Company launches a creative space for technology developers

 

Nusrat Ghani launches the new facility with Tony Pettitt, Reading’s chief finance and information officer

 

Council-owned bus operator Reading Buses has launched a new creative space that aims to spur on the development of new apps, technology and ideas for improving transport in the Berkshire town.

The Reading Buses Tech Lab, which is completely accessible 24/7 for development partners, gives working space and a meeting room for developers, technologists and young companies to nurture their ideas to make public transport better.

The operator says it is offering partnerships without any fees or hidden commitments, hoping to attract the best new ideas by providing a ready customer and a route to the market.

Successful work through six ‘early projects’ that are already underway at the Tech Lab are: a tree branch strike detector for double decks, an automated bot running on Twitter, a 3D printer almost two-metres tall, heat sensor work, and using big data to influence future service planning using Vectare and CitySwifter.

The company is also appealing for future Tech Lab partners for any projects which can improve the journey experience when using public transport.

The Tech Lab was officially opened by buses minister Nusrat Ghani during a visit where she also launched the government’s open data and accessibility policies for the industry.

Ghani said the Tech Lab would “provide an important space for local companies to develop new ideas” and make use of Reading Buses’ real-time data on its buses to enhance journeys for passengers in Reading.

She continued: “Today also marks the launch of our consultation on requiring bus companies to share their data, as Reading does, so that passengers across the country have the information they need to catch the bus with ease.”

Martijn Gilbert, Reading’s chief executive officer, revealed that the company is already working with startups, developers and students and scaling up tech businesses. The six early projects are already well on their way and in the pre-launch phase, he explained.

“There is also a big ongoing focus with our Open Data agenda well ahead of the Bus Services Act mandating it,” said Gilbert.

The Tech Lab enables us to step up our innovation work with existing tech suppliers and industry partners. We are happy to be guinea pigs and test ideas to stay fresh and get first mover advantage

“The Tech Lab enables us to step up our innovation work with existing tech suppliers and industry partners. We are happy to be guinea pigs and test ideas to stay fresh and get first mover advantage.”

The Tech Lab space features areas in the room to represent a bus stop (with a real-time information display), a bus arriving (with the front of a bus, a ticket machine and a destination display), and the interior of a bus (with seating, flooring and the screens for visual and audio announcements).

Partners have access to Reading Buses’ open data server giving live journey information to integrate with third-party systems, as well as facilities and the wider business network. The Tech Lab also provides routes to investment and routes to market for successful ventures too.

“The future of transport will be created through many centres of excellence such as this one,” claimed John Bickerton, the operator’s head of engineering and innovation.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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