Smart Audio Guide
“For a small ‘start-up’ company like In Hand Guides the support of a centre such as a TEC Gateway is invaluable, not only for prototype development but also in assistance in both defining business possibilities and in defining research solutions etc.
It also helps that you are open, friendly and available to meet at short notice because access
and the ability to move at short notice is a great help to a start-up.”
Trevor Winckworth, In Hand Guides Ltd
An innovative use of new technology has allowed Cork company In Hand Guides Ltd to create a portable digital audio device that is being used for tourist guides in locations as diverse as Hill of Tara Ireland, the London Eye and the Sydney Tower Australia.
In 2007 Trevor Winckworth, Company Founder, contacted the TEC Gateway in Cork Institute of Technology for advice on the development of an audio guide targeted to the tourist/lifestyle sector. He met with a team of researchers in Embedded Systems who were able to advise on the possible technical approaches to be followed.
The Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme was seen as the best vehicle for funding the project. The voucher scheme helps to create linkages between SMEs and Knowledge Providers. The project scope was defined after a series of brainstorming and focused discussions. The project was divided into several workpackages which were then broken down to show clear milestones and deliverables. The project resulted in the development of a prototype audio device with head set and volume controls. The prototype allowed the company to demonstrate basic functionality to prospective customers. As a result of the successful development of the prototype it was possible to create an improved device which was manufactured in China. Thus the project succeeded in bringing a technical concept envisioned by In Hand Guides into an actual product, ready for market.
This project led onto a further project funded by an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher in 2009. In Hand Guides had an objective of combining their existing Smart Audio Solution with E-ticketing functionality. Another function of the audio guide could be to act as the customer’s pass to major attractions using an RFID contactless approach, similar to the smart ticketing solution provided by the London Underground Oyster Card. The project resulted in the development of a prototype which combined ticketing functionality with the audio guide. These tickets would be an embedded function of the audio guide itself with the possibility of “topping” up the card to allow access to other sites and areas. The RFID functionality would also enable the audio to turn on once swiped into the relative attractions. The TEC Gateway was able to provide In Hand Guides with experts in embedded systems development and also to provide expertise in areas such as RFID and wireless technologies. All this was available under one roof and as a result the first prototype was designed and ready for demonstration within three months of the contract being signed. Also during this time we were able to provide a technical expert when needed at any meeting In Hand Guides had with prospective clients/partners.
In Hand Guides Ltd direct-funded a third project in 2011. The goal was to extend the functionality of their current audio guides to include a wireless activation system where correct audio is played on approaching an active site. Instead of having to swipe RFID tags to enable the relevant audio, once within a predefined distance of an attraction this would be automatically detected by the audio guides. This system was developed and field tested in Mallow in order to test and prove the concept.
In 2012, In Hand Guides Ltd further direct-funded a fourth project to take prototypes forward to a final design for manufacturing. This led to TEC working directly with the Taiwanese manufacturer to achieve this goal. Currently this system is due to be deployed to a number of beta sites around the world, with the first system rolled into Cork in 2013 and deployments in the remaining locations through 2014. These locations include sites in Belgium, Spain and Canada.
For more information on this case study or other projects at the TEC Gateway, CIT please contact:
Richard Linger, TEC Gateway Manager on 021-4335562 or
Sinead Rodgers, Industry links programme coordinator on 021-4335569.