Touch tech boosts AJ Hackett experience

Pilot technology investment lifts photo and video sales

World-famous tourism operator AJ Hackett Bungy has deployed a cutting edge touchscreen system, linked by a fibre optic and wireless network, to boost its adventure tourism business.

AJ Hackett Bungy offers a range of activities in New Zealand’s major tourist destinations, including bungy jumps, swings and a bridge climb.

At the centre of the company’s technology effort is a multimedia customer facility built at its Nevis site, 40 minutes from Queenstown, to help visitors capture their experiences for future viewing — and to create a strong revenue stream for the company.

The Nevis, opened in November 2008, is home to the Nevis Arc, the world’s highest swing, and to a Nevis bungy jump.

Sales of photo and video collateral capturing the adrenaline experience are a core element of the company’s business. However, most customers now carry their own digital cameras and photo and video capable mobile phones. Given that technology change, AJ Hackett Bungy recognised that it would need to offer customers a compelling photo and video product that surpassed what they could achieve themselves.

The Nevis is a pilot site for the system: a full digital solution with its own microwave wide area network for wireless communications, along with kilometres of fibre optics to capture digital photo and video images from weird and wonderful camera locations all over the gorge.

This innovative capture technology is augmented with touchscreen systems from HP that allow clients to interact directly with multimedia and to relive their experience immediately. Adventurers return to the base building after their adventure where they meet a row of PCs, HP TouchSmart units with their own proprietary software developed especially for AJ Hackett Bungy.

Customers use their unique “jump number” to log-on to the TouchSmarts and start interacting with footage of their experience.

AJ Hackett Bungy’s group services manager, Deirdre Butler, managed the project, which kicked off in mid-2008 with go-live in November 2008.

Butler designed the overall strategy and vision of the digital photo and video capability, while the intellectual property IP remains entirely with AJ Hackett Bungy.

“Implementation was essentially directed by us, however a few components developed to our specification by external specialists,” she says.

For example, she describes the cabling work as a “feat in itself” given the terrain and distances involved to cable from the Nevis base building out to the various camera locations for the two different products on the site. This work was done by Commit Services whom also completed the internal building installation.

Rack mounted PC-based servers support the system from the back-end computer room.

Butler says the HP TouchSmart units are loaded with Windows Vista, but this isn’t used for the application so there are no plans to upgrade to Windows 7, which boasts improved support for touchscreen technology over its predecessor.

The TouchSmart PCs use touch screen interface technology designed by another Kiwi company Next Window. The interface means there’s no need for a keyboard or mouse.

The HP TouchSmart PCs allows customers to come back from their adventure experience and interact with their photos and video footage “in a very tangible, personal way”, says Henry van Asch, a co-founder of AJ Hackett Bungy.

“The units really complement the modern, hi-tech look and feel we wanted in the centre,” he says. “When we initially looked at options for installing touchscreens, there was really nothing on the market that came close to competing with the HP TouchSmart for our needs.”

Van Asch says it was expected that staff would need to guide customers through the process of viewing and interacting with their collateral, but they’ve found that customers start engaging with their photos and videos without any prompting.

“The images and clips look and sound fantastic which really adds to the excitement in the room,” adds van Asch. “In fact, the images look so good that we’ve had to stop customers from using their cameras to record directly from the TouchSmart displays.”

Sales of photo and video products have surpassed projected expectations, the company says.

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