The Coronavirus pandemic has caused an acute contraction of the cultural sector, impacting travel, tourism, live events and hospitality. In the spring of 2020, festivals, matches, shows and day trips became little more than fantasies, with the viability of many destinations dependent on the re-introduction of effective but ‘Covid-conscious’ transport services.
After a competitive bid process and successful pitch to the West Midlands 5G (WM5G) – the UK’s first region-wide 5G testbed – it’s a challenge that travel-tech innovator and consortium lead, ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST), creative and cultural storytellers, Imagemakers, and geo-content distribution platform, Landmrk, are set to rise to. Additional collaborators include Infotech Insights and Mobius Networks, providing crowd monitoring and data backhaul, digital media arts collective, MeYouAndUs, and global mobile network agents, Cellhire, who specialise in tailoring airtime plans for visitors to major events.
Urban Tourism 5.0 (UT5.0) is part-funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport through WM5G. The consortium will work with Transport for West Midlands and Coventry City Council to trial the new service. The £1.2m project will provide audience engagement and analytics for transport operator decision support, safety critical network optimisation and process automation, using 5G enabled technology to guide people to venues and events ‘the smart way’.
The government acknowledges that managing the reintroduction of cultural events and services is critical to our economic and social welfare. In 2019, UK events attracted £42bn in ticket sales and £10bn in public transport fares. When you add associated hotel and hospitality revenues, events generate over £142bn to the UK economy.
The UT5.0 consortium aims to accelerate recovery from COVID-19, inspiring audiences with robust, engaging, safety critical real-time guidance based on their proximity to venues, events, points of interest and critically, each other.
“As we wrestle with the resulting economic and social fall-out of COVID-19, to successfully rebuild the cultural sector we now need more creative and engaging ways of ensuring public safety and managing best-practice in respect of social distancing. In parallel, visitors to venues and events need the assurance of an enjoyable overall experience.”, explains YST’s CEO, Chris Thompson… “Understanding demand for our rail and road networks and integrating them more effectively with last-mile routes to destinations, without creating pinch-points and bottlenecks, is business critical. With 5G we can capture granular travel demand and manage footfall using artificial intelligence, rich-media navigation and exclusive audio and video content to incentivise people to plan ahead.”
To achieve its creative vision the consortium requires the connectivity and bandwidth of 5G to deploy its travel assistant software at scale. 4G only supports up to 100,000 devices per square kilometre, inadequate for almost all the UKs major cities and events, even with social distancing rules. 5G networks however can support up to a million devices per square kilometre. Using UK City of Culture 2021 events in Coventry as a testbed, UT5.0 will leverage 5G connectivity to demonstrate how enhanced navigation can help achieve a buoyant post-lockdown cultural landscape in the short to medium term, and eventually return the sector to growth.
Image Makers project lead, Phil Songhurst, compares the envisioned service to, “a next generation Michelin Guide, or Lonely Planet”.
Alongside creative content the innovative programme will deliver real-time and forecast rail and road travel demand to service providers and service users. It will connect with account-based ticketing systems, such as SWIFT in the West Midlands, and provide business critical data flows for integrated ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’ offers.
Chris Holmes, Programme Director, Transport at WM5G, said, “We’re thrilled to be supporting the UT5.0 project. It will showcase how 5G connectivity can be combined with creativity to drive operational benefits whilst literally putting unique cultural experiences on the map, and importantly, enhancing the overall event experience for those attending.”
1. To find out more about WM5G visit https://www.wm5g.org.uk
2. To find out more about the Coventry City of Culture 2021 visit https://coventry2021.co.uk
3. For ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ go to https://yousmartthing.com
4. For Landmrk visit: https://landmrk.it
5. For Oodl visit: https://www.oodl.co.uk
6. For Image Makers visit: https://imagemakers.uk.com
7. And you can use or embed the 4G version of the UT5.0 travel assistant here: https://travel.yousmartthing.com/coventry