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GPS-Triggered Location-Based Technologies at Parks Canada: The Explora Project


A presentation at Museums and the Web 2009. …

A presentation at Museums and the Web 2009.

Morag Hutcheson, Parks Canada, Canada
Tamara Tarasoff, Parks Canada, Canada
Christophe Rhin, Camineo, France

Handheld GPS-triggered location-based devices seem ideal for outdoor heritage sites. In this age of economic strain, they may be able to attract new audiences and draw existing audiences to return more often. But what do we really know about how these devices impact visitor experience and learning? Which segments of our audience do they actually appeal to? Can heritage institutions with limited financial and human resources develop these types of projects sustainably? To find out, between November 2007 and July 2008, Parks Canada staff developed and launched three handheld GPS-triggered tours. The process of developing the tours was monitored closely throughout the 8-month development period, and feedback gathered from team members and other staff. Then during the two-month pilot period, over 1000 visitors used the devices; regular feedback was provided by both users and staff.

The project had many positive outcomes, including recommendations for streamlining the development process and product delivery, a better understanding of the target audience, and suggestions for improving the usability and effectiveness of the devices.

Session: Location-Aware Services [Technology]

Published in Technology , Business
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  • 1. GPS-Triggered Location-Based Technologies at Parks Canada: The Explora Project Tamara Tarasoff & Morag Hutcheson (Parks Canada) Christophe Rhin (Camineo) 18 April 2009
  • 2. Parks Canada Agency Who We Are and What We Do
    • We are a federal agency mandated to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage
    • We manage 42 national parks, 158 national historic sites, 3 national marine conservation areas from coast to coast to coast
  • 3. Why GPS-triggered Location-based Technology? Many perceived benefits
    • No physical infrastructure required, works in remote outdoor settings
    • Could appeal to existing and reach new audiences (Banff New Media Institute Research, 2007)
    • Could contribute to learning and meaningful visitor experience (WebPark, Dias 2007)
  • 4. Should Parks Canada Invest in this Technology? Two supporting questions
    • Can Parks Canada staff develop this type of technology project using their own resources and expertise?
    • How do GPS-triggered, location-based devices affect visitor learning and experience in outdoor settings?
  • 5. Content Developed by Staff? Yes!
    • 150 days of site staff time to develop the first project; half this time needed to develop subsequent trails
    • Staff needed: part-time project manager and interpreter; GIS specialist, subject matter experts, visitor services, IT, others
  • 6. User Evaluation: Research Questions
    • How do visitors use the device?
    • How does this technology affect the experience of visitors on the trail?
    • What do visitors learn from it?
    • Would visitors rent a device like this if it were available, here or in other parks or sites?
    • Which segments of the audience are most positive towards this technology?
  • 7. Methodology Data collected between July 8 th (at SH) and July 14 th (at KJ) to Sept. 15 th , 2008 Tally Sheets Questionnaires Observation Diaries Data Logs n (SH) n (KJ) 384 278 10 12 192 102 395 253
  • 8. 1. How Was It Used? Data logs show actual use
    • Red = Pushed POIs
    • Green = User actions (low speed)
    • Many users explore content at start and at each pushed point of interest.
  • 9.
    • Visitors typically DO
    • Read content out loud to other group members
    • Interact with each other and the surroundings
    • Access 2 nd level content (select ‘More’, Quiz, Audio or Video button)
    1. How Was It Used? Typical use of the device
    • Visitors typically DO NOT
    • Access content that is not attached to a POI
    • Argue over the device
    • Get distracted by the technology itself
  • 10. 2. How Was the Experience?
  • 11. 2. How Did It Change the Experience? (Before) (Before) (Before) (Before) (After) (After) (After) (After)
  • 12. 3. What Was Learned?
  • 13. 3. What Was Learned?
  • 14. 4. How Much Would They Pay? • Majority would pay ($4 - $6) for a 1/2-day rental • Little appetite for prices exceeding $6
  • 15. 5. Which Users Reacted Most Positively? They all did. • There is no category that reacted negatively to the technology. • The technology clearly has a broad appeal.
  • 16. Recommendations and Lessons Learned
    • Focus on the content, not the technology
    • Tailor the content to your audience
    • Focus on pushed/main content
    • Not a one-time investment
    • Start small – but start!
    • Try out a device early
    • Create, test on location, adjust, test…
  • 17.
    • Facilitate adoption by Parks Canada sites
    • More user research
    • Questions? More info?
    • tamara . tarasoff @pc. gc .ca
    • christophe . rhin @ camineo .com
    What’s Next?
  • 18. Costs to develop the first and subsequent Explora projects
  • 19. Time required to develop the first and subsequent Explora projects