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Where the Technology is Currently Found
PDAs were initially launched as all-in-one personal calendars, address books, memo
pads, and to-do lists. For a decade manufacturers have continually invested in improving
their capabilities: the market has grown consistently.The quantity of content that is acces-
sible by PDA users has continued to grow. Every day travellers, tourists and business people
use PDA maps, hotel and restaurant guides, travel guidebooks, currency converters, weather
forecasts, transportation schedules, and information on cultural events.With the appearance
of wireless networks and cards for handhelds, the technology is now widely accessible and
affordable.The interface is familiar to many people.
The types of organisation most likely to be interested in the use of mobile technologies
include educational institutions interested in maximising e-learning possibilities, corporations
(both for-profit and not-for-profit) interested in finding better ways to present their products
to potential customers and to provide the customers with quality support, and professional
associations interested in advertising and promoting their activities.What possibilities do
these developments open up for cultural heritage institutions?
What place, then, do cultural heritage institutions occupy in this area? There are in fact
several ways in which virtual communities can be merged with their activities, as the fol-
lowing paragraphs will illustrate.
Problems Addressed by the Technology
A fundamental concern of users of mobile access technologies is the ability to gain
access to informational resources from any location, at any time, and independently of
whether they are using a laptop, a mobile phone, or a PDA. Another important component
is the tracking of users and/or objects. Current developments in these technologies are
leading towards a convergence of handheld devices with mobile phone technologies, to
the extent that the line between the functions of cellular phones and PDAs is now well
and truly blurred.
It is important to stress that the convergence of several technologies remains a key issue
not only for the cultural heritage sector.Wireless connectivity, global positioning systems,
mobile computing, and new human-computer interaction devices will be integrated into
the personal mobile device within five years.The conjunction of mobile technologies and
digital libraries will eventually enable `on-demand' delivery of textual and other content to
handheld devices, regardless of location. Museums will be able to revolutionise the ways in
which secondary resources are presented to visitors in relation to artefacts: exhibitions can
be arranged according to entirely new themes, not necessarily arranged in traditional
chronological patterns, and visitors will be empowered to create virtual exhibitions using
their own portable devices.
At the moment, mobile devices are seldom used to overcome specific problems; instead
applications generally focus on an increase in convenience and accessibility both for visi-
tors to heritage institutions and for the institutions themselves. In combination with
RFID tagging of objects, libraries and archives can assist the location of specific books or
items with a mobile device which directs the visitor towards particular objects or shelves.
A more advanced level of personalisation is also possible due to the integration of mobile
technologies with other delivery methods such as the Web and institutions' own intranets.
Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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