Published 3 February 2012
On 1st February 2012 I delivered a couple of presentations at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Perugia, Italy. One was a paper on how new technologies could benefit the wine tourism industry (the other was a workshop to build wine tours – you’ll be able to hear more about that on blog.insightvacations.com in the coming weeks).
After a bit of background on technology in the tourism industry, we got down to the nitty-gritty of what new technologies were around. I picked three: augmented reality (AR), near field communication (NFC) and QR codes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Why is he saying these are new when some of them have been around for over 20 years?” Well, the technology might not be “new” but, until recently, it hasn’t been a ‘practical possibility’ for many industries to implement them: people just didn’t carry around the required hardware. Yes, we had laptops, but they weren’t exactly convenient and the webcam usually pointed inwards which isn’t much use to the tourism industry – we want to look out at the world, not inwards. Therefore, with millions of smartphones in people’s pockets everywhere they go, these are now interesting options.
After a quick definition of what augmented reality is (“AR takes the real physical world and adds – or augments – it with sound, video, graphics, GPS data, etc. It ‘enhances’ one’s current perception of reality”), I started with a short video montage looking at how other industries have successfully used augmented reality. You can see it by clicking on the link.
I then let wild fantasy take over with a few illustrations of how AR could be used in the wine tourism industry. Please note that these haven’t been built; they are just Photoshop mock-ups to try to give an idea of a few possible uses.
It’s unlikely that this technology will be taken up for a while; the costs are pretty preventative. And this is where QR codes could come into their element. I’ve already written a blog post about these, so I won’t cover old ground again here. But, I would argue that much of what I’ve suggested above could be implemented to some degree through QR codes (e.g. trips around vineyards could have QR codes giving info on the grapes being grown and what they are used for). Ok, they’re not as user-friendly or impressive as what AR can offer… but they are free!
Finally, I had a quick look at Near Field Communication (or NFC). Basically, NFC allows two devices to communicate (e.g. a smartphone and a checkout in a shop) from close range (within c. 4cm). It is already being used as a contactless payment system in shops and bars (i.e. by holding your phone up to a payment point in order to buy something), social networking, ticketing at place like the Pompidou and Stade de France, public transport around the world, as hotel keys, and much more. There are possibilities here for wine tourism (e.g. the transference of images, wine tasting notes, etc.) and it becomes even more exciting when you find out that only one of the two devices needs to have power – so one could be a sticker, tag, card, etc.
I’m not expecting the industry to rush out and invest in these technologies; I think a few companies in various industries will prove what delivers the best ROI before that happens.
There is also a cautionary note that needs to go with these technologies too: bad implementation does have negative effects. Not just a waste of time and money, but also a loss of trust in the technologies: a few bad examples of QR codes results in them all being deemed “rubbish”. So, please think about what you want to achieve before you start implementing QR codes or talking to developers about a new app of any kind… don’t just produce something “because it is shiny”!