N@VITour project, by integrating Telecommunications, Earth Observation and Navigation satellite assets, aims to set-up a service that allows:
- managing the resources of natural parks;
- supporting tourists during tours in natural parks.
The idea behind this project comes from the demands of some managers of natural parks, wishing to make use of advanced technologies for the management of the park in terms of classification and monitoring of habitat status and natural resources, as well as for providing services to tourists in terms of support to the visit and security.
Park Authorities are institutional bodies established with the overall mission of protecting natural areas. Several activities concur to achieve the overall objective: ensure biodiversity through the conservation of the natural habitats, provide support for the prevention of natural disaster, promote environmental education, but also boost the local economy in an environmentally sustainable way. The complexity of these tasks and the extension of the park area make difficult, for the park staff, which is often composed by a narrow team, to carry out its work. In this context has been conceived N@VITour, which aims to provide a set of tools, based on the expertise of Planetek in the field of Earth Observation, with the objective of reducing costs and increasing quality of the territory monitoring process.
Today, furthermore, worldwide parks are considered important instruments for growth, above all thanks to the tourism that they generate and that can bring the economic resources necessary to support the management process. N@VITour, therefore, includes also features designed for touristic support, in order to build an attractive package that is meant to open up new market opportunities, which up to now cannot be served without an integrated software module comprehensive of navigation and telecommunication components.
Users and their needs
The target users of N@VITour are:
Park Operators, who use the N@VITour biodiversity and land monitoring services, accessible through a user-friendly web or mobile interface.
Tourists, who use the N@VITour touristic services.
Expert tourists or professionals (e.g. biologists) who access the same cartographic products available for the park operators, for a specific interest.
Nowadays several applications providing assistance for tourists are available, while most of the management activities of the parks are led through dedicated campaigns. What can be highlighted is the lack of a system integrating both the safety and the informative aspects, and able, from the tourist point of view, to support him thoroughly during the trip, and, from the park authority perspective, to provide a unique, centralized tool for the management of all the activities involved in the visitors support.
On the one hand, tourists need a tool able to assist them during their itinerary in the park, to enjoy their visit as much as possible: very often, in fact, during their tours, they have no indication about the points of interest, the difficulty or the obstacles they could meet by choosing a path rather than another one.
On the other, the management and the continuous check of parks of wide dimension is a very widespread problem that the park operational staff has to face each day. In addition, in order to accomplish to the habitat directive (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/legislation/habitatsdirective/index_en.htm ), Park authorities are required to cooperate with institutions at Regional and National level for the provision of information about the conservation status of the natural resources (habitat and species) in the area they cover, and for this task a well-established monitoring system is necessary. A tool able to ease the process of collecting data points and other attributes about vegetation, waste areas, particular fauna and flora species or about every common interesting feature, therefore, is a very attractive aspect.
Service/ system concept
As a consequence of the analysis of the user requirements, the following primary services were identified:
Virtual Travel Service, which provides access to different levels of information that may vary according to the type of app downloaded, such as:
- introductory informations about the Park and wildlife attractions
- slide show galleries
- off-line maps with POIs and itineraries
- trails maps
- Augmented Reality contents
- EO imagery
- live feeds provided from Park Support services
- Dynamic itineraries based on intermodal routing calculation
Tourist networking service, easy in-field collection of geo-tagged multimedia items, with the possibility of sharing of multimedia contents within the park social network.
Emergency signalling service: fast emergency signaling (SMS, emergency calls) with transmission of the position.
Safety assistance service: reception of danger warning in multimedia format.
Land and resources monitoring service: on-line access to cartography responding to different monitoring tasks.
In-situ data collection service for park operators: advanced field data collection, featured with accurate drawing, map performance, offline working, custom feature classes, multiple project management, easy import and export tools, synchronization of data collected on the mobile devices with the centralized repository.
Space Added Value
The system will combine the Space Navigation technology, which allows the implementation of position-based services, with the SatCom technology that, especially in the park areas with complex morphology, is relevant for a continuous access to the services provided. Moreover, the Earth Observation technology can provide advanced features for the management activities and for the access to added-value information from expert users with specific scientific interest.
Several people will benefit from the N@VITour services:
- the tourist who, from the one hand can rely on the safety service, from the other makes use of N@VITour to get knowledge of the local points of interest or attractions according to its geographic position, taking a new and more efficient road to exploit the park services, without the consultation of paper guides and paper maps, and, finally, has the possibility to share findings and feelings in the park area with other members of the community;
- the expert: a professional or tourist dedicated to nature travel and ecotourism who can be part of an association which puts together people with common interest or with specific expertise in a natural science field; she/he makes use of N@VITour to deepen aspects related to the park natural context (vegetation, fauna, water quality);
- the park authority, whose operational staff makes use of N@VITour to improve the level of monitoring of the park structures and natural resources, enhanced through the contribution of people on move, to provide a more effective response to the emergency occurring into the park region and to achieve a more efficient coordination of the team on the field.
The features offered by N@VITour fall into two categories:
- Touristic support
- Biodiversity and land monitoring
The first category includes services made available to the park’s visitors through a mobile app, which provides information on the local points of interest and attractions according to the geographic position, and gives the visitor the possibility to share findings and feelings in the park area with other members of the tourist community. The app, in addition, includes safety features, such as multimedia warning messages displayed to the visitor who moves close to a potentially dangerous or forbidden area.
The second category refers to the accessibility, through a web or mobile interface, of the cartographic products and tools designed for supporting the park’s staff in the execution of their monitoring activities, and include the capabilities of reporting and managing in-field observations, which may be related to different items of interest, such as the habitat status. The park operators are enabled, in fact, through a mobile application, to report or validate georeferenced observations, captured while moving in the park, related to the characterization of the area, and to send the data generated to the back-office system. Then a person in the park staff can check all the in-situ data collected and, through a management interface, can generate a report on the basis of which the habitat map, for instance, will be corrected.
As shown by the system architecture depicted below, a crucial role in the system will be played by the satellite assets involved:
- Navigation Technology for the implementation of position-based services
- Earth Observation for the production of thematic maps with the necessary features of interest for the park administrator (vegetation maps, land cover and infrastructure maps, soil sealing maps, also water quality maps as user base broadens)
- Satellite Communication to ensure access to the service for specific areas not covered by Wi-Fi or 3G/4G network
The key issues addressed during the present study are:
- Design of services for the provision and sharing of useful information for tourism activities
- Definition of services aimed at supporting the park authority for the correct monitoring and the continuous check of park structures and natural resources
- Provision of tourism safety services, to support the safety intervention activities
The team has concluded the study work including user needs consolidation, technical requirements definition, service definition, integrated solution design, and technical and commercial viability analysis. A final dissemination event is planned in the context of the Global Change Research Symposium 2014 (http://www.global2014.it/ ), to be held in Ostuni in September.
The next step after the conclusion of this feasibility Study is the preparation of a Demonstration Project during which a pre-operational stage of the services will be put in place. The demonstration Project is due to start in the first half of 2015 lasting 2 years, and with the further commercialisation of the services by its conclusion.