How Infopoints and beacons turned a park into an open air digital art museum by the sea

The Scultpture Park in the Limassol city promenade, is an open air art museum at the heart of this cosmopolitan Mediterranean city, and one of the most popular destinations for both locals and tourists alike.

The park contains 17 modern art sculptures in open air view, created by renowned international artists during 3 sculptural symposia that took place in 1999, 2000, and 2001. Since being installed some 17 years ago, the sculptures have become a living, recognizable feature of the coastal landscape – children will play around them or climb over them, married couples take their pictures next to them, and park visitors will take a nap by their side – with little to no knowledge however of the original artists vision behind each work.

In 2016, the idea came about of installing an outdoor digital information access system within the park, as a means of telling the story of each art piece to the park’s visitors. The use of a solution based on connectivtiity technologies such as beacons and NFC was critical in achieving the objectives of this project.

Our goal was not merely technological, but aesthetic as well. We wanted to deploy a system that would allow every single visitor to have access to rich, and previously unavailable information about the various sculptures and the artists who made them, while keeping maintenance and upkeep costs low for the municipality, and avoiding the use of a solution based on expensive digital screens or other costly hardware, due to the threat of vandalism in the park.

At the same time, we needed to deploy a system that would protect the particular aesthetics of the park. A key debate in the project was how much information to give, and how obvious to make it within the park. In a sense, the art sculptures were installed so as to be actively enjoyed by the public, who is encouraged to touch them and interact with them. For the people living in the city, or the children growing there, each sculpture may take a new personal meaning, far different from the initial vision of the artist. What we therefore wanted to do was create a system that was discrete, that could inform visitors who are interested to know of the artist’s original vision, without overwhelming the sculptures, and preventing visitors from forming their own opinion about each piece. Our vision was to use technology to make the physical space of the park itself ‘talk’ to visitors, using technology that allowed visitors in the park to receive additional information on their phone about each sculpture, but only ‘if’ they chose to interact with it.

We began by collecting the necessary information relating to each sculpture. This included photographic material of the artists at work during construction, and descriptive written material for each art piece prepared by the city cultural services. We also recorded interviews of the artists explaining in their own voice their vision for their works on display within the park. Using our Blupath platform for managing proximity communication deployments, this information was archived, and used to generate a digital guide for the entire park. Each sculpture had an individual page generated for it within the digital guide with audiovisual and text information, and supporting presentation in both the English and Greek languages.

We proceeded to design 17 physical signs to install within the park itself. To protect the aesthetics of the park, the signs were designed to match the exact dimensions of other signage in the space. Each sign contained printed information and images about each individual sculpture, and a digital Infopoint with 4 embedded connectivity technologies: an RFID touch point, a scannable code, a printed short URL code, and an embedded Eddystone Low Energy Bluetoth beacon. Estimote’s Proximity Eddystone beacons were used for this purpose.

 

We did not want to create a mobile app for the park, as we wanted to make sure that the maximum number of visitors had access to the information, and we could not rely on individuals having downloaded an app before their visit. The choice of technologies was made so that information could be retreived from the web, rather than through an app. It was for this reason in particular that we chose to use Eddystone rather than ibeacon beacons, as the Eddystone protocol allows for the communication of web content using just the phone’s web browser, and without the need for any specialist bespole apps.

The signs are simple in design, and designed to match the dimensions an placement of existing signage in the park. They are installed close, but not directly next to, each sculpture, so as not to overwhelm a visitor’ view, but instead give an option for finding out more, that the visitor chooses whether to follow or not. Visitors can interact with the Infopoints on the signs using their phone (touching, scanning, or simply walking near the sign with their Bluetooth receiver enabled), to access the appropriate page within the digital guide for the nearest sculpture to their location.

The choice of 4 different connectivity technologies, together with actual printed information on the sign was a deliberate omni-channel approach that we use in all our projects, and one of the key differentiating advantages of our Infopoint system when compared with simple beacon or tag based deployment. We wanted to make sure that every single visitor in the park, regardless of the type of phone they may use, or the apps they may have installed on it, would have at least one valid channel to the digital information, while even visitors without a phone, or with a lower level of technological literacy, would still at the very least have the option to find out more about each piece by reading the signs. Whereas a Blupath Infopoint could also potentially be partnered with an actual digital touchscreen kiosk rather than just a physical sign, for even more interactive possibilities, due to the particular limitations of this deployment, this was something that we avoided.

Following the end of the deployment, the municipality was granted access to the backend Blupath platform, from which it can now control the Infopoint deployment, the digital content communicated, and receive statistics about visitor engagement. Aside from achieving its goals as a communication system enriching the city’s cultural and tourism product, the deployment is highly cost effective for the Municipality, as it does not rely on deployment of expensive digital display technologies that require future maintenance costs.

The project was supported by CYTA, the Askanis group of companies, Remedica, and Medochemie.