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Professor Francis Pope holding the Queen’s Baton

Environmental scientists from the University of Birmingham have helped to create a hi-tech lung for the Queen’s Baton as it carries a royal message around the world ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The Queen’s Baton Relay begins on 7 October 2021 at Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will place her message to the Commonwealth into the Baton, before its 294-day journey through the nations and territories of the Commonwealth, arriving back in England in July 2022.

Forged in the West Midlands, the Baton contains atmospheric sensors with laser technology that analyses the environmental conditions wherever it is in the world.

Augmented Reality (AR) will be used to creatively visualise the data captured throughout the journey to invite more awareness of and conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth.

Data collected on the Baton’s journey will contribute to ongoing research projects being conducted across the globe by atmospheric scientist Professor Francis Pope and his team.

The technology within the Baton is the work of BOM (Birmingham Open Media), a leading centre for art, technology and science in central Birmingham, dedicated to ‘creative innovation with purpose’.

Professor Pope commented: “Atmospheric data captured during the baton’s global journey will be highly valuable in starting important conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth.

“We’re proud to provide scientific advice on creating the baton’s ‘lungs’ and the data collected will be particularly relevant to our ongoing research partnerships in East Africa and India, where we’re investigating the impact of air quality on citizens.”

Enhanced with cutting-edge technology, the Baton also features LED lighting that displays dynamic performances in response to each Baton-bearer’s heartbeat when held. Fitted with a 360-degree camera, the Baton records and transmits real-time imagery and digital information, allowing stories from Commonwealth communities to be told, as well as GPS technology allowing for its location to be tracked.

The Baton was conceived in an innovative West Midlands collaboration that fuses art, technology, and science. Product designers and engineers Raymont-Osman Product Design, design and development specialists Kajul, both based in rural Warwickshire, along with Coventry-based MAOKWO, headed up by artist Laura Nyahuye, each injected their creativity and expertise into the Baton.

The University of Birmingham is the official partner of the international leg of the Queens Baton Relay and planning a series of events to mark the baton’s progress through countries where it has particularly strong research and education partnershipsThese countries include Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore. These events will be underpinned by commonwealth-wide celebrations for staff, students and alumni.

Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at the University of Birmingham, commented: “As part of our commitment to supporting Birmingham 2022, we are holding a series of academic, student and partner events in Commonwealth countries to coincide with the Queen’s Baton Relay visit, focussing on how we work collaboratively with partners across the Commonwealth to tackle global challenges.”

The Queen’s Baton Relay has been the traditional curtain raiser to the Commonwealth Games since 1958, symbolising and celebrating the common bonds of friendship which unite the Commonwealth of Nations.

Starting from Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passing the Baton to a runner from the host nation, every Relay sees the Baton visit all 71 Commonwealth Countries before completing its global journey and entering the arena for the Opening Ceremony.

The Queen has officially opened the last 15 Commonwealth Games during her reign and the Baton carries her message of welcome to the Commonwealth. This message of friendship and unity will be read out in Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium to mark the official opening of the Birmingham 2022 Games.