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‘Smart’ baton using cutting-edge technology unveiled for Queen’s Baton Relay

·3-min read

A “smart” baton enhanced with cutting-edge technology including an illuminated heart monitor, atmospheric sensor “lungs”, a 360-degree camera for “eyes” and a digital “brain” is to be used in the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The relay, which will see the baton set off on a 90,000-mile journey over 294 days and borne by 7,500 bearers, is a long-held tradition in the run up to the sporting tournament.

But the design for the latest baton, which will leave Buckingham Palace on October 7, has gone hi-tech.

Described by its makers as the “first true smart baton”, it features a 360-degree camera, a heart-rate monitor that displays the heartbeats of those carrying it, LED lighting and GPS tracking.

Its “lungs” are atmospheric sensors which use laser technology to analyse the environmental conditions wherever it is in the world, while its “brain” will record and transmit imagery and digital information.

Augmented Reality (AR) will be used to visualise the lung data to encourage more conversations about air quality across the Commonwealth, and the information will used in research projects by atmospheric scientist Professor Francis Pope and his team at the University of Birmingham.

The LED lighting will change when two people grip the baton during a handover, designed to symbolise connections amid the Covid-19 pandemic when human contact has been limited.

The baton has been created to capture data and stories from across the Commonwealth and is the result of a West Midlands collaboration fusing art, technology, science and engineering.

Raymont-Osman Product Design, design and development specialists Kajul, both based in rural Warwickshire, worked with Coventry-based MAOKWO, headed up by artist Laura Nyahuye.

The technology within the baton is the work of BOM (Birmingham Open Media), a centre for art, technology and science in central Birmingham.

Its director Karen Newman said: “BOM is proud to have developed the technology for the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton, the first true ‘smart baton’.

“By incorporating meaningful technologies into the design, we can celebrate grassroots innovation happening right across the Commonwealth, and give a platform to those driving change within their communities.”

The West Midlands team behind the baton
The West Midlands team behind the baton (Commonwealth Games/PA)

Cast in copper, aluminium and brass, the baton also features a platinum strand in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.

Nyahuye, who was influenced by her Zimbabwean heritage and her activism, explored the meaning of the Commonwealth and the fortitude of women within the family of nations with her team of young creatives at MAOKWO.

“For us it was a vehicle that would get people to talk,” she said.

“It reminded me of how I see the Queen. She is a fellow woman. She’s a grandma. She’s a mother.”

Commonwealth Day 2017
The Queen at the Baton Relay in 2017 ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia (John Stillwell/PA)

The copper tones will develop a blue-green patina during exposure on the journey to illustrate how it has evolved after being passed from bearer to bearer.

The route of the relay was also unveiled on Wednesday.

The Queen will place a message to the Commonwealth inside the baton on October 7 in London. It will then be carried to Cyprus and on to Malta.

Other destinations among the 72 nations and territories include all 19 African Commonwealth countries, Pakistan, India, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada and the Falklands Islands, and the Seychelles on Christmas Eve and the Maldives on New Year’s Day.

The relay will end in July at the Birmingham 2022 opening ceremony when the baton is returned to Queen.

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