Even just 30 years ago we travelled slowly, quarrelling with partners and friends as we navigated using unwieldy paper maps. We booked hotels and campsites and our routes to them weeks or months in advance. But all that has changed radically with the advent of cheap flights, last minute websites and the general dominance of the internet in all aspects of our daily lives.
Spanish company Worldnet21 realised tourist offices and local authorities needed a way to respond to the new age of tourism. It wanted to help business travellers and city breakers land in their cities and instantly tap into information directly on their smartphones. Worldnet21 teamed up with Irish online map specialist Bizmaps and Amvos Consulting, a Spanish specialist in business intelligence, to develop easy-to-use hardware and software through EUREKA project ITINERE.
They called the initiative ITINERE, from the Latin iter, meaning ‘on the move’. The letters also stand for Information Technology services for Incoming En-route tourists. ‘We wanted a tourist to be able to turn up at the Eiffel Tower and download information onto their phone instantly via bluetooth in a range of languages,’ said Dan Peinador, who heads instrastructure and product development at Worldnet21.
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The companies worked together to develop a communication platform that would allow tourists to access and download personalised content about cities via different mobile devices, regardless of what telecommunications network they used, whether they were connected to WIFI or the phone’s internet network. The telecoms engineers used mainly bluetooth technology and piloted their platform with the local authorities in Castilla y Leon in Spain. They offered information at points along the famous pilgrim trail, the Camino de Santiago, which sees tens of thousands of tourists of all different nationalities head to the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, many of them walking miles on foot.
Tourist offices discovered the software and hardware would allow them to learn a lot about the type of tourists visiting their regions since visitors registered and specified much of their needs. Those who used the smartphone applications were delighted that they could have daily agendas updated in real time and using GPS technology they could follow guided tours on maps.
‘WE REALLY LIKED THE IDEA OF BLENDING THE PAST AND PRESENT AS PEOPLE WALK AROUND HISTORICAL CITIES USING THE LATEST GENERATION OF PHONES.’
Since finishing the project at the end of 2009, the EUREKA partners have looked to sell similar products and have had to continually update the technology they use as the smartphone world continues to move on. This summer they launched an updated iPhone application of ITINERE called Retro Vista which takes visitors on guided smartphone tours, blending historical photos from the archives with up-to-date photography taken on smartphones. The Spanish cities of Madrid, Segovia and Jerez are already being sold and new destinations are being prepared for cities in Spain and abroad. By the end of the year, there will be 10 and a version of the application on the market for Android telephones.