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Contactless payment for heritage sites?

Posted on July 16th, by admin in QR/NFC, Tales and musings. No Comments

Our latest article for the Association of Heritage Interpretation (AHI) member’s journal looks at how new technology serving the London Olympics is already finding its way into the heritage sector.

Imagine swiping a till with your credit card or mobile phone to make a payment without entering your pin. Imagine no longer, the technology is already here.

This is Near Field Technology (NFC) and London 2012 will be the first Olympic Games to embrace it. NFC allows UK shoppers to make pin-free purchases.

Although, a little slow to take off (just like internet shopping), Barclays, a host of high street retailers and an increasing number of smartphone companies have jumped on the bandwagon too. You’ve probably seen Usain Bolt in the Visa advert? That is contactless payment.

At this year’s London Olympics every sales terminal at the venue will allow “wave and pay” purchases. People travelling to the Games using the cities 8,000 buses will also be able to hop on and pay direct, using contactless payment.

Financial institutions don’t have a monopoly over NFC. It can also be used for something more in keeping with the Olympic Games Values.

One of the Canal and River Trust’s first interpretation projects is to deliver a smartphone trail along the Montgomery Canal. A timely project, as more than half of the UK population now owns a smartphone.

Ten ‘waymarks’ can be found along the 2km length of the canal. On each one a QR code and NFC tag points to a mobile-optimised webpage, containing information about the canal’s wildlife. Throw in some images, wildlife sound effects and a blog with the latest wildlife sightings and events, and the visitor has at their disposal a variety of media in which to engage with.

Web-based content allows the visitor to easily switch between English and Welsh translations. People at home can also appreciate the trail too – viewing a standard version of the web pages on their desktop. Activity sheets for children can also be downloaded.

How does the technology work?

Essentially, the pre-programmed QR code and NFC tag work in the same way. The user does not have to type in a web address, or browse a website to find the relevant information or files. The novelty of scanning a QR code or ‘bumping’ a NFC tag is appealing too.

Small and unobtrusive waymarks are an important requirement for the interpretation along the Montgomery Canal. QR code and NFC tags have alleviated the issue of limited space for bilingual text on the waymarks. Of course, for non-smartphone owning visitors this approach does prevent full engagement with the trail. Nevertheless, as more and more blue chip companies embrace the technology, and the ownership of Smartphone’s continues to double each year, the London 2012 Olympics really could herald a golden era for contactless interpretation.

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