Zolk C, a Waterford based company specializes in using innovative technology to enhance the experience of visitors at tourist sites and museum exhibitions, has just received €500,000 in new investment from the Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund which is managed by Kernel Capital.
Paul Savage, the Managing Director of Zolk C, explains what the company intends to do with the money, “Because we are primarily export focused we are not quite in as difficult circumstances as others. We have been able to meet all our commercial targets and have grown the company over the last few years.
“We really have developed in the UK and Irish market since 2007 and we are trying to enter the North American market at the moment.
“We have done research on this over the last eighteen months and we have realized that we would need to have substantially more resources than we now have. We couldn’t organically grow into the North American market. We needed to get investment to be able to make that jump.”
Zolk C’s technological solutions have been used by over half a million visitors at sites ranging from the Culloden Battlefield Guide in Scotland to the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross. They have just been awarded a contract by Waterford City Council to provide a handheld multimedia interpretation of the historic ‘Viking Triangle’ quarter.
At the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, Paul says that Zolk C, “Worked on a tour for the visitor’s centre. The information is displayed over a number of large screens. Using our hand held technology we can intelligently synchronize the information available to the visitor according to where they are on the tour. Also, people are able to enjoy the presentations in their own language as they walk around.”
Zolk C makes much use of the research and development being done on pervasive technologies taking place at the TSSG. (They are both based on campus at the Waterford Institute of Technology.) Pervasive technology allows data services to be seamlessly available anywhere at anytime and in any format.
Through a combination of sensors in the environment and the capabilities of modern hand-held devices to generate and be tagged by geo-location data, audio and video information can be presented to the visitor at the appropriate point on their tour of the exhibit. They are always in a position to access the most relevant and pertinent information.
Not only does it enhance the visitors enjoyment of the site or exhibition but it returns vital information to the site owners and managers about how the visitors are interacting with what is on show.
Through analysis of how visitors pass through the system and use the devices it is possible to collect data on what they find interesting and what they don’t. For example, being able to note when people press stop on their video presentations and the frequency that occurs, information can be derived as to how compelling that particular item may or may not be.
The technology allows almost endless fine tuning by the operators of the site to improve their presentations to create a more engaging story for the visitor and enhance their experience as much as possible.
Zolk C’s ability to take cutting edge Irish research and adapt it into a commercial product suitable for export also acts as a boost to the economy. They have shown themselves to be a worthwhile business for investment and that leads the way for the possibility of more money to be made available for other Irish innovation companies.
The activities of companies like Zolk C and can only increase confidence in the capabilities of Irish companies to adapt academic research for commercial purposes and develop its potential market value.
Donal Duffy, Head of Enterprise Ireland Relations at the Bank of Ireland commenting on this investment said, “Supporting sustainable businesses like Zolk C in the context of a challenging market enables these companies to grow, recruit and realise their long term strategic ambitions which is critical for the company and contributes to Ireland’s recovery.”