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University of Manchester launches city fitness application

University’s health research centre is using gamification to get people active as part of the Manchester CityVerve smart city demonstrator

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The University of Manchester’s Health eResearch Centre (HeRC) is launching a smart city fitness application designed to gamify the city’s streets and get people walking.

The BeeActive: Manchester app – named in a nod to the city’s bee mascot – was created under the auspices of the two-year-old, government-backed Manchester CityVerve project, an internet of things (IoT)-centric smart city demonstrator covering aspects of city life such as travel and transport, energy and the environment, culture and the public realm, and health and social care.

App users will be able to set a personal daily steps goal. Then, by plugging into other active CityVerve projects, BeeActive will offer users missions to accept. For example, if the app detects its user is on a bus, traffic is slow and the weather is fine, it might suggest getting off and walking the rest of the way.

It will also include an educational component, pushing notifications about sites of historical interest, for example.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to become part of Manchester’s technology demonstrator project, which could help shape the future of the way we engage with technology,” said Charlotte Stockton-Powdrell, BeeActive project manager. “It is also a chance to explore the city of Manchester, to learn more about its history and, of course, to increase your activity in a fun way.”

To begin with, the BeeActive app will be available around the city’s Oxford Road corridor, which sits at the heart of the CityVerve project and acts as Manchester’s innovation core, before being rolled out further afield. As part of Transport for Greater Manchester’s 2017 Walking Festival, its makers will run a 1.5-mile launch walk to Manchester Cathedral, which will take in some of the city’s urban beehives.

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Julie Harrison, CityVerve project lead at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The main aim of the health and social care theme is to help people help themselves and BeeActive is a perfect example of this.

“By empowering people to take charge of their health, be it through increased walking motivated via the app, we can help bring health and social care back into the community.”

Besides Manchester, the HeRC programme brings together four other universities in the north of England – Bradford, Lancaster, Liverpool and York – to develop data-intensive discovery science, healthcare analytics and digital health interventions.

As part of the CityVerve project, it works alongside a consortium of 19 other organisations, including Manchester City Council and Manchester Science Partnerships, suppliers such as BT and Cisco, and Innovate UK.

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