The West of England Combined Authority will host Connected Futures next month, a 5G Smart Tourism Showcase in venues across Bristol, unveiling the results of the UK’s most ambitious 5G testbed to date.

The showcase, on Saturday 16 March, marks the culmination of a year-long project looking at new 5G technology and infrastructure in the West of England, developed by the University of Bristol Smart Lab. It will bring together experts who have been working to demonstrate the ground-breaking power and potential of 5G to show off their progress, offering a vision of what a 5G-enabled future allows.

Revealing the transformative potential of 5G technology for audiences, visitor attractions, investors and public services, the showcase will bring together some of the UK’s leading 5G tech pioneers for a day of innovative, cutting-edge demonstrations, playable experiences, talks and workshops, at M Shed, Millennium Square and We The Curious. Visitors will be invited to take part in a series of events ranging from virtual reality (VR) to augmented reality (AR) to 360° video and locative media, allowing them to sample a wide range of the future applications of 5G technology and its potential to transform tourism and commercial activity in the region.

The £5m 5G Smart Tourism project is led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), and funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It brings together 19 organisations and oversees the creation of a testbed to demonstrate 5G capability, establishing the West of England as a world-leader in the development of advanced fixed and mobile communication systems.

Digital Minister, Margot James MP, said: “We all want to have fast, reliable and uninterrupted connectivity on the go and our 5G testbeds being rolled out across the country will help to make that possible. The Connected Futures Showcase in the West of England will highlight the exciting potential of 5G technology, with the opportunity to enhance the experience of millions of visitors for years to come.”

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles said: “The West of England is well placed to become a smart region – we are already recognised as a centre of excellence, as home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London. We are leading the way in technology and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next-generation networks, including 5G. We are ambitious to help support a commercial rollout of 5G infrastructure in the West of England and we see 5G as having a role in helping us address mobility across the region and in helping with digital inclusion.”

The Connected Futures 5G Smart Tourism Showcase will include:

  • BBC R&D demonstrating a new app with VR/AR content bringing the history of the Roman Baths to life
  • Award-winning Smartify revealing an enhanced 5G gallery experience via bonus content including audio stories and videos
  • University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab inviting audiences to share 5G experiences across Bristol and London, inter-connecting testbeds in Bristol, Digital Catapult and King’s College in London
  • Industry innovator Landmrk welcoming visitors on an interactive, 360 video-guided tour around Bristol highlighting the vast contrast between 4G + 5G capabilities
  • Mo-Sys immersing audiences in a 5G-powered virtual world with their StarTracker ViewFinder
  • Mativision and InterDigital presenting a simultaneous 360° VR experience, revealing how 5G removes barriers to multiple users experiencing shared synced content
  • Zeetta Networks, Bristol City Council, IBI Group and Bristol is Open showing how 5G can support large-scale public events, making them safer and easier to manage.

Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “We are delighted that one of Bath & North East Somerset’s iconic visitor attractions, the Roman Baths, will feature at the showcase. Demonstrating how visitor experiences can be transformed using the latest technology.”

5G has the potential to revolutionise the way people live and work across the West of England. Bringing speeds 10 to 20 times faster and the capacity to support billions of digital devices with much greater reliability and security, the technology provides super-fast, ultra-reliable networks with seamless uninterrupted connectivity. This offers huge opportunities for business and is likely to bring significant growth for the region’s tech sector. It will also revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) which could transform everything from assisted living to motoring to air quality.


Geraint Evans