The Metro of the future

Researchers at Open Lab saw a glimpse of what the Tyne and Wear Metro of 2026 could look like, as students from South Tyneside College presented their ideas.

The students visited one of Open Lab’s pop-up labs in November, and set about designing ideas for the new-look Metrocars. Three teams of Level 3 BTEC computing students looked at different aspects of the design, and then came into Open Lab to showcase their work.

Ideas included facial recognition systems, mobile phone charging points and an app for passengers.

The first group to present to Open Lab researchers had been looking at the design of the future Metrocars and the experiences of passengers. They suggested allowing Metro users to register an account, accessed via a dedicated website and mobile app. This would show them not just Metro timetables, but also their nearest station and real-time travel information.

Another suggestion was using virtual reality to allow Metro passengers to see unfamiliar stations before travelling.

The second group investigated the possibility of adding wifi to Metro. They explained the need to balance ease of use with security, and raised the important ethical issue of whether Nexus should prohibit passengers from accessing inappropriate content using their wifi.

Security was the focus of the final group, who explained how facial recognition and fingerprint scanning could make Metro safer. They argued that monitoring all Metro passengers would allow security staff to strop troublemakers and “look out” for other Metro users. This prompted a discussion with Open Lab researchers over the ethics of collecting personal data, and whether privacy should be exchanged for security.

The Open Lab researchers were impressed with the presentations and the work the students had done. The students’ ideas, together with the public views collected through the pop-up labs, co-researcher workshops and the Metro Futures website, and the ideas of local schoolchildren, will help to shape the design brief of the Metrocars of the future.

Written by Mark Sleightholm. For more information please contact Simon Bowen.

Author: Mark Sleightholm

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