Developing a Bring-Your-Own Device Pilot Application for Tower Bridge

Sponsor: Tower Bridge
Sponsor Liaison: Dirk Bennett, Adam Blackwell
Student Team: Adam Bartlett, Colin Canniff, Jonathan Lopez, Conor McDonough, Jake Scalise
Abstract: The experiences of COVID-19 have encouraged many exhibitions, including Tower Bridge, to explore new ways to provide visitor interpretation through digital media. Tower Bridge was constructed in 1894 to alleviate traffic congestion on and across the River Thames and is now a world-renowned landmark and a popular attraction. The goal of our project was to develop a pilot “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) application in partnership with the Tower Bridge staff that explores new ways to provide interpretation through digital media. We developed the pilot  through observations at several museums and an iterative process of design and testing. We recommend how Tower Bridge staff can refine the app to enhance usability and visitor engagement.

Tower Bridge Final Booklet D22

Tower Bridge Supplementary Materials

Tower Bridge Final Presentation


Interpretation of existing assets is an ever-present problem for museums, heritage sites, and exhibitions. Venues carefully select which assets from their collections are displayed and how they are interpreted for visitors. The development of digital technology continually presents opportunities for innovative approaches to interpretation, and many museums have utilized digital technology to engage a wide variety of audiences. The adoption of digital technologies has been accelerated further by
the COVID-19 pandemic, as attractions have sought out ways to engage their visitors remotely. Cultural venues must continue to adapt and evolve in a post-pandemic environment to meet the changing expectations and preferences of their target

A long-standing iconic London landmark, Tower Bridge is an integral part of the
transportation infrastructure in one of Europe’s largest cities and also a major visitor
attraction. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt at all visitor attractions in
London, including Tower Bridge. Visitation at Tower Bridge dropped from almost 890,000
visitors in 2019 to less than 170,000 in 2020, a painful blow considering it was seeing a steady
yearly increase in numbers prior (ALVA | Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, 2020).
This decline in visitation is assumed to be temporary, but it has spurred cultural attractions
like Tower Bridge to consider the implications for future operations. Dirk Bennett, the
Exhibition Development Manager at the Tower Bridge, stated that visitors are changing their
behavior and becoming “less hands-on, more distanced, [and] less physically interactive”
(Bennett, 2021). Accordingly, Tower Bridge has implemented new interactive media and
exhibits. This content provides more than just a ‘sanitary’ visitor experience – Tower Bridge
also seeks a mobile application that provides new experiences that are engaging,
entertaining, and educational. This application employs what the industry calls a “bringyour-
own-device” system, meaning that the application can be accessed via visitors’ personal

The overall goal of our project is to develop a pilot “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) application in partnership with the Tower Bridge staff that explores new ways to provide interpretation through digital media. The team created five objectives to complete this goal:

  1. Determine the best practices for digital interpretation and identify potential platforms for a pilot application.
  2. Identify target themes and audiences.
  3. Develop a plan for an entertaining and educational pilot application using storyboards.
  4. Develop the pilot application with conceptual ideas and structure.
  5. Recommend how the functionality and content of the application can be further improved and researched before final development.

We conducted background research on best practices for the use of digital technologies in museums and exhibitions and identified the potential platforms and languages to implement in the app, supplementing this background research with site visits and evaluations of apps and digital exhibits in select museums in London. We used an iterative design process to develop the overall design and content of the app and utilized storyboards to present to Dirk Bennett for feedback. As we developed the app, we tested it with fellow WPI students and used the feedback to revise the pilot as necessary. Finally, we compiled our findings and provided recommendations to Tower Bridge for the development of the final application.