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Purple Seven

Bringing art galleries into the Internet of Things

How do visitors really use art galleries?

Projects in the arts and culture sector always get our hearts pumping. Our client, Purple Seven, is a big data company that wanted to gather information how visitors move through art gallery and exhibition spaces, and how they interact with the exhibits.

Subism was commissioned to design an app for a pilot project that would engage visitors to art galleries in Merseyside, including the Tate Liverpool, while at the same time tracking their use of the venues and exhibitions.

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Our approach

Designing a system and getting the most from the tech

This was one of our most technically accomplished projects. A network of iBeacons was installed in the galleries and as visitors moved around their phones would trigger the beacons, to deliver relevant content. We carried out extensive feasibility studies on the geofencing and GPS technology deployed. The challenge was to make sure the user’s phone would look for the beacons using Bluetooth frequently enough to ensure the phone was responsive to the system, but not so often that it drained the battery.

The design itself had to be very simple, with a system of icons and a clear way of delivering content about the paintings and sculptures. We also developed a robust content management system for the galleries to craft the content and make it available.

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The native transitions made this app a slick and easy user experience.

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Making a difference

You don’t take the tour, you are the tour

Instead of picking up a headset when entering the gallery and taking a tour that was essentially on rails, gallery visitors would download the app to their smartphone. Upon entering the gallery they’d receive a welcome message, and then as they went around the exhibits images, text, video and audio content was delivered to their phones.

For users, one of the really nice things about it was that they could take that content home with them. If a gallery was busy but you wanted to read about the exhibits, you could enjoy the gallery but digest things later. It put power into people’s hands.

Meanwhile, the art galleries were able to use the data to optimise their attractions and use of space through better understanding of their visitors.

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The outcome

Proving the concept and the technology

Although this project was completed in 2015, it’s still one of our favourites. The app Subism designed was easy to use and worked fluently for gallery visitors, and we proved that the concept worked. Our client gained a greater understanding of how visitors were experiencing art gallery spaces so that they could make improvements for future exhibitions.

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