Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Courtesy of: Research Assistant Aaron May of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program. Produced in 2011.

Video highlights from the apps (36-minute version)

This montage provides a sampling of some of the video media in the Fort Vancouver Mobile apps. This app is much more than just a video distribution system, but these videos show the variety of content, from expositional segments to new journalism to those intended to prompt the development of interactive narratives.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wireless Internet system idea on hold

In talking to the fort's Chief Ranger, Greg Shine, about the potential of creating a wireless Internet system in the fort's Village, he made me aware of the federal policy at the site that specifically prohibits just such a system from being built on National Park Service land. There could be alternatives, such as working with the nearby Vancouver National Historic Reserve to rebuild the wireless system that group (or a previous incarnation of that group) once had, to create a cloud large enough to cover The Village. But with no money for that cloud (probably a $10,000 start-up cost, plus $50-$60 a month in service) and a significant amount of discussions needed to make it happen, plus the October launch of Phase One coming quickly, it seems prudent at this point to just design Phase One for 3G and gradually build toward the larger goal of Wi-Max coverage throughout the reserve. I'll update when anything changes on that front. Thanks again, by the way, to Forrest Burger for his help in investigating this possibility!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Internet access in The Village

As we develop mobile content to embed in The Village, an additional task that needs to be completed is bringing reliable Internet access to the area, so users easily can explore that content.

Colleague Forrest Burger, founder of RiverBend Productions, and I met with general manager Jason Paulson and area manager Jeff Choi of ClearWire this week to talk about the possibilities of creating such a delivery system.

Basically, there are four options from ClearWire's perspective:

* Create a WiMax cloud in the area through physical infrastructure investments (roughly $7,500 - $10,000) that would allow anyone we choose to get a 4G Internet connection, ideally to access our content. This is the coffee shop model, in which we create a local Wi-Fi system that anyone in the area can access.

Positives: Reliable and consistent Internet connection throughout the grounds that could be password protected, for use only with National Park Service-related programs; monthly costs would be minimal, maybe $50-$60 a month for 4G access for virtually unlimited access to users. Offers powerful signal, covering the entire National Park Service property, turned on all of the time, that we could control, and it could be delivered to virtually unlimited users at once through their mobile devices (Campfires and Candlelight attracts about 5,000 people on a single night; this is essentially the only way we could handle a large load of users like that at once); 4MB download speeds are roughly four times as fast as standard Wi-Fi.

Negatives: High up-front costs; technology will be obsolete and need to be replaced or upgraded in a couple of years; it's not clear if the National Park Service would even allow such a system to be installed on its property (although projecting from Pearson Airfield might be an option); many different devices accessing the content means many design headaches.

* Rent Wi-Max devices and have users check them out, Mondai Viewers built by HTC, that could be preloaded and customized to deliver content via 4G connection.

ClearWire offers these Mondai hand-helds at a group rate that could be relatively affordable, buy 10 at $50 each, or $500 for a fleet of 10. A warranty on the devices is available for $5 a month per unit, meaning for $50 a month, $600 a year, if any of these "walked away," Clear would replace them for free. Also can download tracking software on them, in case they are "lost." Wi-Max Internet access would cost an additional $25 per unit, per month, meaning $3,000 a year in service costs. So for the first year, with 10 units, the total commitment would be about $4,100.

Positives: Having 10 devices on hand would probably meet initial demand, except during special events. By leasing, technological upgrades would be absorbed by Clear, not us; these devices would have cameras and Internet access, meaning user-generated content could be collected on site and live; knowing the precise device and being able to preload some content on those would make design and implementation (and accessibility) much easier.

Negatives: These devices are not GPS enabled, meaning location-awareness would have to come through such site-specific techniques as QR codes. The cost of two years of leasing roughly would equal the costs of setting up a permanent Wi-Max system. These devices can't easily receive text messages or voice mails, which cuts out two key delivery methods.

* Boost the current Wi-Fi system in the area. The costs to boost the current intermittent Wi-Fi system in the National Historic Reserve would be relatively minimal, if we can find who exactly owns and operates it, and if we could create such a partnership. There still might be territorial issues, in terms of where repeaters are placed, and if the National Park Service will allow that. Forrest Burger already has made a couple of attempts to track down this information on the Wi-Fi system that occasionally floats into the Reserve, with little success. Would need more leg work, but considering the other costs this project is facing, that might be worth a few more calls.

* Use Wi-Max plug-ins -- We didn't spend too much time talking about this option, because the plug-in Wi-Max devices (basically USB sticks) would be unwieldy, easy to misplace, and they wouldn't be compatible with a high percentage of devices currently in circulation.

So, from here, we need to determine how much we can spend on bringing Internet access to the area, and what kind of flexibility the National Park Service offers in terms of placing equipment on the site. Then, we need to think through the first year or two of the project, its needs and goals. Which would be the better alternative? Or are there other options? What do you think?

Of course, there is always the 3G network and creating content for now that simply can be accessed by that. 

- Brett