South Scotland

Digital boost for mountain bikers in Glentress Forest

Bikers filmed on mobile phone Image copyright PHIL WILKINSON
Image caption "White space" technology will allow spectators to use their smart phones in Glentress Forest

A remote forest in the Scottish Borders will be hooked up to the internet this weekend as part of a trial of cutting edge "TV white space" technology.

It is expected to be a digital boost for a major mountain bike event, due to be held in the Glentress Forest.

Organisers hope it will allow live streaming of the 80km Enduro event.

If the technology proves successful in the thick forest, it could be used to deliver communications services to rural areas.

About 600 mountain bikers are expected at the Tweedlove Bike Festival event at the weekend, as well as many spectators.

Thanks to the ground-breaking trial, they are likely to be able to access the internet on smart phones and tablets from within the forest.

'Significant income'

Moira Forsyth, of the Innovation Directorate of Scottish Enterprise, which is one of the agencies behind the trial, said the technology could be a major opportunity for local businesses.

She said: "TV white space technology has the potential to provide a major boost for Scottish tourism.

"Like many rural tourism businesses the majority of mountain biking locations have no or very poor connectivity - whether mobile or internet access.

"This lack of connectivity to stream live events also significant limits the international viewing opportunities when Scotland hosts global events such as the Enduro World Series, which bring significant income into rural locations."

Image copyright PHIL WILKINSON
Image caption Organisers hope the new technology will boost tourism in the Scottish Borders

So-called "white space" is the unused frequencies allocated to broadcasting services. The frequencies vary by region but devices such as mobile phones and tablets could use the free spectrum.

The trial at Glentress Forest will test the technology in a densely forested, mountainous rural environment.

It has been led by Scottish Enterprise, the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, which is based at the forest near Peebles, and Microsoft.

Danny Cowe, the mountain bike centre's business development manager said: "We're acutely aware that the visitor experience can be negatively impacted by poor connectivity - shutting down their ability to share their experience on social platforms.

"Beyond this they cannot use smart phones or other mobile devices in order to view or look and book with local businesses - for example local restaurants.

"We can see how this clever new technology could hugely improve both the spectator experience and improve their time at centres such as Glentress."

Jim Beveridge, senior director of international technology policy at Microsoft, said: "We've successfully trialled it in everything from lifeboats to businesses and now in sport. It brings people together in a way that just wasn't possible five years ago and it just might bring some of the superstars here this weekend direct to your mobile."

Case study: Dirt School

Image copyright PHIL WILKINSON
Image caption Mountain bike coaches Andy Barlow and Ruraidh Cunningham have welcomed the introduction of the new technology

The white space technology could help local business Dirt School expand and enhance its mountain bike coaching service.

Head coach Andy Barlow said: "As we are launching a mountain bike coaching app and offering virtual training programmes, it is vital that we are then able to connect with our students to provide feedback instantly.

"TV White Space technology could enable us to do that at Glentress."

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