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BLE Technology Breathes Fire into Welsh History

Historic environment group Cadw is employing Locly's beacon-based solution to help educate visitors about Welsh history, with GCell beacons installed at castles and monuments, and in the head of a smoke-breathing dragon.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 29, 2016

Proximity-based technology company Locly is enabling Welsh preservation organization Cadw to share the story of its castles and ancient monuments via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons and an app. Cadw protects several hundred historic sites around Wales and makes them accessible to the public. The country is rich with history—as many as 100 castles tell the story of 2,000 years' worth of Welsh history. Several Cadw sites already have beacons deployed that transmit relevant data to those using the Cadw app, according to Rhys Jones, a Locly cofounder, while the organization plans to expand the system to 20 more in 2017.

"Cadw" (pronounced "Cad-u") in Welsh translates as "to keep or to protect." The historic environment service maintains and protects Welsh sites and provides tourists with information about the buildings or monuments they visit.

Locly and GCell have installed beacons at 12 sites, including castles, museums and monuments.

Locly launched a beacon- and GPS-based app for Cadw castles—available at the iTunes and Google Play websites—and recently has begun deploying beacons from Welsh solar-powered iBeacon manufacturer GCell instead of the shorter-life, low-cost, battery-powered beacons manufactured in China that it previously used. Since May 2016, Locly and GCell have installed beacons—ranging from a single device to several dozen—at 12 sites, including castles, museums and monuments. Altogether, Locly has installed beacons at more than 40 different historic sites.

One of the latest installations, however, moves and breathes. The Welsh dragon that Cadw introduced to the system this year comes with glowing eyes, smoke-emitting nostrils and a built-in GCell beacon to bring content to visitors' smartphones.

Locly began working with GCell this year, says Barry Jenkins, GCell's marketing manager, to ensure that highly ruggedized beacons were installed in some challenging environments, with solar power iBeacon devices used wherever possible, rather than battery-only beacons,. The most recent installations include Beaumaris Castle, on the Isle of Anglesey; Raglan Castle, in the county of Monmouthshire, where the largest number of beacons are installed; a Roman Fort in Segontium; the Tinkinswood burial chamber, in Glamorganshire County; and Neath Abbey, in the town of Dyyfryn Clydach.

Cadw also introduced its dragon (the symbol of Wales) this year. The large beast is installed at castles throughout the nation for weeks or months at a time, consisting of multiple parts that together create the appearance of a massive reptilian creature emerging from underground. The parts include claws, a tail, a wing and a head about the size of a car. A motorized system built into the head enables it to illuminate the eyes a glowing red, with smoke pouring out of the nostrils. In addition, a GCell G100 solar-powered beacon is built into the head. The beacon transmits its unique ID number to phones or devices with Bluetooth receivers and a Cadw app installed. When the device comes within 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) of the dragon, the phone displays content about the museum where the visitor and dragon are located, along with a walking trail to direct the phone's user to the next beacon.

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