Have a beek at this

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This post originally appeared on Sciblogs.co.nz.

When people are thinking of new places to go and visit, the internet's not the most inspiring place to check them out.....at least until now according to Ben Knill.

The developer of beek, an interactive destination guide, is on the lookout for investment capital to develop the next edition of his software widget which can sit on a hotel, attraction or restaurant's website, to make it easy for those thinking of visiting to check them out, as well as the surrounding area..

beek's special trick is to enable a hotel, for example, to show 3D immersive photos of its inside and allow an internet user to 'walk' through its premises. People can stroll into a bedroom, walk into the restaurant, check out the pages of a menu and wander outside through its front door, and down the street.

They can keep on wandering, past the city sites, into other beek customer's front doors and premise, say a café, perhaps a ferry, and have a look (and listen too). The clever bit is all the businesses are advertising all the other businesses.

Knill has based his initial development and version in Wellington, working with tourism partners to make contact with potential customers, which in turn has made it easier for him to sell the concept to them. (It is one of those facts of life that, being interactive software, it's better to have a look at it working than try and describe it.)

Knill describes the software as being a rabbit warren around capital (in this case), allowing tourists, or conference attendees or businesspeople to check the destination and its facilities out, without needing to actually visit.

He did something vaguely similar back in his British homeland, by taking photographs for a fee of historical houses and the like, which internet users could click on and 'explore' inside.

The intended business model for beek, which is currently based in Creative HQ under Grow Wellington's auspices, is to sell the concept almost as a franchise-like model.

The system will suit photographers in particular, who can charge up to $200/scene (of the hotel for example), and those photographers in turn will download the images onto the hotel's website. beek's revenue will come from an annual subscription fee from each customer for guide membership, support, embedding on lots of websites and hosting the site (in Amazon's cloud).

"We're a start up, looking for capital, as the software needs more development in order to automate it," Knill says.

"We don't want photographers needing to know how to code, and it needs to be easy for customers and tourism operators to use." At the moment, Knill has to labouriously download each item such as the menu, photo, or scene himself. Enabling others to do this simply, is key to launching it on the world stage.

He's been given a $40,000 quote from a developer to get it to an automated stage, and, having launched and automated, intends expanding to Auckland, the rest of New Zealand and then to overseas destinations. Alternatively, he and his three partners are willing to sell a 20% share for $165,000.

"beek's call to action is it is collaborative, that's its secret sauce," Knill says. By working with and through Regional Tourism Operators, whose job is to promote regions/cities, they in turn can contact people who they think will be interested in putting themselves forward to use the platform on their own website, as well as interconnecting with others on the interactive guide.

"People are looking to work together, because that's what the internet is all about," Knill says.

The system uses an Austrian colleague's proprietary software, though "getting out there and providing the destination focus is a form of protection in itself. Speed is the key."

And in case you're wondering, whey 'beek'? Well, it's a combination of things Knill says.

"Being nosey and cheeky for a start. But it's also to do with seek, peek, look and book."

Which, in a nutshell, it exactly what a good internet destination guide should do.

Peter Kerr is a journalist, writer and consultant in the innovation space. View his work and that of 35 other scientists and science writers at Sciblogs, New Zealand's largest science blogging network.

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