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The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based Improvements

At the 2012 TiLEzone Conference Alex Carru, CEO and founder of Medialon, spoke about “The Connected Museum”, looking at how mass customization and statistics can transform the visitor experience. 

Alex Carru Medialon - The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based ImprovementsRelated: Digital Media: Interview with The Field Museum’s CIO Joe Brennan / IBM Technology To Make Louvre First ‘Smart Museum’ in Europe / Attraction Ticketing and Access Systems: An Overview at the 2012 TiLEzone Conference by OmniTicket's John Davies

Set out below is a summary of the presentation:

A little story!

Alan closed his laptop.  He was just on the web site of the National Art Museum of Utopia (the famous NAMU) where he registered and specified his interests for his next visit.  Alan is a student in sociology and he is interested in the impact of the social environment on art, especially the impressionists in the late 19th century Paris.

Upon arrival at the Museum, he registers at a kiosk which also gives him his ticket and a little badge to wear during his visit.

Once in the first exhibit, he stops at a large screen which displays a video presentation of the various trends in impressionist painting. The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based Improvements by Medialon

He pulls out his smartphone and calls the Museum App he downloaded in the lobby.  He specifies his language preferences and put his earphones on.  He is now listening the video commentary in Estonian rather than English, but still benefits from the surround sound in the room for the music (Alan is Estonian and even if he speaks good English, he prefers sometime his native language).
Toulouse Lautrec - The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based Improvements
After the video and before going to the exhibit rooms, he stops at an interactive kiosk.  The kiosk tells him which rooms he should visit if he wants to see the pictures painted by those impressionist artists most influenced by the social environment, i.e. Lautrec rather than Monet…

At the entrance of the exhibits area, he stops in front of a large LCD screen which greets him and advises him to make a right in the large room instead of going left.

Toulouse Lautrec Moulin Rouge Poster - The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based ImprovementsIn the next room he discovers the work of Mr Toulouse Lautrec who was inspired in his work by the night life of Montmartre.  After he has admired the canvas, he has the opportunity to stop by a small interactive kiosk which on his arrival starts to display video and multimedia about the social inspiration of Mr Lautrec … all in Estonian.  He navigates the multimedia material, spending more time on the elements he finds really interesting and skips through the parts that seem boring.  He also presses “I Like” buttons several times which will send link to extracts of this material to his social media wall.

At the same time John, the audiovisual maintenance guy, on his way back home receives an SMS on his smartphone advising him that the lamp in the projector of the large video screen has reached his maximum lifetime and could die anytime now.  He calls the Museum Supervision web page and, after logging on, checks the lifetimes of all the other lamps so that he can place a bulk order at the supplier first thing tomorrow.

In his office, the Curator of the Impressionist exhibition is discussing with the media designer potential changes they should make to the exhibition’s videos and multimedia.  These improvements will be based on the visitor statistic they have been logging since opening.

The accountant of the museum is happy.  He finally get the statistics for the power consumption and discovers that this Impressionist exhibition consumes far less power that the previous one, even if it uses more video and interactive resources.


Looks like a dream isn’t it! But it isn’t.  Everything that is described in this text is feasible with today’s technology and available now.

Mass customization and statistic based improvements are the new recipe for Museum.

Why would people visit museums if they can see high resolution reproductions on the internet or have a fun 3D interactive session in their living room with a large LCD screen and a Kinect?

A museum or art gallery experience is like a shopping experience or a music performance experience.  It has to deliver an experience in the real world that the visitor cannot get at home via the virtual world.  In the case of a museum this is the proximity to a real work of art or genuine artifact.

Victoria Beckham range rover evoqueThe museum website that Alan is visiting is using new technology to customize his visit.  In fact the website has to be able to do this for all visitors, hence the phrase “Mass Customization”, and to gather feedback so that the quality of the product can be continuously improved.  This makes museums very much like other vendors in other industries, for example the car industry customizes luxury models (see Victoria Beckham's limited edition Range Rover Evoque left).

Let see how it works:

When visiting the Museum website, Alan is feeding a database with his preferences and interests.

While Alan registers at the first kiosk, he is recognized by the system which gives him an RFID badge so that he will be recognized “wirelessly” during his entire visit.

The kiosk software interrogates the central supervisor software, which searches the database to find Alan and send his information back to the kiosk.  An RFID is then associated with Alan.

When Alan stops in front of the LCD screens, he is detected by the antenna which sends the information to the central supervisor software, which in turn sends the relevant multimedia to be displayed to direct Alan through the building.The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based Improvements Medioalon Kiosk

When he selects his favorite language on his smartphone, it receives a time code which synchronizes the Audio stored on his device with the video on the screen.

The video player broadcast his time code over ethernet and Wi-Fi, and the mobile app catches it to synchronize the audio.

Every kiosk’s software keeps track of the interactive journey of each visitor and sends them back to the central supervisor software which in turn feeds a database log (the one used by the curator to monitor the success of each kiosk) recording details of how often each media has been played, which ones are interrupted before the end, how long people stay at the kiosk, etc ….

The central supervisor software also keeps track of each visitor’s journey and makes it available via the database on their profile on the museum’s website for later reviews.

The central supervisor software monitors all the equipment in the exhibit area and sends email to the maintenance guys when threshold are reached.

Finally the central supervisor software monitors all the rooms and, because the software knows where visitors are physically located in the building, it can turn off some equipment even briefly to save energy, thereby helping the museum to reach the “green label”.


As Alan reviews the material and information he saw at the museum on the website he feels he really had a nice and instructive visit but thinks that next time he should investigate more about the pigment techniques that these painters invented to render such fantastic colors … This will be another journey for the same visitor to the same museum … Isn’t it what every vendor is trying to achieve – repeat visits from satisfied customers?

Toulouse Lautrec the kiss - The Connected Museum: Mass Customization and Statistics Based Improvements
To find out more about the "Connected Museum" concept, please contact Alex Carru – – + 1 305.445.4045

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