Tourists to be guided around Scotland by taxi app

VISITORS to Scotland will be the first in the world to use technology that guides visitors to tourist attractions by linking their smartphones to the registration numbers on taxis.

The innovative project is a first step in what could become an “internet on wheels”, with cars effectively becoming mobile social media sites, accessed by phone via their licence plates.

The Travelling Treasures project will use taxi number plates to send information about museums and monuments in Edinburgh to passing tourists.

It will initially cover eight city council-run venues, including the Scott Monument, Museum of Edinburgh, Museum of Childhood and City Art Centre.

As a taxi passes one of the museums, information and pictures from the venue will be electronically “tagged” to the registration number on the cab’s number plate.

This could include artefacts on display, such Greyfriars Bobby’s collar at the Museum of Edinburgh, or a Dalek at the Museum of Childhood. Extracts from poems and other literature could also be sent.

Visitors would access the data by downloading the Travelling Treasures app to their smartphone.

Once open, the app would detect any taxis in the vicinity and transfer the information to the phone.

The details could also be accessed by scanning the taxi number plate with a smartphone – like self-scanning groceries in a supermarket or scanning a code on an advert.

The information appearing on the tourist’s smartphone screen would also include a map showing the venue’s location .

The information “carried” by each taxi would change when it passed another of the council’s museums, which also include the People’s Story, Writers’ Museum, Lauriston Castle and Nelson Monument on Calton Hill. Ruthanne Baxter, a council museums and galleries development officer, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity. Taxis would act as billboards going past you.

“Visitors to one museum might not know that there was something similar that might interest them nearby.”

The project will initially cover the 424-strong Central Taxis fleet, which is Edinburgh’s largest, accounting for two in three cabs on the street.

City council culture and sport convener Richard Lewis said: “Travelling Treasures is an intriguing concept that deserves further investigation and I will be following its progress with interest.” Dr Chris Speed, reader in Digital Spaces at Edinburgh University, and part of the Sixth Sense Transport research project, said its “Internet of Cars” project had huge potential.

He said: “Hooking up cars to the internet is just one way we are exploring how people’s growing experience of social networking can begin to change the way we think about what a transport network really is.”

The concept is being developing to enable people to share information as they travel.

Linking cars to web pages via their number plates could also enable drivers to advertise services such as lift-sharing.