QR-codes to help tourists easily find city sights

Vitebsk is first Belarusian city to launch special codes at museums, hotels and cinemas, enabling tourists to promptly receive information on local sights

By Semen Lesnikov

The barcode of black and white geometric patterns and figures can be scanned by a handset, allowing software to show information on ticket costs, location and opening hours. The director for the gorod.vitebsk.by Internet portal’s development, Andrey Lapin, is among the system’s designers. Meeting at the Regional Local History Museum, which already keeps codes of Vitebsk’s sights, he demonstrates how the system works. “We are now in the city centre,” he approaches a poster in the hall, directing his smartphone towards it. After scanning, the necessary information appears. “We can easily find the location of Repin’s Zdravnevo Museum-Estate, learning that it takes 28 minutes to go there,” he continues. “Additionally, the system shows the route to the site, with the help of a navigator.”

Among the project’s authors are the Vitebsk City Executive Committee and a mobile communication operator. A single code also takes a user to the mobile version of the website, which provides information on the location of souvenir shops, cafes, ATMs and amusements. It’s also possible to view photos of museum exhibits and no Internet addresses need to be entered by hand, making it more convenient.

The Deputy Director of the Vitebsk Regional Local History Museum, Valery Shishanov, tells us, “Quick access helps increase our number of visitors. A month ago, we visited the Inter-Museum Festival in Moscow, where a similar system is only in its infancy. We’re pleased to be among the pioneers in the sphere in the CIS.”

QR-codes were first developed in Japan in the mid-1990s and are now widespread through France, Germany and Russia. However, until recently, they were used primarily for advertising firms, shops and art projects. No single information system existed for cities, at least in Belarus. With this in mind, the Vitebsk project is unique. In the near future, its developers plan to add economic information which might arouse interest among potential investors. Moreover, the system is expected to cover other large cities of the region: Polotsk, Novopolotsk and Orsha.

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