Smart Tourism – a thoroughly smarter way to travel

Our cities are changing – fast. With a growing population, the demand to improve and enhance the services that hold a city together are increasingly onerous. The future prosperity of a city lies within technological development.

Smart Cities are the city of the future, built on a legion of interconnected devices that are constantly analysing, reporting and evolving to improve and innovate services within their community. As a result, cities will become safer, cleaner and more attractive places to live in and visit.

Destination cities have the conundrum of catering to large numbers of visitors from around the globe, as well as those who already live and work within their limits. Innovations in the smart tourism sector are changing the way these locations are managed and the ways in which their visitors experience them. From managing a city-wide transport network based on accumulated data on traffic congestion, to marketing a popular museum to a suitable audience based on the demographic that visit it, digital connectivity and data analytics have the potential to improve the quality and viability of tourism experiences.

Of course, improving on the quality of a tourism experience will only have a knock-on effect for businesses within the city; from hotels and hostels, to coffee shop owners and retail stores.

Not only do these innovations create added value for tourists, they also unlock new revenue streams, opportunities, and potential efficiency improvements for businesses involved in the tourism trade.

Smart tourism projects are already underway across the globe. The UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media & Sport is already funding a 5G testbed project, trialling how the technology will affect tourism. The test area involves major attractions in Bath and Bristol.

Led by the West of England Combined Authority and with a grant of £5m, the project will aim to deliver Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences at such locations as the Roman Baths and Millennium Square.

“Imagine a virtual Roman soldier showing you around the Roman Baths, now imagine this moving 360 degrees on your mobile phone at a resolution you have never experienced before”

– Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor

Such technology represents only the first, tentative steps in a technological overhaul of the tourism industry. Smart technology has the potential to truly alter the face of worldwide tourism; from aiding lost tourists with real-world VR wayfinder maps, to providing streamed audio-guides to those exploring a location under their own steam.

Smart tourism is built on vast data sets of visitor information aggregated from a variety of digital connectivity services such as publicly available WiFi, and in the near future 5G cellular communications. This data and fast connectivity can be used in collaboration to manage public services and design tools that enhance the visitor experience.

Immersive technologies such as VR/AR have the potential to revolutionise the tourist industry. However, both are graphically and processor heavy, and as such, will benefit from the high-bandwidth and low latency communications of forthcoming  5G connections.

5G’s technical capabilities are vastly superior to the current 4G technology available today. As such, tourism won’t be the only industry likely to undergo vast changes with the rollout of 5G tech. The mobile communications system has the potential to link many of the smart devices that make up the myriad ‘Internet of Things’; from driverless cars to public bins.

Of course, 5G is not currently available to the wider public. The first 5G ready smartphones are pencilled in for a 2019 release, with the actual technology likely to begin rolling out across the UK at a similar time. Cities across the nation are rushing to have 5G capable connections installed within their limits in time for the rollout.

Initial trials are happening across the globe, however. In the US, communications giant Verizon has begun preliminary rollout of its 5G Ultra-Wideband system, the first ever 5G-powered home internet service, with speeds topping 300 Mbps.

IntechnologyWiFi’s integrated connectivity, data, communications, and engagement platform for towns and cities can provide the perfect platform to progressively move towards smart-tourism and the innovative technologies that will form the backbone of the cities of the future.

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Whether you’re a local authority looking to provide public WiFi or seeking a connectivity solution for Smart Cities, the IoT or 5G / Small Cells in your town or city, or if you are interested in partnering with us around the Connected City Platform in any of our forthcoming town and city roll-outs, we’d love to explain more about who we are and what we do.

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