NIAGARA FALLS — Tourists strolling in Prospect Park overlooking the American Falls or walking around Goat Island in the nation’s oldest state park will soon have all the information they need at their fingertips.
The regional state parks commission in partnership with Niagara County Community College is installing a new system known as the QR Code (Quick Response) which uses common-place smartphone technology that should enhance the visitor’s experience” with just the scan of a barcode.
“We’re excited about this new service and what it will mean for visitors to the park and surrounding attractions,” said Ron Peters, director of the Niagara Falls State Park. “We’re actually creating a small environmental footprint here because we can provide much more information to the public without adding a lot of signage.”
The other two principals in the project are Budd Termin, coordinator of recreation studies, health and physical education at NCCC and Tony DiCosmo of Sanborn, a second-year student at the college, who ventured out with a GPS (global positioning system) and a digital camera to record the coordinates and photos of all the locations in the barcode.
Subsequently, Mike Drahms of the regional state parks interpretive office wrote descriptions for each barcode.
Under the system, visitors entering the park at the foot of Old Falls Street or at other sites will have the option of using a smartphone or any device with a portable Internet connection to scan a barcode affixed to a narrow post. In a split second, they’ll have an interactive map, an overview of attractions and services within the park.
All of the information is translated into 37 languages, a step to accommodate the sharp increase in international visitors.
Instead of just standing at Prospect Point and marveling at the voluminous flow over the falls, for example, visitors can simply scan a barcode and learn the facts: the natural flow over the American Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls averages 20,000 cubic feet per second. Another code scan might give the history at your location or tell you about the dewatering of the American Falls in 1969, Peters said.
“Currently the technology of our system here does not allow the user to imbed photos into the QR code but we’ve prepared our program with photos at each site where we have our codes, and those same pictures can be put on a link to a related web site,” Peters added.
Termin, who demonstrated the new system just a few days before for state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey, said: “We brain-stormed all the ideas of what we could do with this technology. Then we created a chain of events on how things could happen and we were able to capture everybody’s ideas.”
Termin said the mechanism used to archive all this information is microsoft power point because it allows you to imbed a picture and text to create a slide for each location. If we ever want to change or add something, it’s very easy to write in the text box, edit and save.
Whether visitors out in the park have an Internet connection or not, they can scan the barcode to get the location, the GPS coordinates and the description. If they have a cell connection, there is also a link at the bottom. “You can at least get all the information exactly at the point where you’re standing. So while you’re enjoying that beauty, you get some good information about that location too.”
Termin said that students exploring the various curriculums for their major should consider a degree in recreation, health and physical education. “It’s a great career path and NCCC offers a strong intern program,” Termin said. He noted that in addition the classroom component, the students are afforded a chance to take what they’ve learned in class and translate it into practical application.
Peters added: “As we know, there’s a constant exodus of young talented and educated people from this area. But with this kind of internship we can provide opportunities for young people here in the park, working in tourism. That way, we’re giving them more reason to stay and work in this area.”