Enabling Art as Social Objects: Designing the Mobile App to Place Art in the Centre of Conversations

Elaine Ee, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore, Kevin Lim, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore

National Gallery Singapore has created dozens of stories about our collections and installed them in our mobile app, the Gallery Explorer, as audio tours. To give users greater autonomy over the audio tours, we allow visitors to skip stops, or explore works based on nearby tour stops. This required an indoor navigation system. Since GPS does not work indoors, and as Wi-Fi triangulation lacked precision at the time we were making this, an alternative location trigger was sought. We turned to iBeacons, which are essentially Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) emitters. Using a scaleable and unique adaptation of iBeacons, we set up full indoor turn-by-turn navigation across 64,000 sqm of building space. Much like mini-GPS satellites, the gallery deployed iBeacons in a grid-like format across walls and ceilings, allowing at least three iBeacons to triangulate the position of a user in any a given part of our buildings, a method called “trilateration.” In addition to indoor navigation, this network of iBeacons can also gives us data on visitor traffic and movement. We can track the natural routes they take, see where they choose to dwell, for how long, and possibly determine which artworks they prefer. Using iBeacons in this way is ambitious and challenging—we took the plunge and would like to share this unique experience with others in the museum field.