Historic walk smartphone savvy

By Andre Hueber

Kingsland's heritage buildings are even easier to spot these days, with the help of your phone.

The suburb's business society is trialling a series of plastic plaques featuring special bar codes on the area's historic buildings. Run your smartphone past the barcode and you can find out all about the building's history.

Kingsland Business Society general manager Christine Foley says the move is all part of a heritage project the society began in 2009 with the aim of highlighting buildings and the area's sporting and cultural history. Information came from a pamphlet written by former community board chair Lindsay Rea - as well as the Eden Park Trust and Auckland Library Special Collection.

The society had hoped to install hand-crafted bronze plaques in the footpath at 12 important sites, but Auckland Transport was concerned they could be removed or interfere with roadworks.

"The council's heritage team wanted us to use standard enamel plaques which were already in place at the Domain and Victoria Park instead. They're sturdy and can be attached to buildings," Mrs Foley says.

The society agreed, but added their own flavour. Web designer Gavan Hogg created the mobile website and codes while graphic artist Grant Levarre-Waters came up with the overall look.

"We approached building owners and asked for permission, they were all very enthusiastic."

The codes embedded in the plaques are known as Quick Response or QR codes. The technology was invented by Toyota in 1994 to track vehicles during the manufacturing process. Smartphone users can download a free app called a QR Reader that allows them to scan the code which instantly opens a website with information about the building.

Mrs Foley says the codes are already used on a walk at Wynyard Quarter but linked to a traditional website, designed for viewing on a PC.

"Unless the information is optimised for a cellphone it might not add that much because it's too hard to navigate. This is the first instance that we know of, of using QR codes on a heritage plaque where it links to a mobile site."

The phone-enhanced website works in tandem with the society's new website Kingslandnz.com, which went live in February.

"People can see how one of Auckland's earliest suburbs was established. Kingsland grew from the fact it had rail and tram services," Mrs Foley says.

The heritage walk takes about 40 minutes and starts at Trinity Church on the corner of Sandringham and New North roads. It finishes at the site of the 1903 Kingsland Tram Disaster at Bond St. The disaster saw three people die and 50 injured when the handbrake failed on a crowded double-decker tram. You can read all about it, of course, with the click of an app.


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- The Aucklander

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