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Mobile Edge Congress

The future of the museum experience with edge computing Article

British Museum London


Mobile Edge Computing is gaining serious momentum. It will increase speed and responsiveness by pushing data processing to the network edge, and it’s hard to see where the boundaries of its capabilities lie. 

Chris Michaels, head of digital & publishing at The British Museum, envisages a world where there is no distinction between the traditional museum experience and the digital one. He tells Catriona Ayre how edge computing can help his vision become a reality.

Edge computing will deliver valuable content to visitors…fast

“Museums are at a point of change”, explains The British Museum head of digital and publishing Chris Michaels. And it’s true; old institutions once home to traditional learning have suddenly become hubs for self-discovery and participation. Technology is increasingly relied upon to deliver relevant, valuable content to provide the best experience possible.

“As I look at what the museum requires digitally to operate, I see that the real value lies in delivering content at great speeds”. In a building founded in the 1750’s, the application of any technology is a challenge, tells Michaels. Edge Computing allows processing to be completed at the information source, rather than between two locations – a promising solution for such a complex, physical building.

The shift towards edge computing will be significant for the museum, given that in 2015 over 75% of their 6.8 million visitors carried a smartphone through the doors.

“If you can offer visitors a rich experience, one like mobile edge computing is able to offer, the potential then is huge.” It’s clear Michaels is determined to resolve how museums can best benefit from the opportunities contemporary technology has to offer.

Collaboration with tech partners helps us learn more about our audience

For the past few years, collaboration with tech start-ups has been an integral part of the British Museum’s education piece. By working with digital classrooms, VR/AR, 3D Printing and IoT applications, the museum has been able to help partners optimise their technology, whilst learning more about their own audience.

“It’s hugely beneficial for us to work with a technology before its full market potential has been unlocked”, explains Michaels, when asked his motivations for working with edge computing.

“Here we have a technology that wants to test on an audience of scale, diversity and value. What do we get out of these partnerships? They continually force us to question how the role of technology can shape the museum experience”.

Edge to help museums represent the interconnectness of people

“It’s really important in a complex political and economic time that museums show how people come together. This will only happen if you really understand how digital works”.

Seemingly The British Museum understands, with their digital audience exceeding 40 million in 2015/2016. Is their close work with new technologies a contributing factor? Collaboration between The British Museum and edge computing is set to continue, with Michaels telling of his plans to set up testbeds allowing partners use the museum space to optimise their applications.

“This will help define the role of technology for the museum. We can all learn together – extracting as much insight as possible before we each go on to do what’s best for our business”.



Hear more from Chris Michaels at Mobile Edge Computing Congress 2016, 20 – 22 September, where he will be speaking on using museums as a space to innovate

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