Bid to bring new tourist tech to London by Lord Mayor candidate

Cities could be pinging information directly to tourists' mobile phones as they pass lesser known attractions and out-of-the-way sights while travelling around.

 London Eye.

London Eye is a big attraction but there are other lesser known ones says MP Tony Arbour. Image by nini003 / CC BY 2.0

The technology involved should be trialled in London, according to UK Member of Parliament Tony Arbour, who says that the country’s capital is putting too much focus on its best-known draws like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.

Mr Arbour, who is currently bidding to become Lord Mayor of London, wants to trial iBeacon technology that would automatically send alerts to tourists as they travel around the city.

It could help spread the spending power of visitors more evenly across London and point people in the direction of hidden gems they might not even be aware of.

He said: "The [iBeacons] use Bluetooth Low Energy and its advantage is that you do not need a reader or have to tap any pairing device. The beacons are small wireless, Bluetooth enabled sensors that allow mobile apps to recognise when a smartphone is nearby."

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iBeacon technology could send alerts to tourists' phones. Image by Japanexperterna.se / CC BY-SA 2.0

The technology is already being used by high street companies to send promotions, coupons and recommendations to shoppers as they pass stores. However, Mr Arbour believes its capabilities should be directed towards tourists, inspiring them to seek out lesser-known sights and helping to encourage return visits.

He said less known attractions in London like the Horniman Museum, the Museum of Childhood, Eltham Palace in Greenwich and Hall Place could be promoted much more strongly.

The iBeacons could be used at city centre attractions, creating themed visits to point visitors towards other sights that matched their interests. Similarly, if they were staying outside of central London or travelling via Tube or bus, the alerts could be sent as they were passing hidden attractions.

Out of the top twenty locations advertised on the Visit London website, there was not a single one in outer London, according to Mr Arbour’s research. The UK capital generates an incredible annual tourist spend of GB£11.7 billion every year, of which GB£7.7 billion is spent in the inner boroughs of the city.

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