An exciting project and the first of its kind in Wales has launched in Porthmadog! The project is called Helo Port, and it invites people to have playful conversations with familiar street objects such as lamp posts, park benches and bus stops, using a mobile phone!
This software, which has been used around the world, provides the object with a useful informative ‘brain’ and not only gives local people the opportunity to give feedback but can also help with sustainable tourism by disseminating information and providing information about local businesses. The technology will encourage people to interact playfully with their environment to create positive social change and a more inclusive community, enhance local democracy and help build the towns of the future, all in a bilingual way!
Chairman of Porthmadog Town Council Llywelyn Rhys said “The ‘Helo Port’ project is innovative in its use of smart technology to gather the views and attitudes of residents and visitors to Porthmadog. I urge local people in particular to give it a go so that their feedback influences the Town Council’s decisions as we strive to improve the community and the wellbeing of individuals. Everyone’s opinions and ideas are important as we move forward into a new post-pandemic time.”
To date there have been almost 500 conversations with objects, and we have gathered some very interesting information.
When asked for one word to describe the street, 90.5% of people used a positive word, with only 4.8% using a negative word and 4.8% using a neutral word. In addition, when asked about the attractiveness of the local area, 92.9% responded with a positive comment, while only 7.1% responded with a negative comment. When asked if it was noisy that day, 50% answered that it was a bit noisy, 44.4% said it was silent and 5.6% said it was only because of traffic.
There were also some interesting comments e.g. when asked about a street light, one of the responses was: “I would reduce some of the streetlight late at night, to save energy and also to improve the dark sky experience; I’d also consider the potential for some lamp posts to provide EV charging points.”
The software is incredibly easy to use, you just need a simple mobile phone to text the number on the sign. As well as being easy to use, it is also completely safe. No personal information is held, and all responses are anonymous.
Rhian Hughes, AGW’s Senior Project Officer said “The scheme will run for 12 months, with Porthmadog selected as the most suitable town as a starting point. Not only because there is a good mix of locals and seasonal visitors but also Menter Môn has installed high street Wi-Fi technology as well as the ‘Patrwm’ software, so these projects can also be woven into Helo Port technology.
We are also delighted that this project can add value to Gwynedd Council’s ‘Intergenerational’ project. We’ll be donating 3 Friendship Benches in Porthmadog, and these colourful benches will be some of the objects that people in town will be chatting to!”
The pilot will run until August 2022 and we hope to gather even more interesting information over the coming months. This kind of insight will be very useful for organizations like the town council to make sure they understand what local people want.
This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. It is also part funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Gwynedd Council.