Philippine wireless leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Cebu-based website have partnered to deliver information on tourism and heritage sites to mobile phones and tablets through quick response or QR code scanning.

The project is being undertaken in partnership with the Department of Tourism.

Smart and will place special markers on tourism and heritage sites all over Cebu. The markers will contain a snippet of information about the site and a QR code that, when scanned, will open an article about the landmark. To be able to load the information, users must be connected to the Internet and they must have a QR code reader in their devices. Most phone platforms offer free QR code scanners in their respective application markets.

QR Code demo on Colon Street editor Marlen Limpag explains to bloggers and journalists gathered on Colon Street, the country’s oldest street, the QR Code data tagging of Cebu tourism and heritage structures, a joint project between and Smart Communications Inc, done in partnership with the Department of Tourism. During the demo on Colon St., journalists and bloggers were able to load a photo of old Colon by scanning the QR Code contained in a special marker.

The project was launched in historic Barangay Pari-an yesterday (December 20). Smart and also announced the immediate availability of a free electronic guidebook to the Sinulog for the iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Android tablets and phones and other smartphones and e-reader brands. The guidebook will be offered for free download at the airport, Ayala Center Cebu, hotels, restaurants and other tourism establishments in Cebu. It will also be given away at the offices of the DOT and the Sinulog Foundation.

Electronic guidebook

Smart and also launched “A Guide To Cebu 2012,” an electronic guidebook on Cebu. The guidebook will be sold on Amazon and other online bookstores but will also be made available for free download at the airport, Ayala Center Cebu, hotels and other locations frequented by tourists.

The Sinulog guidebook was made available for download starting in yesterday’s launch. A Guide To Cebu 2012, however, will be made available for download in January in time for the Sinulog.

During yesterday’s launch, Smart and took guests on a short heritage walk in Paria-an to demonstrate the viewing of information through QR code scanning.

The highlight of the tour was the display of the San Juan Bautista parish church through a QR code marker at the chapel that is built on where the church used to stand. The parish church is described by historical records as the most opulent in Cebu. It was torn down in the late 1870s during a conflict between the Pari-an community leader and a Spanish priest.

“The project showcases journalism that takes full advantage of new technology to deliver information to people,” said Marlen Limpag, editor, “With the project, people are able to read on their phone or tablet about historic events right at where these happened.”

Limpag stressed, however, that the project isn’t purely historical or heritage. “Tourists can also get tips on how to get the most of their stay right at the tourist spot they are visiting.”

Parian marker
INFO MARKER. Above is a sample marker at the Heritage of Cebu monument in Barangay Pari-an. When scanned with a QR Code reader in a phone or tablet, the system will send you an article in about the monument.

“This is a very exciting project for us. We are not only promoting tourism here in Cebu, we also get to work with passionate people from, DOT, Sinulog foundation, local bloggers and local community leaders in helping preserve these heritage sites by raising awareness through Internet and communications technologies,” said Atty. Maria Jane C. Paredes, senior manager for Public Affairs Group, Smart.

The group will also showcase video clips linked to the QR codes in select tourism and heritage sites.

Social networking

To capitalize on social networking to help spread word on the country’s tourism sites, the articles loaded by the system are plugged into various social networks like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and even location-based services like FourSquare. They can then “Like” or tweet about the place.

“Filipinos are very social in nature. We can use social media to our advantage to help encourage more tourists to visit Cebu and the rest of the country. This initiative in Cebu is just the start of something bigger for us. We plan to bring this nationwide in support of the DOT and the various local government units,” added Paredes.

But while the system makes use of QR scanning, Limpag said they are looking forward to using technologies like NFC or near field communication to deliver data in the future.

“We think QR code scanning is transitory. We look forward to using NFC to simplify delivery of information and we are happy to have partnered with Smart, which pioneered the use of NFC in the Philippines,” Limpag said.

The QR code project will be pioneered in Pari-an and downtown Cebu City. Smart and, however, will work to expand the system to cover important tourism and historical sites in Cebu.

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