Tuesday, 28 May 2013

NuBlue backs Lancaster BARTER Research Project, seeks local support

(with thanks to by Sita Bridglal): NuBlue, a local business based in InfoLab21, has lent its support to the BARTER research project, as part of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications.

The project, which has been running for the last two weeks, is now looking for local internet businesses to get involved, aims to create a loyalty trading system which records trades and tracks the trading patterns within its network to reward sustainable and locally beneficial trading behaviour in Lancaster.

Using mobile and web technology, the 18-month project favours local trading within a community, aiming to map where money is being spent, with the long term aim of possibly extending to other cities after the initial project is complete. BARTER is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, but it counts on local traders and consumers getting involved.  

Mark Lochrie, who is working with Dr Paul Coulton (of the exploratory lab ImaginationLancaster) and Professor Jon Whittle explains the BARTER project originated out of a Catalyst Launchpad, which was initially supervised by Dr Paul Coulton and his third year student Adrian Gradinar, alongside the support of ESTA founder Michael Hallam.

Quite simply, moving forward from its original conception, BARTER is a research project that encourages consumers to spend money locally - but also for local traders to benefit from market research technologies the way high street stores do, by using NFC-enabled cards.

The BARTER team are actively seeking ways to integrate this system into existing technologies, systems and loyalty schemes, with traders adopting an easy-to-use phone app called ‘LocalTrader‘, which will store, upload and track transactions from their consumers.

The NFC-enabled cards don't transmit personal data the way credit cards do when collecting spending data: the trader will only receive a first name and amount spent for their services.

BARTER wants the data collection process to be seamless rather than a hassle for either consumer or traders, and the hope is that by providing a better way to monitor local economy transactions, the system will gain and provide a much greater insight into where (and how much) trading goes on in specific places in the local community. Examples of traders include grocers, pubs, milkmen, window cleaners, market vendors… just about any place with local goods and services.

The team are now searching for local business involvement with the research project, to encourage local spend.

The biggest potential benefit to the trader is the social networking aspect the project aims to create for local businesses and their consumers. As well as keeping tabs on personal spending, consumers can rate, recommend and review the businesses, and share what they have bought and from where using social media. Trust is built from friendships and reviews, with the hope is that this project might even inspire business-to-business trading.

 In the same way high street stores are regularly talked about online, traders in Lancaster will gain the same attention. And in this world where everything is shared virtually, BARTER are hoping it will become an essential platform.

NuBlue are providing free hosting for the duration of the project, a scalable virtual hosting platform to allow BARTER to log research data in the cloud. This of course includes free hosting support. "The data is the end product," say NuBlue, "the fruit of the project’s efforts, which will be passed on to the European Union and reviewed."

The research aspect of the project will be finished in November 2014.

• You can keep up to date with BARTER’s progress on their Twitter page.

• Visit NuBlue at www.nublue.co.uk

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