Advantages of Info-Point in churches
- Unintrusive - no need for interpretation panels or video screens
- Self-contained - does not require any external connectivity
- Self-managed - volunteers can easily upload and maintain the content
- Universal accessibility - any smartphone or tablet, using any web browser
- Physical Security - it can be out of sight and out of reach while in use 24/7
- Cyber security - safe for children and proof against hacking and malicious use
- No ongoing charges - it’s yours and free for you and your visitors to use
- Low power consumption - plus optional solar power, or pocket-size battery for outreach
- Community Sharing - local groups can be given their own independent website
- Donations - can be sought digitally via text giving at the point of use
Webinar - Church Visitors in the Smartphone Age
Augmented Reality tour and Nestcam
‘Our Lady Star of the Sea’ is a late-Victorian Catholic church situated in Lowestoft town centre on the East coast of England. As part of a major refurbishment the church wanted to improve its visitor experience in a way that was robust and suitable to its challenging coastal and urban environment.
They engaged the University of York Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture who came up with interpretation ideas, and recommended Info-Point as the delivery mechanism. Key points were the ability to host an Augmented Reality (AR) panorama with information hot-spots, the provision of a webcam to enable intimate live views of endangered Kittiwake gulls nesting in the tower, and the provision of ruggedised tablet PCs for volunteer guides.
The interpretation project was implemented by York University’s Patrick Gibbs who commented; “The open and standards-based architecture of Info-Point meant that I was able to integrate my own AR features and, at the same time, leave the client in control of updating their content. Future growth and development is always a possibility.”
Following a Heritage Open Day using Info-Point Tours, client Project Director Tony Walmsley reported: "It went really well. We introduced it to visitors as a means to do their conducted tour, to start where they wanted and to look at what they were interested in. That allowed them to relax and go at their own pace. Some visitors who used it stayed for more than an hour."
Extending church guides in a rural parish
St Mary’s Church, Frittenden, has recently implemented the second phase of an improvement project with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Inside the church the focus is on improving accessibility and amenities, including updating the existing church guides and making digital versions downloadable by visitors through the use of an Info-point unit. A smartphone tour and other material have been created entirely by the team of volunteers.
Project Manager, Jeremy Beech, is enthusiastic about the technology: “We have a very active team of volunteers with varying levels of digital expertise. The Info-Point gives us the independence to manage our own church and heritage information in future, with the comfort of the manufacturer’s free technical support. We are hoping to hold a ‘show and tell’ event in the future to help others in the Diocese to understand how to use this technology.”
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Visitors welcomed with tours, trails, and games
Following major structural conservation, St Swithun’s in Long Bennington, Lincolnshire, now welcomes its visitors via a modern community-based visitor experience delivered via multiple Info-Points.
Like so many ancient rural churches, St Swithun’s has always been a treasured asset of the whole village, but subsidence meant that it was considered ‘at risk’.
While developing an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and others, the project team were alerted by their Diocesan advisors to the Info-Point system, and realised that it could be a sustainable way of providing visitor information about the restored church, and also serve and host the wider community. Like most rural parish churches, the site does not have internet connectivity and there are no permanent staff to ensure the security of any physical equipment, so a solution where the visitor uses their own smartphone was ideal.
David Andrews, Chairman of the church fabric committee, says, “We were able to see Info-Point demonstrated on-site on our own phones, and were struck by how well the system meets our needs. The fact that it works reliably, and that we can easily upload and update the content ourselves was important to us. We also realised that we would save money on printing paper-based visitor information. We had to get our head around what we could do with the technology, and I was often calling Neil with questions as we progressed, but he was able to answer them all and our confidence just grew and grew.”
The decision was made to propose two Info-Point systems - one in the church and a duplicate system in the village hall. The Master unit in the church was extended by the addition of a ‘Slave’ unit to increase the coverage outside the church in order to provide nature heritage information about their ‘God’s Acre’ project.
The group were very taken with the interactive apps that are possible with web technology. They used photographs of their stained glass to create a jig-saw challenge and a colouring game. They also created QR codes to go with the trail map on the village signboard so that visitors could just connect to the Wi-Fi and scan the code to download the map.
Pre-existing ‘ramble’ lealfets were made available as downloads, a village history trail was commissioned from local graphic designer Rareblue, with each trail ‘stop’ being a page on a downloadable PDF. This way the visitor can download the whole trail either at the church or at the village hall and keep it available for interactive navigation while they do the trail.
For future use, independently managed web sites were installed so that local community organisations such as the local history group can in future have a presence hosted by the church. It can also carry ‘internal’ information for staff, volunteers, congregations, and the PCC. David sums up the project as; “An unqualified success, and we still have further to go.”
Cathedral shares its history
One of the oldest cathedrals in Wales, and reputedly the smallest in Britain, St Asaph's was recently awarded major Heritage Lottery Funding to protect and promote its important Welsh heritage. By using a single Info-Point unit the cathedral is able to share its history with all its visitors, bringing the museum’s artefacts into the 21st century for younger visitors, and including those who would not normally be able to enjoy a museum visit.
As part of the project the Cathedral engaged specialist media developers Fuzzy Duck to create a smartphone app. This is being delivered by them as a turnkey solution pre-installed on an Info-Point unit. Alistair Monaghan, Head of Digital at Fuzzy Duck, says “We already had experience of using Info-Point as a platform to deliver creative media. The advantage for our clients is that we can reliably deliver a mix of smartphone apps and other digital content at any location, and don’t need to worry at all about connectivity. Religious buildings can serve visitors very effectively, but in a discreet way, without compromising their primary mission or distracting from their services.”
Quaker history gets digital tour
Wesleyan birthplace chooses Info-Point
The original home of John Wesley's family of Methodist fame, St Andrew's, Epworth is a historical pilgrimage destination that is also an active church. It needed to minimise disruption from visitors and interpretive materials. An Info-Point positioned securely inside the church provides personal video tours, accessible both inside and outside, even when the church is closed or holding a service.
Interpretation Consultant Alan Randall says, “Info-Point was the ideal solution for us, and a very cost-effective way of delivering unintrusive multi-media throughout the church and grounds via smartphones or tablets.”