MOBILE APPLICATIONS AS TOOL FOR EXPLOITING CULTURAL HERITAGE IN THE REGION OF TURIN AND MILAN
The current research aims at showing as applications working on personal mobile communication terminals such as smartphones, can be useful for exploration of places and, at the same time, as tools able to develop interaction between cultural heritage and users. In this sense, the use of smartphone applications can be combined with GIS in order to make a platform of knowledge useful to support research studies in the field of cultural heritage, with specific reference to accessibility issues and to the combined use of integrated technologies like GPS, QR code and GIS, with the final aim to find an useful methodology for collecting data by visitors and visualizing them through mapping techniques.
The research shows how the integration of different systems and technologies can be used as method for inquiring the interactions between users and cultural heritage in terms of accessibility to places. GPS devices can be used to record visitors movements (cultural routes) in terms of space and time; QR code can be used for users interaction with cultural heritage (tourists opinion, heritage ranking, facilities, accessibility); GIS software can be used for data management, analysis and mapping (tourist flows, more visited places). The focus of research is about a combination of information related to cultural routes with the information related to single cultural places. The focus of research is about a combination of information related to cultural routes with the information related to single cultural places. The current research shows the potential use of smartphone applications, as mobile device for collecting data, as means to record rides and more visited places by tourists. The research could be divided into three steps; the first one concerns with GPS that can be used to record routes; the second one deals with interaction between tourists and cultural heritage through a system based on QR code; the third one is about GIS, used as tool for management, analysis and visualization of data flows. In the current research, the field of investigation refers both to the territorial scale of Turin – Milan axis, and to the local scale of small cities localized in the territories in between. The research has been applied to Turin – Milan infrastructural axis, with the aim to represent the relationships that can be established between mobility infrastructure and cultural heritage. Such relationships should be intended in terms of accessibility from mobility infrastructure (motorway exit, service areas, railways stations) to cultural heritage localized in the surrounding landscape. The richness of cultural heritage and landscape along the chosen infrastructural bundle represent a great opportunity for territorial development in terms of attractiveness, both for local inhabitants and for tourists. Nowadays, the use of tracking technologies can be applied to investigate tourist flows, behaviors of local inhabitants in the historic city centre, number of visitors in the city and so on. In this sense it is possible to apply these technologies, which are particularly relevant in urban studies, extending them to the territorial scale of the Turin – Milan region.
The large amount of available geo-referenced data can be used in different ways and it is very potential for different kind of analysis: it is possible to show tourist flows in the territory, receive information about more visited places, obtain interaction from users and cultural heritage in terms of visitors opinion about the places, give information to tourists about cultural places, monitor the accessibility to the places, understand the use of means of transport and keep under control the impacts of tourism (social, cultural, environmental) on territory. Applications based on smartphones can be considered a powerful device for visitors but also for institutions that are involved in tourism and cultural heritage management. In fact, the use of mobile applications it can produce a real time data exchange between geographical position of users and system that receives data.
The research shows the opportunity to use GPS and QR code, integrated in a single smartphone application, with GIS software. In the current step of the research only the interaction with GPS and GIS has been tested on the case study of Turin – Milan. Further development of research could be realized to test the real integration of QR code with other systems, developing an application that supports QR code and GPS, and installing a barcode or other interactive devices such as NFC (Near Field Communication) on each relevant cultural places. It is evident that different actors, such as tourists, cultural heritage institutions and employers, have to be involved in this process, in order to have a deeper understanding of the problem, also integrating bottom up and top down contributions.