QR codes at the heart of Monmouthpedia


An interesting experiment gets its official launch this weekend when Monmouthpedia formally kicks off today.

The Welsh town of Monmouth is the focus of this Wikipedia project that aims to create physical connections between places throughout the town, and events in its history, with respective content on Wikipedia.

According to the description on Wikipedia:

[…] The project aims to cover every single notable place, person, artefact, plant, animal and other things in Monmouth in as many languages as possible, but with a special focus on Welsh. This is a different scale of wiki-project. The project is jointly funded by Monmouthshire County Council and Wikimedia UK. Monmouthshire County Council intend to install free town wide Wi-Fi for the project.

What this means in practice is that when you visit Monmouth – a town with a rich history as this Monmouthpedia infographic illustrates – you’ll encounter visual clues everywhere that let you know that detailed information about the thing on which the clue is attached is available on Wikipedia.

The ways in which the clues will be displayed are many:

    • Larger ceramic or metal plaques for places exposed to the elements for articles specific to Monmouth.
    • Smaller plastic, ceramic or metal plaques for labelling objects non specific to Monmouth, e.g. for use in the Flora and Fauna guide.
    • Labels for use inside buildings, e.g. for objects in museums.
    • Glass stickers in the windows of shops to give information on their professions.
    • In addition there will be information posters, signs, notice boards and leaflets to help people contribute and stay informed.

And the visual clues themselves? QR codes.


If you have a smartphone and a QR code-scanning app (for Android smartphones, a good one is Barcode Scanner), you just scan the code and the relevant Wikipedia page will open on your device. As free wifi-fi will blanket Monmouth, no worries about connectivity costs.

What’s especially clever is that the page you get on your mobile device can be in any one of about 25 languages. Here’s how that works:

When a user scans a QRpedia QR code on their mobile device, the device decodes the QR code into a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) using the domain name “qrwp.org” and whose path (final part) is the title of a Wikipedia article, and sends a request for the article specified in the URL to the QRpedia web server. It also transmits the language setting of the device.

The QRpedia server then uses Wikipedia’s API to determine whether there is a version of the specified Wikipedia article in the language used by the device, and if so, returns it in a mobile-friendly format. If there is no version of the article available in the preferred language, then the QRpedia server offers a choice of the available languages, or a Google translation.

In this way, one QRcode can deliver the same article in many languages, even when the museum is unable to make its own translations. QRpedia also records usage statistics.

That’s what I call imagination.

If you’re interested in how this grand experiment will develop – Monmouth has been dubbed “The world’s first Wikipedia town” – keep an eye on the website and the blog. You can also connect on Twitter: @MonmouthpediA. Follow the hashtag #MonmouthpediA.

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Inside the connected car

Very interesting assessment of in-car technology with some quotable predictions from Intel, eg:

  • By next year the car will be the third most-connected place in which people spend time.
  • By 2016, how connected a car is will be a critical buying decision.
  • In the future, if car ownership declines but increased use is still needed, connectivity might allow users to “log-on” to a vehicle. So it could even change colour and add the accessories of your choice. Just like a PC desktop, a machine would take on the persona of its user.
  • In the US, the average driver spends the equivalent of two months of every year in car; it’s impractical for us to give up connectivity inside of the vehicle. The car is the mobile device of the future.
  • We see people bringing physical goods into cars to personalise them, and we expect a digital equivalent to emerge.

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The connected car: coming to your street soon – Telegraph
Intel is investing in ‘connected cars’, which are the logical precursor to self-driving models. Matt Warman looks at the ways tech is getting into the car.

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Free hotel wifi: Light at the end of the tunnel?


The subject of internet connectivity in hotels has received quite a bit of attention during the past few weeks.

I posted about my experiences with hotel internet connectivity while in Las Vegas and in Amsterdam recently, highlighting a nice way to balance the negative side of this – in my recounted experiences, one offering free connectivity but wired only, no wifi (Luxor, Las Vegas); the other (Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam), imposing an unwelcome charge for the privilege – with a way to get all your devices online without paying extra using a neat tool like Connectify that creates a “personal wifi hotspot” on your Windows laptop or netbook from your single internet connection.

Last year, James Cridland wrote about his experiences with Hilton Hotels and how, in James’ view, they are hiding their wifi charges from customers when they book rooms in various Hilton hotels across Europe.

Much weariness with all of this is apparent in a post a few days ago by my podcasting partner Shel Holtz – a frequent business traveller who stays in hotels a lot – in which, following a good experience with wifi at a Delta Hotel in Canada, he writes an open letter to the hotel industry saying that the time for free hotel-wide wifi has come.

From reading both of those posts, it brings to my mind once more the cost puzzle of trying to understand what is the relationship between the price many (most) hotels charge you for internet connectivity, whether wired or wifi, and the cost to them in providing it.

In a very timely moment, via Lifehacker comes a fascinating analysis by HotelChatter, a daily web magazine from Conde Nast Digital, that throws a spotlight on that very subject. In The 2012 HotelChatter Hotel WiFi Report, the magazine gives a pretty good assessment of the broad picture on wifi and charging across the mainly-US hotel industry, with this take on what it sees across that industry:

[…] New problems have popped up too. Guests are getting dinged with internet charges per device (cellphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) because hotel WiFi networks are too antiquated to handle multiple devices per room.

Hotels have also complained that streaming digital media services like Netflix are sucking up precious bandwidth forcing the hotels to invest more money into their networks and (so they claim) to keep on charging guests per day (and per device) for internet access.

