Expo digital guide makers go head-to-head

08:23, June 25, 2010      

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A woman collects a UTO digital tour guide from the rental booth in front of the Nepal Pavilion. Photo: Ni Dandan

Two companies providing digital guides to visitors to the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai have increased their efforts to out-do each other by enhancing their services.

Shanghai UTO Digital Company has been offering pavilion-specific digital guides for the Nepal and Morocco pavilions since mid-May. The devices are collected by users as they enter the pavilions, and returned when they exit. The company Wednesday extended its service to include the Urbanian, City Being and Urban Planet theme pavilions on the Pudong side of the Expo Park.

By using headphones attached to the devices, users can get detailed information on specific exhibits within the pavilions.

"Our device provides bilingual services. Visitors can switch the language simply by pressing a button," said Tian Bin, a maintenance engineer from UTO, said.

UTO's devices are not the only digital guides available at the Expo Park. Shanghai Digigraphic Information System has been providing devices that offer a general introduction to pavilions since the Expo opened on May 1. The devices are available from 11 information centers across the park.

Despite starting its service before UTO's, Digigraphic has seen less revenue.

"Each day we hire out an average of 150 devices," Lü Min, project engineer with Digigraphic, told the Global Times Wednesday. At 20 yuan ($2.9) per day for the rental of one device, the company has been pocketing around 3,000 yuan ($440) per day.

UTO's daily revenue, however, has been reaching around 20,000 yuan ($2,936) from the 1,000 visitors using the service each day. The company also charges 20 yuan ($2.9) rental.

When asked if they feel under pressure from UTO, Lü said his company has upgraded the service three times since it was launched.

"More information has been added, such as the cultural background of countries," said Lü. "We have also improved the signals to our digital guide devices that use GPS, which allow the devices to give customers information relevant to their current location," said Lü.

However, the Digigraphic system still lacks the English option that UTO users can enjoy. UTO also has plans for further expansion.

Marketing director of UTO Liu Yijun told the Global Times Wednesday that negotiations are underway with other pavilions to carry out similar individualized digital guide services.

"Those pavilions will include the most popular ones in the park," Liu said, though he refused to reveal more details, except that UTO is expanding to the Urban Best Practices Area next week, with further expansion planned for the coming month.

The availability of the service may also console those visitors who have endured long waits, and want to make the most of a pavilion once they get in.

"I certainly want to get a better idea of what's being exhibited inside, and hope that the hours I spend waiting in line will be worthwhile," a visitor surnamed Zheng, who had been queuing up for the Germany Pavilion for three hours Wednesday afternoon, told reporters.

Source: Global Times


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