Qatar National Library (QNL) is a non-profit organization
Qatar National Library (QNL) is a non-profit organization. The plans for the new national library were announced by Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, on 19 November 2012, during a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Dar Al Kutub Library, in Doha, Qatar, one of the first public libraries in the Persian Gulf region. QNL aims to serve a three-fold function: as a national library, a research-level university library, and a central metropolitan public library equipped for the digital age. In its capacity as a national library as defined by UNESCO, it collects and provides access to global knowledge, including heritage content and materials relevant to Qatar and the region; as a university and research library, it supports education and research at all levels; and as a modern central public library, it provides library services and resources to meet the reading interests and foster the information literacy of the general public. In addition, with the opening of the new building, it also serves as a community meeting place.
An innovative audio tour system
Astad approached Recursive to design and develop an innovative audio tour system that would allow people visiting the Qatar National Library to listen to the audio of each exhibit, video wall and interactive installation through headphones so as not to disturb other users. An important feature of the brief was the need to deliver this audio in real time and using the existing Wi-Fi network in place within the building. This was particularly relevant due to the need to support live presentations within the auditorium and Special events space, alongside multiple language support, interfacing directly with the real time interpretation system. An additional requirement for the system was that this should be delivered in a hands free way with no user intervention required. This last requirement meant there was a need to carry out indoor tracking of the individual users location to automatically determine their exact location and then use this to decide the exact moment to switch audio channels to ensure they always receive the correct audio for the exhibit or space in which they are in. A final requirement was the creation of a roaming “guest speaker” feature which would allow a tour to be conducted around the library with the tour guide simply using a roaming radio microphone with the audio from this being delivered to the users in real time via the application wherever they are in the library.
Recursive developed bespoke directional beacon devices
Several major challenges became apparent during the design of this system. The main two were tracking people’s positions within a building and transmitting audio from an exhibit to the users audio device in real time. To transmit audio from exhibit to audio device, Recursive proposed the use of an audio over Wi-Fi device that would allow audio to be streamed over a wireless network directly to each mobile device. We worked extensively with Williams Sound and their Hearing Hotspot product. In its existing form however, the server was not capable of providing the channel capacity required, this being limited to a maximum of 16 stereo channels, far short of what we required. Recursive worked with Williams Sound to further develop the products capability expanding this to 100+ channels through the development of new firmware which allowed multiple servers to act as one. In order to track the position of people throughout the building, Recursive developed bespoke software to ensure the bluetooth Beacons provided usable directionality data especially for the project. Standard beacons are omnidirectional meaning that the RF signal is propagated in all directions equally. This approach does not work well when multiple beacons are required in close proximity, as was the case in the library with multiple exhibits often less than 2m apart. In addition the large number of RF reflections which occur from the surrounding surfaces, especially in an modern architectural environment, skew the readings of the RF signals received, leading to false positioning and triggering. To match the bespoke beacon design, Recursive also developed bespoke code to detect the proximity of the mobile device from each Beacon within the building. This is built on the iOS platform and is run from a custom cloud based Content Management System (CMS) which runs and manages all devices and beacon settings, allowing real time diagnostics and changes across the site.
This CMS is capable of supporting multiple buildings and sites
Recursive designed and specified a bespoke system for delivering the audio as well as tracking of the user, including a powerful cloud based CMS. The CMS allows real time administration over the services including the audio channels served, the creation of audio zones within the library, control of the beacons and their settings, the uploading of background audio tracks and the maintenance reporting for diagnostics purposes. This CMS is capable of supporting multiple buildings and sites to allow for future expansion. It also allows for new audio channels and beacons to be deployed to support ad hoc events as and when required and to activate or deactivate an audio zone at any time, something which can be automated via an API to allow control via third party control systems such as Crestron.