Future Cities Catapult is bringing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2017. The businesses will try out new digital technologies with the aim of making visitors and residents of the area healthier and happier.
Built to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the expansive Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London is now a major hotspot for urban innovation. To enhance the Olympic legacy, a consortium of universities, businesses and public organisations has been testing out new internet-enabled technologies across the Park’s 560 acres. One of the latest projects to launch in the ‘living lab’ aims to discover how most can be made from the site’s potential to improve the health and well-being of its users. The results of the study are expected to benefit the Park’s visitors, the local community and residents in similar areas around the UK.
Throughout 2017, several small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be testing out new market-ready solutions to better connect visitors and residents with the Park. The companies have been selected by Future Cities Catapult, the Government-backed global centre of excellence in urban innovation, funded by Innovate UK.
BetterPoints, an SME from Reading, has developed a smartphone app that encourages people to engage in healthy activities by rewarding them with points which they can exchange for vouchers from local retailers as well as those on the high street– or donate to a charity or community group. London-based SME OpenPlay is including the Park’s facilities and activities in its online database. The site’s users can search for anything from a football pitch or tennis court to Zumba classes, and make reservations. Activities and venues in the Park, and four surrounding local boroughs, are being unearthed and made more easily available for use by the community.
LivingMaps, another London-based SME, is developing a software hub for the constantly evolving Park to keep the area’s signs and maps in sync, making sure the Park remains easily accessible for both regular and first-time visitors. The solution will also help people explore areas of the Park that they have not yet discovered.
Future Cities Catapult is working closely with the London Legacy Development Corporation on the project as part of a larger internet of things (IoT) collaboration named Capstone to enhance the Olympic Legacy. The project, which focuses on the ever-growing range of physical objects with a network connection, has already seen Intel Labs Europe and the engineering departments of Imperial College London and University College London install interconnected sensors throughout the Park.
New heart for East London
The businesses received £10,000 each from Future Cities Catapult to help roll out their services in the Park and are also supported through targeted events and activities. “It’s great that we’ve included SMEs to develop these new digital technologies that could have such a positive impact on our visitors and local residents. They are an essential part of the creative and entrepreneurial culture that lies at the heart of this dynamic new part of the city being created in east London,” says Paul Brickell, Executive Director of Regeneration and Community Partnerships at the London Legacy Development Corporation, the regeneration body responsible for the Park.
Countering social isolation
Future Cities Catapult is supporting the introduction of these solutions to the local community, working closely with organisations such as the Bromley by Bow Centre to encourage people to make better choices through intensification and by improving access to facilities. By bringing together existing networks, Future Cities Catapult is helping the project’s participating SMEs engage with the Park’s visitors as well as residents of the surrounding London boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest.
The Ecological Sequestration Trust (TEST) in partnership with Ground Work London, an environmental charity, have been brought in by Future Cities Catapult to work with residents at risk of social isolation who may be digitally excluded. Together, residents and SMEs will fine tune new digital solutions to make them relevant to the people who may benefit the most from them.
The participating businesses and organisations were selected from close to 30 interested entities. “We received a large number of applications from businesses around the country. This project provides a unique opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to create new partnerships, and allows them to demonstrate their solutions in a real-life urban environment while getting feedback from potential customers,” says Lavinia Cox, a senior project manager at Future Cities Catapult.