2nd Jul, 2022

Coventry is first city in UK to pilot new smart tech 'travel assistant'

Editorial Correspondent 25th Jan, 2021 Updated: 25th Jan, 2021

A NEW online smart ‘travel assistant’ guiding people to venues and events ‘the smart way’, is to be piloted during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST) is an integrated travel service with live updates. But as well as delivering specially tailored travel options and journeys from door-to-door, it can even suggest things to do, places to visit or somewhere to stop for refreshments or comfort breaks along the route.

Running in Coventry as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 and launched by Coventry BID (Business Improvement District), it will help visitors navigate the city to get to events “more efficiently without disruption or delays”.

Trish Willetts, Director of Coventry BID said: “We’re extremely excited about the launch of this technology into Coventry. It’s another first for the city – and I’m proud, on behalf of Coventry BID, to have played a part in Coventry being the pilot city before it’s rolled out across the UK. It’s a huge coup for Coventry in this historic year and I think it’s going to be a huge success.”

Jacob Gough, production Director at Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “The major events planned throughout our year as UK City of Culture will attract diverse audiences from the city and beyond. Effective travel planning is essential to help these audiences connect with our world-class programme. Working with ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ will help us make sure people travelling to, and around, Coventry will be able to do so both smartly and safely.”

Chris Thompson, chief executive officer at ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ said: “Coventry is embarking on one of its most ambitious and important years in its history, as it begins its tenure as UK City of Culture 2021. We’re thrilled to be part of Coventry’s evolution.”

How has YST Travel Assistant been developed?

The YST Travel Assistant has been in development since 2017 and been made possible by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme.

YST secured £67,000 to subsidise research into privacy law, hi-tech sensors that can detect over-crowding, regional transport infrastructure and the accessibility needs of large and diverse audiences. The idea was to combine these elements in order to connect individuals visiting the city with transport and venue operators more efficiently.

Since its initial innovation funding and a further £1m development programme backed by Innovate UK, YST has been contracted to configure the Travel Assistant application so that it can be embedded into the fabric of UK City of Culture venues, websites, transport operators and venue mobile apps. It will integrate transport operator services, recommend event itineraries and help manage the travel plans of residents and visitors during the UK City of Culture 2021 programme.

YST’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Steele said: “The Travel Assistant will notify people of all the best options for an amazing visit by their preferred method of communication, based on their tastes and specific travel needs.”

The Travel Assistant deployment will promote active travel combined with SWIFT card integration for regional public transport, and the capability for visitors to request help from venue and transport operator staff as and when it is needed. Anonymised journey patterns will be accessible by transport planning teams across the region, enabling them to dynamically control recommended routes, rather than visitors just relying on standardised mobile apps to get around.

Steele, who was previously involved in the development of Trainline.com said: “It’s fantastic to see the Travel Assistant being used to showcase artistic endeavour and to power personalisation for visitors to the region.”

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