London Mayoral Hopeful Reckons Outer-London Tourist Boom Lies in QR Codes and Bluetooth

By James O Malley on at

When you think of London's many tourist attractions, your mind probably leaps to the likes of Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the Science Museum – all of which are pretty much in the centre of town, and are most definitely part of inner London.

But as any Londoner will tell you, there's so much more to see (while they brush past you at pace without making any eye contact whatsoever). What about the excellent Horniman Museum, or the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs? And these are what Conservative London Assembly member Tony Arbour wants us all to visit.

As he explained on MayorWatch, he has written a report titled "Unknown London", and suggests that London's tourist agency, Visit London, re-prioritise pushing the cool stuff to see further out, because of the economic benefits it would bring to outer boroughs.

What makes it particularly interesting for Giz is how Arbour proposes that Visit London does it. Rather than put up posters advertising the delights of the Royal Air Force Museum or the thrills of Richmond Park, he reckons that the Visit London app should make use of iBeacons, NFC and QR codes to flag up tourist spots.

iBeacons are an emerging technology that use short range bluetooth to send relevant messages straight to the phones of people nearby. The technology is increasingly being used in shops and other public spaces to track customers and offer contextually useful information. In a few years, because iBeacons can help position you inside within a matter of feet, our phones could be used to help us navigate the insides of supermarkets and art galleries and so on.

The report explains how Arbour envisages the technology being used:

"The app could have any number of themed tourist experiences that would accompany the tourist throughout their journey. Using scanners or beacons, information could be pushed to each phone informing them about the area. For example a tour of London food markets could guide the tourist, via a series of codes or beacons, from one market to another, giving the history of each market, providing up to date vouchers and local dining and of course providing advice transport advice to the next stop on the route. Also there could also be ways to incorporate TfL’s Walk London and use their branded signage within the app. This scheme encourages people to see more of outer London by foot. Using mobile technology the app could point out areas of interest and link into further information, again offering ways to encourage tourists to stay and explore the area."

It isn't clear exactly how this would help outer London (especially if people only stick to the centre), but it is possible to imagine visiting (say) the British Museum in central London, only to receive an iBeacon notification urging you to visit the Museum of Childhood in East London.

The report goes on to explain how a similar trial involved placing QR codes on statues in London and Manchester which you scan and then receive a phone call "from" the statue, telling you more about it.

Whether the recommendations will be taken up by the Mayor of London remains to be seen - but it is interesting to think how technology can transform the tourist experience. If you want our recommendation? Microsoft HoloLens headsets so we can walk around London as it used to be. [MayorWatch]

Tony Arbour