Luke Hampson from Geovation had the answer: it’s an open initiative from the Ordnance Survey that allows partners to innovate with its geographic data.
“In the early days, we did challenges. How can we improve transport in cities? Or get greener cities? Now we have a co-working space. It is in London. But if you are working on any idea, you can hot-desk at our hub, and work with our coders on apps and so on. Plus: we run events – and as the last session said, nothing really beats face to face.”
Next question: how could this help the companies at #WinchBiz? Well, Luke pointed out, almost any business or service is likely to have a geographic component: and that can be used to help people find it, or to connect it with other businesses and suppliers.
An encephalogram of the city
People at the session got this. Indeed, one of the session participants said his business was interested in going a step further: and thinking of an area as an organism.
“So, you model the centre, and throw things at it: what happens if this road is closed, or the station closed? We want to create these geographic understandings of what places like Winchester are, so we can help address their challenges.”
Alex Barter, an internet of things innovator, said it should be possible to create an “encephalogram of the city”: a living, breathing model of how it was operating. With this, he said, sensible decisions could be taken on such practical issues as when to close a road to mend a pothole. Another participant said she wanted information that could help her day to day.
“I live in Colden Common, so I want to know what the roads are like, whether there is a big event on, so I can decide how to get into work.”
Getting people to places, and places to people
Winchester has huge problems with traffic and parking; so traffic and parking tend to dominate discussions about its future. However, as one member of the table pointed out, it’s hardly news that the city is small and congested. Residents and visitors know this. In surveys, issues like cleanliness and service come higher as reasons that they might not use the city and its businesses.
So are there any other areas that might benefit from some geovation? One participant suggested it would be interesting to know where pedestrians had come from, where they were going: and whether they might be tempted to spend more money on route. “If we use footfall data, and this kind of thing, can we say something like: ‘St George’s Street’ isn’t busy’ and instead of just saying that, encourage people to go there” – and perhaps use a local shop or stop for a coffee.
Or, tell a coffee shop business that would be a good place to open… Because, as someone pointed out:
“If you are looking to run a business, you want to know what is the best place for you.”