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Beacons Bring Little India History to Singapore Visitors and Residents

The National Heritage Board is piloting a system that enables visitors to learn about the attractions around them as they walk along the BLE-enabled Little India Heritage Trail.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 05, 2017

Singapore's National Heritage Board (NHB) is piloting Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology to attract the interest of visitors—especially young ones—to the area's history via their smartphones. The Little India Heritage Trail, the latest of Singapore's Heritage Trails, will feature BLE beacons to provide visitors with information about the area, based on their location, on their Bluetooth-enabled phones.

The Little India Heritage Trail spans 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) throughout Singapore's Little India precinct, a historic area which is home to a melting pot of communities and cultures. NHB has established a series of trails—this is the 16th—that cover parts of the city and highlight the area's historic and social features. All trails come with signage “storyboard” markers, an information brochure and maps in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil, but NHB has brought technology to the Little India historic sites as well.

Little India Heritage Trail mobile page, with a Heritage Trail marker in the background (photo: National Heritage Board)
The board's missions, says Shaun Wong, NHB's digital manager, are the preservation and sharing of Singapore's diverse communities and their history with residents and visitors. The first heritage trail, known as the Civic District Trail, opened in 1999 as part of the country's national millennium celebrations. "These self-guided trails have become a key staple in our efforts to promote community heritage and ownership," Wong states, "connecting Singaporeans to the areas and their rich heritage."

The Little India Heritage Trail’s beacon system is going live this month, with BLE beacons at 18 markers across all 40-plus heritage sites, detailing the precint's two-century-old heritage. The trail, Wong notes, comes with three different thematic routes: "Serangoon in the 1900s" (presenting historic information from that time period), "Walk of Faiths" (featuring places of worship) and "Shop Till You Drop" (a 30-minute trail that covers the business district).

Former House of Tan Teng Niah—the last surviving Chinese villa in Little India (photo: National Heritage Board)

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