British telecoms giant BT is expanding its network of what it calls Street Hubs – Digital OOH displays with smart city components – in both existing and new sites around the U.K.
BT intends to add as many 200 second-generation versions of the digital totems in the coming year, using a new enhanced design called Street Hub 2.0. There are already some 400 first-gen units out there, launched when BT was just a supporter of the start-up InLink, which went under and BT picked up.
The units exist, like the vast majority of these smart city solutions, to run advertising, but are positioned as valuable public amenities by enabling them, as well, as ultrafast free public Wi-Fi hotspots. The existing network shares a lot of initial ownership and design DNA with the LinkNYC network on New York City’s streets.
The new units can also incorporate 4G and 5G small cells to help improve network coverage and capacity for local residents, local businesses and visitors to high streets.
For local businesses, says BT, the upgraded units also feature an accessible digital advertising solution run by Global, BT’s advertising partner. The advertising solution is designed to support the marketing needs of local businesses, helping them to rebuild brand awareness as Covid-19 restrictions continue to lift across the country. Each local authority is also provided with 5% of total screen time on each Street Hub to promote local municipal services and better inform the local community about developments or issues affecting their area.
For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, existing Street Hub units across the country played a vital role in displaying key public health advice from Public Health England and local councils.
I don’t know who previously had the display deal but Trueform Digital is called out as the “newly-appointed hardware supplier.” Manchester-based ADXBA is the technology, software and support supplier for the street units.
“Street Hubs form part of BT’s plan to transform the UK’s streets with a digital communications service designed for the 21st Century,” says James Browne, Head of Street at BT. “The free digital services provided by our Street Hub units can play an important role in helping to revive the UK’s high streets following the pandemic. We are working closely with local councils and communities to introduce the new units to more parts of the country, enhancing the UK’s future digital infrastructure, and bringing benefits to residents, businesses and tourists alike.”
Sustainable design is at the core of the new unit offering. Working with tech scale-up Everimpact via BT’s Green Tech Innovation Platform, air quality and CO2 sensors can be built into the new units. This will provide actionable environmental insights to help local councils achieve their sustainability goals such as becoming carbon neutral by 2030, a target that nearly two thirds of local authorities have made. Supporting the clean air initiatives of local authorities will lead to improved air quality, in turn benefiting the health of local communities.
BT had supported InLinkUK when it started rolling out four years ago, a smart city project sold in part as a way to replace old public payphone sites. But the company, which has ties to the Alphabet-backed US media firm Intersection (and its similar LinkNYC network), went Tango Uniform and BT did a deal at the end of 2019 to bring the smart city network under its control.