Race for the Museum X-Prize: Indoor Positioning Systems

Professional Forum
Kate Haley Goldman, Audience Viewpoints Consulting, USA, Joyce Ma, Exploratorium, USA, Doug Thistlewolf, The Exploratorium, USA, Mark Farley, Oregon Sea Grant, USA, Sebastian Chan, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Australia

If there is a single conundrum to solve in museums currently, it is the development of indoor positioning systems. Visitor and staff expectations are built on the concept that institutions, items, and even people can be located in real time. This panel will bring together individuals with in-depth knowledge to give honest assessments and insider information backed by data and experience on actual implementations of what is possible, what is practical, and what is yet to be developed. Half straight talk on strategy, half rapid Q&A and discussion.

The Exploratorium, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Cooper Hewitt Museum, and Hatfield Science Center are each tackling this unsolved challenge in the museum tech field. They will represent four of the key strategies for indoor positioning.

1) Signal triangulation: A series of broadcasts, typically WiFi-based, that a phone app would use to identify location and send it back to a central server. Used by the Explorer App from the American Museum of Natural History, and the backbone of the ArtLens app at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

2) Item ID: The visitor’s phone to scan or trigger something within the exhibit, including QR-Codes and AR triggers. Variants include image recognition via the ArtClix app at the High Museum of Art to the visitor “pen” that will be given out at the renovated Cooper Hewitt Museum.

3) Zone identification: Typically done with low energy Bluetooth signals, this allows the visitor to be passive, as the technology send out small, localized signals that tell you which “zone” the visitor is in. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is using low frequency Bluetooth s as part of their Universal Design strategy.

4) Camera-based Tracking: Other strategies include camera-based tracking and geofencing. Camera-based visitor tracking is under extensive research at the Hatfield Marine Center testbed with hundreds of video cameras, microphones, and kiosks for unobtrusive data collection.

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