetooth LE) can help engage visitors and shoppers. The static beacons, the size of a small cookie and getting smaller, can detect compatible devices and trigger different actions on nearby iOS phones and tablets.
Several examples and potential applications were discussed:
A Dutch theme park is using iBeacons to provide visitors with information: Fluwel's Tulpenland (Tulip Land) specializes in displaying Dutch tulips. As a visitor approaches an iBeacon in the park, relevant information about nearby tulips is displayed on their phones.
Macy's is testing location-specific sensors in its Herald Square, New York, and Union Square, San Francisco stores to inform customers about discounts, and relevant product information. The stores now carry transmitters that send discounts and recommendations to participating iPhone users when they pass nearby.
The city of Barcelona is expanding the use of NFC and QR codes to provide information to visitors, and has placed sensors in different areas of the city to map noise pollution, an issue of high concern to residents as the number of tourists increases each year.
The use of sensors, WiFi snooping, and beacons, to track tourists and engage with them, raises the typical privacy issues. Two years ago I wrote about the experiments conducted by two shopping malls in the US during the holiday season. They began tracking the movements of shoppers by monitoring the signals from their cellphones.
Using a Path Intelligence system, the malls assigned a unique ID to each cellphone entering the premises and followed it during the visit. The malls posted small notices on the message boards at the entrances informing visitors of the tracking system. However, the only way to opt out of being tracked was to disconnect the cell phone. After Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., got involved and started to question it, the malls suspended the system.
Now, if you want to use any kind of tracking technology you have to persuade visitors to download the app and agree to location tracking, plus receiving push messages. This will only happen if you convince visitors and customers that you are providing them with additional value.
There are different rules in different markets, and many European countries have stricter laws than in the US about collecting and storing private information, including location tracking.
The IoT and wireless technologies can provide value to cities, stores, hotels, and tourist businesses, but they need to be open and transparent, and explain to people what they are doing, gaining their trust and providing value in return. Otherwise, the technology could backfire.
Re: Iot / tourist I agree - especially as a new visitor I would welcome it. I don't know....I guess for those who do not welcome it there could be some sort of of primary notification to accept/decline?
Iot / tourist I like the iot assisting tourist. It would be nice to get a text of a major attraction that maybe close. It would be informative to scan a code and obtain an explanation of a beautiful statue that is not in the tourist book. Actually it would be great to replace the tourist book with the IOT.
Pushing back on push European users are typcially more sensitive about privacy issues than North Americans, so it's interesting to see Barcelona trying to make these "push" applications work to engage strangers, even anonymous ones. The experience there will be worth tracking to see if they can solve this riddle for others around the globe.
Re: Noise Pollution During Festivals I can understand the noise levels will go up, sometimes considerably. During regular times the noise levels pretty much remain low unless there is some sort of sporting match on or other celebration.
If you ever make your way to Memphis TN, go to Beal Street. on both sides of the street there are bars, the street is closed at all times to traffic. so you can walk on the streets. there are many people who walk those streets going bar hopping and drinking and eating some good food, but the noise level remains at a low througout the night. Many law enforcement officers abound, maybe that is why they are so quiet.
Maybe a combination of good Policing by the police and self control is needed?
Re: Noise Pollution Ahh! "els correfocs". When we arrived here during the summer of 2012 we had to stay for a couple of weeks in Gràcia, during the festival. At the end they had the biggest Correfoc of Barcelona.
My wife was reading the safety recomendations and though it was crazy, but then she understood.
Here is a short video I took of one Correfoc in Barri Gotic, a small one:
Re: Noise Pollution I'm glad to know there's a crackdown on noise pollution, but I'm sorry for the bar owners. Cities often expect bar owners to police what happens in the streets outside their premises. We've had the same issue in the East Village in New York.
As for festivals, I was present once at Barcelona's La Mercè festival. Crazy crowds, pyramids of small children, fire everywhere. I was hit by some wadding from a musket--ouch. Wild.
Re: A Novelty Or Real Tourist Attracting IoT? My wife has an App on her phone called "RETAIL ME NOT", its a free download from the Android store. You put your information in and have location services turned on. Its always freaks me out while driving around town, because it sends a text to the phone to let her know of a deal at this or that store. when you open the coupon/text it tells you what store, the name of the store, the address, phone and what the deal is ex. 20% off shoes.
Its a great app and we have a lot of stores in Downtown Burbank and our Media Center Mall that subscribe to this App and give pretty good discounts. and we use this in our own home town, not NYC or Paris. So if the App is created to help tourists locate things to do and places to eat. it will be a very big help, especially if it offered discounts and coupons etc. etc.
if there is an App telling us of local entertainment and festivals and things to do, i'm sure we'll download that one as well.
Re: A Novelty Or Real Tourist Attracting IoT? @kq4ym, I agree with Kim, permission is necessary! the telecoms are already tracking all our activity without explicit permission (except that their tracking is a by-product of having a smartphone).
EU privacy rules are thougher than American rules, and opt-in is necessary here whereas opt-out is the rule in the US. People should be informed of any possible tracking of their activity when they enter a venue with sensors/beacons/ etc.
Re: Noise Pollution @Kim, you're right about tourists overtaking Barri Gotic and Ramblas. But the city is fighting the noise seriously. The current administration has a zero-tolerance policy on noise regulations.
Just recently I overheard a conversation of two bar owners, one was complaining about a €2,000 fine for noise in front of his establishment.
There are some exceptions. During some festivals, such as the "Festa Major de Gràcia" the entire neighbourhood becomes a big party during a week in August.
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