But we’ve got the numbers on how much it costs a hotel to install and maintain a decent network and there’s no reason why hotels should be charging us for this service, which is just as important as air conditioning and working toilets, other than it’s an easy revenue source.

And there we come to some very interesting numbers, as this snapshot from a compelling infographic HotelChatter produced shows.


In HotelChatter’s words:

[…] We’ve spoken with a few internet service providers and some candid hotel executives about the cost of WiFi and for a 250-room hotel, the cost is about $2.50-$4.50 per room, per month. Hotels on average charge $13.95 a day for WiFi. You do the math. If you still need help, check out our infographic breaking down the costs.

In short, the cost of hotel WiFi is purely a marketing decision. Many hotels resist giving the WiFi up for free because they would be turning their backs on an easy source of revenue. But Michael Strauss, director of finance for the Bryant Park Hotel in Manhattan which recently began offering WiFi for free, said, “[WiFi] is like electricity and water now. We don’t charge our guests for that. It’s expected.” Let’s hope that more hotels can be as brave as BPH and start offering it for free.

All of this is by way of understanding what’s historical and seeing the shifts that actually are happening – HotelChatter says that the overall picture is more positive than negative, with 60 percent of hotels it surveyed offering free wifi. While I can’t tell how this compares to HotelChatter’s 2011 report – they don’t give the percentage for that year but the 2011 infographic look like it’s about 40 percent – it’s an improvement without doubt.

Check out the details for 2012:

Overall, an encouraging picture.

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A cure for hotel wifi frustrations with Connectify

One of the biggest frustrations when you’re travelling is the less than compelling experiences that are typical with internet connectivity in hotels and conference venues – high cost, difficulty and/or extra costs to connect more than one device (laptop plus mobile phone, for instance), restrictive connection type (such as cable only: no use if you have an iPad or other tablet), etc.

Just before my US trip earlier this month, I discovered Connectify, a perfect solution to such dilemmas that lets you get online to a single internet connection with a wifi-capable Windows 7 computer and share that connection seamlessly and securely with wifi-enabled devices, whatever their platforms.

It worked from the get-go during my Las Vegas trip: start my netbook with the wired internet connection that my hotel provided, load up Connectify and voila! an instant wifi hotspot in my hotel room that enabled both my wife and I to get online via our various devices, she with her netbook and iPhone, me with my Android devices.

What it gave us was freedom to do what we wanted to do do with whatever device we chose, easily and with no fuss whatsoever: it just works. It was a similar picture for me at the Ragan conference in Amsterdam last week: wired-only connection in my hotel room; repeating the Vegas hotspot experience meant I could relax in bed tweeting from my mobile device if I chose to. :)

So how does Connectify actually work? Undoubtedly there is some clever technology in the background that makes your PC become a wifi hotspot (PC World magazine has details of that); the firm behind the program develops solutions for the US military and intelligence communities.

For users like you and me, it probably suffices to know just this:

  1. Download and install the Connectify application on your Windows 7 computer.
  2. Launch it, set your desired hotspot name and create a password.
  3. Select which internet connection you want to share and enable the hotspot.
  4. Connect your devices via wifi and get online.

That really is all there is to it.

(If you don’t see the Connectify video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Connectify is available in two versions: free and paid. The paid version – Connectify Pro, under £20 in the UK – offers some additional features including the ability to share wifi from 3G/4G networks, drag-and-drop transfer of files of any size (you can do this with the free version but the feature is limited), and limited support for Windows XP and Vista computers.

I’m using the free version which is just fine if all you really want to do is get online with your multiple devices.

For getting connected on your terms, whether for business or personal, Connectify could well be the best thing since sliced bread.

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The value of free internet

One of the feaures of travel these days is the (usually-met) expectation of high internet charges in your hotel. It’s common in Europe, for instance, for hotels to charge eye-watering rates to let you get online: charges of £20 or equivalent per day aren’t unusual.

Some hotels include internet costs in their room rates, treating it as part of the plumbing, as it were. Even if room rates are elevated to cover the cost, it’s perceived as a good deal when your experience in the hotel is “free internet.”

That’s been the case in my hotel, the Luxor in Las Vegas, where I’ve been staying during this week. They say quite clearly that unlimited internet access is included in the room rate.

But I wonder what the Mandalay Bay Hotel is thinking with its pricing – just look at the screenshot of their website showing their rate when I visited the site on my smartphone. The screenshot shows $525. Not a typo!

I have no idea what the Mandalay’s pricing goals or philosophy are, and the place where I accessed their website was in the convention centre attached to the hotel. But the price is eye-watering nevertheless, don’t you think?

I wonder when it will become a common competitive differentiator for hotels and other public places to offer you “free internet.” It might be the difference for a connected traveller to choose your place instead of another when he or she can get online with wifi or a wired connection without fuss or concern.

Perception is everything.

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Virgin Atlantic’s got it

I saw this TV ad for Virgin Atlantic for the first time last night. The airline first used it in 2010. As you can probably tell, I don’t watch a lot of TV. :)

It captured my imagination. Beautifully made. And it ticks a lot of “connection boxes.” Attractive people, terrific sound track – “I’m Feeling Good” – contemporary and futuristic settings, aspirational, even experiential, solid brand value, shows the company as leading edge.

I want to fly with people like that!

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Virgin Atlantic’s brand new TV advert – “Your airline’s either got it or it hasn’t” – Virgin Atlantic
Welcome to our first ever global TV advert. Featuring the strap-line ‘Your airline’s either got it or it hasn’t’, the campaign takes the viewer on a metaphorical flight with Virgin Atl…

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