Fujitsu is using beacon technology as part of a new guide service system that makes it easier for foreign tourists to navigate Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo and Hama-rikyu Gardens.

The Tokyo Parks Navi smart device app and underlying systems were created by Fujitsu for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. They are due to go live at the beginning of April.

Japan's government has set a goal of drawing 30 million foreign visitors yearly to Japan by 2020, the same year it will play host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To reach that goal, it is taking steps to make Japan more accommodating to foreign nationals, and this new guide system is one such initiative.

The service provides visitors with audio guidance, videos, photos, references and other information via their smartphones.

Bluetooth beacons are used to trigger the app to display information on animals or various attractions in the park.

Ueno Zoo will have 124 Bluetooth beacons that can “be identified by NFC tags or QR codes”, Fujitsu said.

“By tapping an Android device to an NFC tag or scanning a QR code with an iOS device, the device will display a close-up video of the animal at that spot as well as information that helps visitors better understand the animal,” Fujitsu said.

“The information is also accompanied by an audio guide.”

The system at Hama-rikyu Gardens operates with the aid of 28 beacons.

“When visitors approach one of these spots with the Tokyo Parks Navi app running, it will automatically display on the users' smart devices reference information about the spot, as well as other information, such as images of building interiors not typically seen by the public, or explanations on how the buildings were used in the Edo era, accompanied by spoken guide information,” Fujitsu noted.

Navigation between different areas in the parks is also enhanced with augmented reality technology.

“The service uses augmented reality to display on the screen of the devices the direction of the customer’s destination and the distance to their destination from their present location,” Fujitsu said.

“Selecting a desired guidance location as a destination, activating the AR feature in the app, and holding up the smart device to view the surroundings through the camera will overlay the view with a marker showing the direction and distance to the destination.”

The system also uses the smartphone's location information and the Fujitsu Network Solutions Posigeo cloud service to automatically update the app's content “so that visitors always have the most current park information”.

At Hama-rikyu Gardens, guide information is available in five languages: Japanese, English, Chinese (in both simplified and traditional characters), Korean, and French.

At Ueno Zoo, Japanese, English, Chinese (simplified characters), and Korean are supported.

Applicable to Australian tourism?

While this technology is being used to help revive tourist visitation in Japan, Australia could leverage the technology to enhance visitor experiences at any number of our world-class tourist landmarks in Australia, according to Fujitsu’s Principal Advisor, Technology & Innovation, Steve Lennon.

“Think of a Visit Sydney app that would explain in your native tongue, in words and images, what the flags mean on your arrival at Bondi Beach, and why it’s a great idea to swim between them,” Lennon told IoT Hub.

“Or walking up the main steps of the Sydney Opera House, and having the complex history and geometry of the building’s wonderful ‘sails’ explained for you, after which you will be guided in 3D through the building’s many wonderful performance spaces – perhaps illustrated with short video footage of famous acts who have graced Utzon’s amazing halls."

New growth

The project in Tokyo’s parks represents a new potential growth area for beacon IoT technology, which to date has been mainly targeted at retail applications and deployments.

Fujitsu is already working on retail applications of beacon technology in A/NZ through a partnership with iProximity announced late last year.

The two firms use beacons, IoT sensors and software systems to deliver personalised content and targeted offers to customers’ smartphones and on near-located digital signage

The personalised content may including welcome messages, special offers, discounts and product suggestions and reviews.