Cutting edge project aims to bring remote historic sites to life

A partnership project between Robert Gordon University (RGU), Historic Scotland and mobile information company AmbieSense is aiming to breathe new life into remote historical sites.

The Living History project aims to harness the rapid boom in smart phone technology to enhance the visitor experience at unmanned Historic Scotland sites, by delivering tailored information directly to mobiles as people move around an attraction.

Activated by tapping handsets to strategically placed InfoSparks around the attraction, the app provides visitors with both official information and commentary from those who have previously visited it. Importantly, it does not require Wi-Fi or a 3G signal to work.

Instead, the app makes use of tiny solar-powered servers on the site which provide local wireless capabilities and, thanks to Near Field Location (NFC) tags, automatically recognises which site or object visitors are at meaning the information they receive is tailored to that location.

It is hoped to pilot the scheme at Spynie Palace near Elgin initially, before potentially rolling it out on a wider scale to remote unmanned sites.

Susan Craw, Director of the university’s research institute of Innovation, Design and Sustainability (IDEAS), has worked alongside Dr. Stewart Massie and Dr. Ben Horsburgh to develop the app.

She said: “What Historic Scotland wanted is for a tourist to have as similar an experience visiting a remote location that is not manned, has no power, no Wi-Fi or 3G signal, that they do going to see a site that is completely manned.

“Obviously you can never replicate the expertise and engagement that staff members can offer, but we have developed a mobile app which can work in the most remote locations, tailors information specifically to that site and also provides opportunities for tourists to interact with others who have visited that attraction through the feedback they have left, creating a communal resource.”

Prof. Craw added: “Our skills at RGU were extremely well-suited to this type of project, as the team has extensive experience on both research and application development projects that involve information retrieval and reuse of text, as well as other media, such as image and audio.”

The project is supported by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance’s (SICSA) Smart Tourism programme, funded by the Scottish Funding Council.

Kari Coghill, Head of Business Development and Enterprise for Historic Scotland, who run Spynie Palace, said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Smart Tourism project and to be piloting RGU’s solution in March. As the biggest operator of visitor attractions in Scotland this will provide a very interesting proposition for visitors to our unstaffed sites and we look forward to seeing the results of the pilot.”

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology