Royal Botanical Gardens – Madrid

Aruba Beacons deliver interactive experience for visitors to landmark tourist attraction.

Royal Botanical Gardens, Madrid, is one of the Spanish capital's leading attractions. The 75,000sqm site occupies a prime location in front of the Prado museum and is home to more than 30,000 species of plants, trees and flowers. It attracts 400,000 visitors a year.

The gardens were founded in 1775, primarily to showcase plants from the global Spanish empire and promote botany. Today, the site includes two greenhouses, three terraces, and a library containing more than 2,000 books. The Gardens retains its mission to promote botanical science.

"We have a huge collection of plants, both living and recorded and it is important we digitise this information," says Dr Jesus Munoz, Director, Royal Botanical Gardens, Madrid.

"From a research and a visitor experience, we want to make the riches of the gardens easier to access."

Investing in the visitor experience

The App allows us to guide the visitor through the different seasons, or to allow visitors to tailor their own itinerary. The Aruba solution means we're taking the first steps in creating the gardens of the future. Dr Jesus Munoz, Director, Royal Botanical Gardens, Madrid

Specifically, Dr Munoz continues, the garden's management wanted to make sure visitors didn't miss some of its more unique attractions. It also wanted to point to seasonal, even daily, highlights.

"Unlike a traditional museum, our exhibits change throughout the year. We're not a static museum," says Dr Munoz. "A particular plant may only flower for one week in the year. We'd hate for visitors to miss that. Also, we have an educational role – the gardens host school visits each day, and it's important we convey as much detail as possible, in the most effective manner, as visitors move around the gardens."

Equally, the gardens wanted to gather information on each visit, enabling it to improve signposting, marketing and quality of facilities. For instance, only a third of visitors visit in the temporary exhibitions; better marketing should help lift this figure. Also, in revenue terms, the gardens wanted to be able to improve the retail experience for visitors by inviting them to purchase new products and services.

Where possible, Dr Munoz explains, they wanted to personalise the visitor experience. "The reality is that some visitors may only have an hour, some may spend the day. Others want an in-depth tour of a particular area, or to see the '10 greatest hits'. The aim is to cater to all tastes, and engage with the visitors as they walk the gardens."

Delivering location-based content

The solution is a mobile Application. Created by Mobile72, a local App developer and Aruba Partner. The App is available for download on iOS and Android devices. It is lightweight, meaning it can be downloaded in seconds and won't slow down a user's device. Cloud-based content means the App can be updated regularly and quickly.

However, the App is only half of the story. The infrastructure to support the App in every corner of the Gardens is provided by Aruba, as is the means to manage network access. Two hundred and seventy Aruba BLE Beacons, 90% of which are outdoors (meaning they are weather-proof and capable of working in humid conditions), emit radio signals through low-power Bluetooth, allowing the App to pick up location-specific information. Throughout the offices and at the reception area where visitors can connect to WiFi to download the App, Aruba ClearPass enables the Gardens to easily manage guest and employee network access.

Content is managed through the Aruba Meridian Mobile App Platform. This delivers mapping, turn-by-turn directions, venue-specific content, and proximity-based notifications to mobile App users during their visits. Visitors can be tracked to within a meter.

"This is a challenging environment. The Aruba technology allows us to communicate not only in internal spaces but across the gardens," says Dr Munoz. "Also, it provides the means to gather visitor data and in-turn use this information to enhance the user experience."

Creating a personalised experience

Downloading the App becomes part of the initial visitor experience. When visitors first enter the gardens, they simply connect to the free Wi-Fi and download the application. They can then customise their visit, adapting it to their available time and their profile.

The App can create itineraries of one, two or three hours for children or students. It can also be adapted for the disabled. If visitors choose to download the App at home, they can prepare their visit in advance and create itineraries to suit them. In addition, App users will have access to updated information with audio, photos and videos of the flora. At launch, the App has details on 200 species of plants.

Another key feature is mapping. Visitors can find their way to any of the gardens' attractions, they can also find toilets, kiosks and seasonal highlights, or ask for directions and have visibility of busy areas of the garden.

"The gardens are spread over 17 acres and sometimes members of the public get lost," says Dr Munoz. "The solution completely answers the brief. Now, there is no way they can get lost, or miss any of the highlights. For visitors of any age, it's a wonderful way to engage with the collection."

Gathering granular, actionable data

The first versions of the App are in Spanish and English, with a German version to follow. The App automatically identifies the user's home language via their device. The Royal Botanical Gardens' management will be able to detect the user's home country and map their visit against a range of data points – including time of day, local weather, attractions visited. This information will be used to influence future marketing and site planning.

There is also a revenue-generating aspect. Users can order photographs of specific attractions or flora as they tour the gardens, collecting the images from the store on their way out. Visitors can receive alerts on store of café promotions. The plan is to add new services as the management better understands visitor behaviour.

"The App allows us to guide the visitor through the different seasons, or to allow visitors to tailor their own itinerary," says Dr Munoz, "With this technology we're taking the first steps in creating the gardens of the future."