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July 10 2018
By Mel Holley

Mel was routeONE magazine’s Editor until autumn 2018. He has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.


Buses Minister opens unique Reading
‘tech lab’ experiment

Reading Buses has launched a creative space at its HQ for third-parties to develop new apps, technology and ideas to improve transport in the town.

The Tech Lab, 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 journeys better.

The Tech Lab was launched by Buses Minister Nusrat Ghani in a ceremony at Reading Buses’ Great Knollys Street HQ. The minister also launched the Government's Open Data and Accessibility consultation at the same event.

Nusrat Ghani, MP, Buses Minister, and Tony Pettitt, Chief Finance and Information Officer, Reading Buses

Reading Buses 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’ already underway by the Tech Lab are: A tree branch strike detector for double decks, an automated bot running on Twitter, a 3D printer almost 2m tall, heat sensor work, and using big data to influence future service planning using Vectare and Cityswifter.

Reading Buses is also appealing for future Tech Lab partners for any projects that can improve public journeys.

Ms Ghani says: “It is a great example of innovation. It will provide an important space for local companies to develop new ideas and make use of Reading Buses’ real-time data to enhance journeys.

“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.”

Says Martijn Gilbert, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Buses:  "This is the beginning for more of these exciting partnerships. We don't know where this may lead, some projects may not be successful, but we're willing to take some risk, disrupt ourselves and try something new for the potential benefits.

“It’s not just tech start-ups we are looking for either – it could be individual developers with a big idea, students with an interest in technology or existing businesses who want to increase their scope.

“Projects might shape our on-board environment, change how people use apps to plan their journeys or control our costs and risks - we want people to get in touch with their ideas and collaborate with us."

Martijn Gilbert revealed that Reading Buses is already working with ‘start ups,’ developers and students and scaling up tech businesses.

Six plus ‘early projects’ were already underway pre-launch. Said Martijn:  “There is also a big on-going focus with our Open Data agenda well ahead of the Bus Services Act mandating it.

“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.  We can be contacted to get involved and/or apply to use our data.”

John Bickerton, Head of Engineering and Innovation at Reading Buses, said: "Connected technology produces data which can be shared across different systems to inform customers, operators and manufacturers about vehicles and journeys.

"We're so proud of the work from our partners so far and looking forward to much more - the future of transport will be created through many centres of excellence such as this one."

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 #opendata server giving live journey information to integrate with third-party systems, as well as facilities and the wider business network. The Tech Lab provides routes to investment and routes to market for successful ventures too.

Interested partners should contact techlab@reading-buses.co.uk with an outline of their idea or request.

Developers can also request access to the open data server at http://rtl2.ods-live.co.uk/cms/register



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