Innovation on our High Street
Sarah Windrum gives the latest from Tech Central
Tech Central was thrilled to see the Warwickshire Towns Network win Partnership of the Year Award at the recent National ATCM Awards.
Smart Towns have been on our agenda for a while and it's great to see Tech Central members like RNF Digital working with the Warwickshire Towns Network on projects like town centre beacon navigation.
Technology has often been blamed for the decline of the high street with online shopping and out of town retailers offering Click & Collect. But Warwickshire Towns Network, in association with Tech Central, are helping spread the word of the Digital High Street and how technology can reinvent and redesign our town centres.
So, when it comes to Smart Towns, what are the key issues that technology - and our Tech Central members - can help with?
Navigation is crucial in our town centres for both the resident and the visitor. Even more so if you have accessibility requirements. Developers like DisabledGo have a fleet of applications allowing users to tailor information to their personal needs. Add to that the award-winning navigational work of RNF Digital on beacons and geo-fencing and we can create easy to access town centres for everyone.
The Digital Experience
Leamington Business Improvement District is piloting a national Digital High Street programme called #WDYT or 'What Do You Think?'
The premise is to engage with visitors to our town centres using social media. I visit a shop I like, buy something, take a photo, and upload it to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat using #WDYT. My photo is then entered into a prize draw.
It has successfully increased footfall and customer engagement for retailers in Gloucester, Tewkesbury, and Cirencester where it has been crucially combined with digital marketing training for independent retailers.
And this is only the beginning. With 'Playable Cities' becoming the new buzz and our thriving gaming sector in Silicon Spa, the sky really is the limit. Augmented reality, holographic computing, recognition software are all coming together to construct our high streets of the future.
Town Centre WiFi
Alcester is Warwickshire's most recent town to be 'switched on' to WiFi on 19th May this year. Town Centre WiFi provides crucial infrastructure for the Digital High Street. Without internet access, none of the innovation is possible. Global statistics predict an eight-fold increase in mobile data consumption by 2020, emphasising how important digital engagement is for business.
If I use the phrase 'place as a platform' it probably means very little but trends across the world in Smart City planning are to build open data platforms to collate and share management information across all stakeholders.
Bristol are piloting it here in the UK and the West Midlands Combined Authority are talking about it. Practically, it allows data about traffic flow to inform decisions about the urgency of pothole repair for example; and socially and culturally there are great possibilities too. Digital Communities, designed in a similar way to the social media platform StreetLife.com, could help prevent social isolation especially in our more rural towns. Communities could be responsible for sharing their own content and interacting with other communities. Local software companies like Black Pepper Software specialise in systems for large corporations that enable the flow of data and emphasise usability, perfect for our 'Warwickshire as a platform.'
Tech Central was founded to showcase the incredible talent we have in the digital sector across Warwickshire. Digital High Streets is just one area our members and their innovation could be utilised.
Please come to our Hack the City event at Warwick Arts Centre on 20th July at 6.30pm to discuss more about how technology and our town centres can work together. You can register here - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tech-central-presents-hack-the-city-tickets-35752492668
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