City Strata is a mobile platform which enables users to explore different layers of Bristol's heritage, going back to the first maps of the city in 1750. The platform will enable developers to author location based experiences which include user generated and uploaded content.

The platform will be protoyped with the 'Cinemapping' layer — which provides a way of navigating the city and experiencing Bristol's cinematic heritage in the spaces where it actually happened. From the ghost of Robert Partington-Jackson, the murdered manager of the Odeon, Union Street, to Cary Grant's childhood cinema on Clare Street.

To find out more information about the project, read the project blog, or sign-up below to hear more about the app we're prototyping in Castle Park, at the heart of Bristol.

A woman using a location-aware app in a crowded street

About the Project

City Strata is a new app-authoring platform for creating mobile heritage experiences. The project is a collaboration between Charlotte Crofts at the University of the West of England, creative economy partner Jo Reid at Calvium and heritage partner Peter Insole at Bristol City Council. As part of the 3- month rapid-prototyping REACT 'Heritage Sandbox' process, the City Strata team undertook a number of tests and demos around the Cinemapping prototype, which maps Bristol's historic cinemas, so that users can experience local cinema history in the places where it actually happened.

The City Strata System enables developers to create different heritage 'layers' or ways of experiencing the city, that their users can then enhance by uploading their own content. Behind the scenes, the platform innovates by drawing content that relates to your specific location from a remote geo-database — in this case BCC's Know Your Place historic ArcGIS map. By storing content in 'The Cloud' more information can be accessed locally than can fit into a normal app, making it scalable for multiple urban, national or even global points of interest.

Technical Research

During the course of the technical Research and Development for the Cinemapping prototype, Calvium's Richard Hull explored the challenge of dealing with large scale and dynamic content by caching 'hotspots' within a 1km radius of the user.

Cache of Nearest 10 Hotspots Demo: The green circle represents the scope of the current "radar sweep", and the red blobs represent the Know Your Place cinema hotspots in that sweep.

Calvium also tested the possibility of using the iOS 'Significant Location Change Service' which automatically 'wakes-up' suspended iPhone apps when new location data is triggered, but found the service was not yet granular enough to recognise the relatively small changes in location required for multiple points of interest concentrated in the city centre. Initial tests suggest a combined strategy of switching between the low-power qualities of cellular positioning and the fine-grain accuracy and latency of GPS, plus leveraging the intermediate characteristics of Wi-Fi positioning where appropriate, as the user approaches new points of interest.

Read the White Paper by Calvium: Making Scalable Location-Aware Mobile Apps

Using Existing Heritage Data

One of the key features of Bristol City Council's KnowYour Place website is the ability for the public to contribute their own archive. During the Sandbox we have undertaken a feasibility study for users to be able to upload audio, text and images whilst on the move and mocked up a mobile app to demo the user interface:

Peter Insole: "Community contributions to KnowYour Place currently go straight into the Historic Environment Record, they become a material consideration within any planning considerations and are already being referred to in Planning submissions. In the long term this sharing of information will improve our data for managing physical change in the City and increase the appreciation of the value of our heritage."