Home Articles LBS for wildlife visitors: The WebPark experience

LBS for wildlife visitors: The WebPark experience

Eduardo Dias
SPINlab – Free University
the Netherlands
Email: [email protected]

Ruedi Haller,
Swiss Naitonal Park,
Email: [email protected]

Christophe Rhin,
Camineo SAS,
Email: [email protected]

With the “Protection of Nature” and “Research”, national parks play an increasingly important role in the passing on of knowledge. The National Parks provide a wide range of information, thereby helping visitors to have a wider understanding of our environment (SNP 2003). Previous tourism research in protected areas has showed that current Park visitors have information needs/questions during their visit (Abderhalden et al 2002).

The questions can be related to environmental information, like the name of a plant or the behaviour of an animal, or practical information, like can I make a picnic here or, how many hours left to walk to the peak. The majority of these information requests are dependent on where the visitors are (Abderhalden et al 2002).

Managers of natural areas are looking into new digital means of Information provision, searching for a way to improve the overall tourist experience. Examples of adoptions of such digital means are the recent publications of CD-ROMs and increasing availability of official Natural Areas websites. However, these new ways of providing dynamic and updated information to the visitors fall short in satisfying the visitor’s questions when it’s most important: out on the field during the visit.

Developments in recent years have showed that mobile technology is becoming increasingly available and it’s usage is nowadays widespread (Barnes 2002). Therefore, mobile Internet devices with geo-location capabilities (see example on Fig. 1) may create the opportunity of meeting the present information needs of visitors to natural areas. Technology can enable the concept of overlaying the real world with the digital world of information and create mutual added value, both for the Individual visitor and for the Natural Park Area managers.

WebPark – Mobile Environmental Information System
WebPark is a research and development project funded by the European Commission that developed a series of services for users of protected areas.

The service is based on wireless technology and is available for mobile phones and PDA’s. Several personalized Location Based Services were developed within the WebPark framework. The services can be built upon:

  • existing information,
  • environmental sciences research data; and/or,
  • tailored collected data.