Ekho aiming to give tourist attractions the ‘wow’ factor

New platform provides visitors with in-depth information about attractions

Ekho founders  Mark McGeough and Raef Tyrrell set up their company in June 2017

Ekho founders Mark McGeough and Raef Tyrrell set up their company in June 2017

 

Raef Tyrrell and Mark McGeough are the brains behind Ekho, a new tourism information platform aimed at visitors and those managing tourist attractions. On the consumer side, Ekho aims to make it easy for visitors to get instant in-depth information about the attraction they’re visiting, while on the operators’ side it offers a way of creating an immersive multimedia experience. It also provides analysis of visitors’ interaction with the attraction.

The system works via Bluetooth beacons that sit discreetly beside points of interest. Visitors trigger the content by downloading the Ekho app on to their mobile device. The system is proximity activated and multilingual.  

“Low energy Bluetooth beacons are disrupting numerous industries globally and in the tourism attractions sector they are providing museums and galleries with new opportunities for public engagement and learning,” Raef Tyrrell says.

“Our technology will help give an exhibition that extra ‘wow’ factor and is designed to complement an attraction experience, not to replace it. Beacons are small, easy to install and affordable by comparison with high-cost wireless access points. Even one beacon can provide instant rewards so we are encouraging curators to install a couple, learn from their visitors and then deploy more if needed.”

Young graduates Tyrrell and McGeough set up their company in June 2017 and took part in Trinity College’s Launchbox accelerator last summer. The company will launch its first test site in April at The Science Gallery as part of the Fake exhibition. Five more attractions, including a distillery, an art gallery and a castle, are waiting in the wings.

Solves problems

“Ekho solves two key problems,” Tyrrell says. “Firstly, suboptimal visitor experiences and, secondly, a poor understanding of customers/visitors and how they interact with the physical space and consume content. Ekho differs from other competitors’ offerings on two main fronts: on the user end, our sleek and intuitive user interface combined with its proximity-triggered content creates a unique and engaging visitor experience. Secondly, our analytics package combines information on visitor demographics, visitor flow and content engagement providing our customers with clear actionable insights to improve both their visitor offering and marketing efforts.”

Tyrrell is a computer science graduate who interned in data analytics with EY and Ekho began life as his final year college project. McGeough graduated in economics and was runner-up in Accenture’s management challenge in 2017. The founders met while working at EY and are employed full time in the business. They are currently working with software development company, Engine Lab, and students from Trinity’s computer science department to refine their technology.

This is very much a bootstrapped start-up with costs contained at €25,000 so far. However, the founders are hoping to receive €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland’s competitive start fund to continue developing their business and are currently on the New Frontiers programme at the LINC at Blanchardstown IT.

Data analysis

The company is buying in the beacons and will charge users an installation fee of €100 per beacon and a monthly or yearly fee to use its platform. The basic package costs €660 per month with the premium package – which provides more support and data analysis – costing €835 a month. Initially, attractions will supply their own content for uploading but Tyrrell says content creation will be added as a service in due course.  

Ekho’s competition comes from traditional sources such as audio guide headsets and human tour guides as well as from other location-driven solutions. Tyrrell says Ekho has the edge because it is using smart technology to cater to both sides of the visitor experience.

“The tourist attractions industry has been stagnant for the past 20 years and in particular tour-based attractions such as museums, breweries, zoos and galleries,” he says. “Our technology removes the guesswork and enables attractions to make informed decisions based on their visitors’ behaviour. This will allow them to radically tailor their offerings.”

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