BOM is proud to have played a key role in the creation of the Queens Baton for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Over the last year BOM has led the development of the creative technology and interactive elements of the Baton, preparing for its global tour through 72 nations and territories.

The beginnings of the Baton were humble. During development we experimented with various materials and technologies, including a good old Pringle’s tube! We proposed a series of concepts that offered audiences around the world a unique interactive experience – as well as proposing a legacy of positive change that championed local activists, and collected the stories of people from across the Commonwealth.

The Queen’s Baton is a unique collaboration across science, technology, engineering and art which saw BOM working closely with product designers Raymont Osman and artist Laura Nyahuye and her team of young people at Maokwo. Manufacturing company Kajul used cutting-edge modern techniques, combined with long-standing traditions, to manufacture the many physical parts of the Baton’s exterior from various providers across the Midlands.

We worked with Laura Nyahuye and young people from Maokwo to develop the animation and lighting effects for the LED’s. Throughout Maokwo’s collaboration in the project, the young people have shared their own journeys, reflecting on complex histories of the Commonwealth and what it means to them.  Raymont Osman were deeply inspired by Laura’s own artistic practice, which focuses on women, resilience, and everyday materials. Laura believes women are the heartbeat of the world, and this concept fed into our thinking around the heartbeat of the Baton, and giving a platform to changemakers around the world.

The Baton was launched by The Queen at Buckingham Palace on 7 October 2021, and will travel for the next 9 months across the Commonwealth. During this phase, we are working with Maokwo and the content creators to create a space that shares the stories of changemakers in readiness for when the Baton returns to the UK in July 2022, where it will feature in the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. We’re also creating an augmented reality experience to share data from the journey.

During this time we’re also continuing our collaboration with environmental scientists at the University of Birmingham who are exploring the data. A global summit, organised by Maokwo in 2022, will bring together a network of academics across the Commonwealth to reflect on the data and to spark discussions around environmental and social change.

For the tech lovers amongst us, here’s a bit more info on the smart tech inside the Baton…

A heart rate monitor connected to the body of the Baton reads the pulse of the Batonbearer, and the Baton glows and pulses in time to their heart beat. When the Baton is passed from one person to the next, a special LED animation is triggered through capacitive touch technology, to show the transfer of knowledge from one person to another, and celebrate a moment of connection, which Birmingham 2022 refer to as the ‘kiss moment’.

A 360 camera was chosen as the Baton’s “eyes”, designed to capture images on route which can show events from the perspective of the baton. In this way the Baton is a vessel that collects and shares the sights of the commonwealth and the untold stories of human endeavour from the people it encounters.

Birmingham 2022 have recruited eight young content creators who are curating and editing footage that is being captured by the camera, sharing stories as the Baton travels around the world.

The environmental sensor is the ‘lungs’ of the Baton, and will capture air quality data that will be explored by scientists. As the city that invented the steam engine, Birmingham helped pave the way for the industrial revolution. We wanted a way to connect the globally leading research being produced by Professor Francis Pope and his team at the University of Birmingham which is working to address the effects of rapid industrialisation on human health.

The air quality sensor is located inside the body of the Baton, and draws in air from its surroundings. The sensor is connected to a cloud system where data is processed and collected for exploration by scientists. The Baton’s casing is built using sustainable and low cost materials such as copper, aluminium and brass.

Working closely with the BOM team on the code for the air quality sensor, and creator of the cloud system where air quality data is stored, was Phoebe Bright of VividLogic. BOM would like to extend a special thanks and huge amount of gratitude to Phoebe for her incredible skills, generosity and good will throughout the project – and also to those at Alphasense, especially John Saffell, who provided support as we integrated their OPC-R2 sensor.

The ‘brain’ of the Baton, controlling all the other elements, is a small Raspberry Pi Zero computer which is smaller than a credit card. The Baton also has a companion phone app for monitoring how the electronics are working, and an app to control the camera.

Through the Baton, we’re excited to meet the next generation of young people with a passion to change the world, to create a better Commonwealth. For us, the Baton is a vehicle for change, stimulating discussion, action and celebrating those at the beating heart of a global community.

Keep an eye on our socials for more info! @BOMLab