Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Early MoveMe wi-fi heat maps from Love Lace exhibition

October 31st, 2011 by Seb Chan

Several months ago I announced that the Powerhouse Museum was a partner in the MoveMe pilot project funded under NSW Government’s Collaborative Solutions Program.

We’ve been working with Ramp, MOB Labs, ShopperTrak and Smarttrack RFID to deploy the pilot in our recent Love Lace exhibition.

This exhibition is ideal for trialling location aware content delivery because it is already kitted out with public wi-fi and we have the cross platform iOS and Android free exhibition App. Even better, the exhibition uses QR codes and the QR code reader in the exhibition App which gives the pilot project a great baseline to compare usage against.

While we don’t yet have the location aware content delivery working – that will come in a future version of the exhibition App – we have started to get access to wi-fi tracking data using the ShopperTrak system. As explained by Christopher Ainsley & Julian Bickersteth in their paper for Museums & the Web earlier this year, the ShopperTrak system is already used to create heatmaps and visitor journeys through shopping centres (or ‘malls’ as some readers might describe them).

The first data has started to emerge from the system and it is already very interesting.

Here’s a dwell time heat map that shows the areas of the exhibition where the wi-fi enabled devices (presumably carried by visitors) spend the longest time. This shows data from Sunday Oct 30 and 226 tracked devices.


(click for larger version)

A couple of important caveats.

Whilst the sample sizes are unexpectedly quite high (largely because the wi-fi tracking doesn’t require an actual connection to our wi-fi network, just that it is switched on on the device/phone), the sample rate at which devices are ‘pinged’ is quite low. iOS devices, for example, are only pinged every 2 minutes and so the resolution is very low – unless they are actively connected to our wi-fi network for the exhibition. This means that if an iOS device has wi-fi switched on but they aren’t using our Love Lace App and not connected to the exhibition wi-fi and they spend 10 minutes walking around the gallery their device will be counted in a maximum of 5 locations. Of course this can be offset by the volume of tracked devices (which almost certainly exceeds that of other manual people counting methods employed by traditional audience research).

What is interesting about the data is that it pretty much mirrors the distribution of the QR code usage I blogged about earlier. Unsurprisingly the longer dwell times are where the sit-down video experience is.

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