In Hamburg Germany, the Church of St. Michael’s steeple stands tall above the city, inspiring the masses with its baroque architecture. Lesser known, however, is the recent advancements made to the interior of the Church of St. Michael’s: a full beacon deployment and beacon enabled app to engage with visitors and tourists.
Once upon a time, St. Michael’s was seeking a fresh solution for an indoor information service. With an awe inspiring building packed with history and monumental architecture, there are unlimited interesting facts and anecdotes to tell. But with respect to the religious significance of the church, installing information boards or wall charts is not just an eyesore, it’s a disgrace. With this in mind, the managing director of the church Thorsten Schulze looked for an innovative app to solve the problem, and discovered AudioguideMe, an app and startup for location-based storytelling. AudioguideMe provides users with the opportunity to hear geotagged audio information, and record short messages to leave in interesting places. Inspired by this option, the church sought out the team at 6EARS and AudioguideMe to build a brand new app for their use case.
Hauptkirche St. Michaelis ©
With the Church of St. Michael’s pulling in over 1.5 million visitors per year, their vision was to appeal to the broad range of their audience in terms of age, interests, and their technical know-how. They built an app to ensure that visitors are free to explore the building on their own. Find something interesting? Go for it, and the app will tell you something about it as soon as you are in range. The app also anticipates variances in timing… while some visitors stay well over an hour, others are just dropping by for a few moments. No need to feel tethered! The maps of the Steeple, Church, and Crypt are included in the app, showing points of interest without expecting you to take a full tour. No doubt there is also a gamification element to it all. It’s fun strolling through the impressive building, trying to find new spots with stories. Once you come near a spot, there’s a visual signal on the map and you can hear St. Michael’s church bells. The information is all at your fingertips, and the route to uncover it is entirely up to you. To top it off, the MichelApp even wrangled in some local celebrity talent: Anke Harnack, a well-known German anchorwoman, is the voice behind the app, and Misha Leuschen, a Hamburg journalist, created the texts.
“St. Michael’s is a real crowd puller, but first and foremost an important church with daily services. To get both of these aspects in line was quite challenging at some parts, because the whole concept has to perform flawlessly and as precise as possible, on the other hand it is absolutely mandatory that no hardware can be spotted. It took us a while to find a good balance between chosen broadcasting power, proximity and the right spot for installation.
To ensure a good user experience and a stable, reliable performance, we had to experience and intensively test the application under real conditions with several devices. Many times one could see us walking through the nave with numerous mobiles in our hands, observing attentively the different screens, checking the behavior of the app. Often we were eyed by regular visitors or some staff who thought we were some die-hard fans of Pokemon Go that conquered the church, hunting some rare creatures! These situations were good moments for random user testings and sometimes led to interesting conversations.” -Paul Bekedorf, Co-Founder of AudioguideMe and 6EARS
With MichelApp, users have an opportunity to dive into history, decoration, crypts, and calendar of events all within the confines of their smartphones. With a space as unconventional as the Church of St. Michael’s adapting to emerging technologies, our community of developers continue to be inspired. The possibilities beacons provide to the physical world are truly limitless. To see for yourself, be sure to visit the Hamburg staple “Michel”. And if you have an idea but need a little help, our friends from from 6EARS and AudioguideMe are available to help!