International design firm taps into UWE tech expertise to develop digital prototypes

Issue date: 06 December 2016

A leading design company with a growing international reputation is to work with the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) to evolve its digital services.

City ID has led projects in major destinations including New York, Moscow and Birmingham producing innovative, richly detailed pedestrian-focussed street maps and wayfinding systems to best enable citizens and tourists to find their way around.

To develop its unique services further, the design firm has entered into a partnership with UWE Bristol to prototype and develop new digital products. It will work with the university under a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a Government-backed programme that sees academics working with industry to bridge skills gaps and foster innovation. UWE Bristol will recruit a graduate with the specific technical skillset City ID requires. This individual will then work in the company's headquarters in Bristol.

As part of the scheme, City ID will draw on the university's wealth of expertise in computer science and gaming technologies to help develop a digital platform which will form an integral part of the range of services it offers its clients.

“Cities and places can often be confusing to residents and visitors,” said City ID Projects Director Jason Smith. “To enable cities to communicate effectively we're aiming to develop a mapping platform to integrate a range of city services from tourism and conferences to its transport systems. A digital platform will help connect all of that together with beautifully designed, highly accurate content, sourced and managed locally.”

The graduate will help the firm develop a prototype, but it will differ from other maps found on handheld devices. “When you look at existing maps like Google, the content you are seeing is commercially-driven,” said Jason. “This is maybe not the image the city wants to present.”

With this in mind, City ID will offer digital pedestrian maps to its existing clients and hopes to eventually establish a new digital services department if the project is successful.

City ID Design Director Mike Rawlinson said: “We will collaborate with academics at the forefront of games technology and computer science to ensure that knowledge acquired is as up to date as possible and experiment with different design approaches and technologies in an academically rigorous manner.”

KTPs are aimed at boosting business growth, competitiveness and productivity through funded collaborations between industry and universities. Under the £150,000 project part-funded by Innovate UK, the graduate will be under the supervision of two UWE Bristol Computer Science and Creative Technologies academics with expertise in games technology and mobile phone app development. The academics, Carina McLane and Lloyd Savickas, will use City ID as a case study to help UWE Bristol technology students learn about real-world examples.

“For the University, a KTP is a fantastic way to create real impact by applying research to contemporary business challenges and thereby stimulating new research ideas,“ said UWE Bristol KTP manager Clare Rowson. “They also enable enterprising businesses to work with a University and turn their ideas into reality.”

Established in 1998, City ID employs urbanists, planners and designers in its Bristol HQ and in New York City. As well as delivering high-value strategic design contracts for customers such as city councils, it is also involved in projects on university campuses, airports and transport systems around the world.

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