Scientists are supporting a media platform that will help smartphone users find out what is happening at the end of their street.

The Near You Now project, based at the Sussex Innovation Centre, has been awarded a £470,000 grant to develop the hyperlocal platform.

It will enable news media organisations to determine which stories, social media and other information is most relevant to users by helping publishers build tailored pages and apps.

The grant comes from Destination Local, the Technology Board and innovation charity Nesta.

Anthony Sheehan, founder of Near You Now, said: “Customers currently struggle to find relevant local stories and information online and on mobile devices.

“We believe our platform will make it easier for publishers to customise their service for each visitor based on their current location or where they live.

“Funding from the Technology Strategy Board will allow us to further our research collaboration with the University of Sussex and test the commercial viability and sustainability of these new approaches with leading media groups.”

Researchers in the University of Sussex’s department of informatics will continue to work on Near You Now to create more detailed algorithms and semantic analysis, helping to define the relevance of news to an increasingly localised user base.

The university was part of a consortium that entered the competition and helped the project secure its funding.

Professor David Weir, an expert in computer science, supported the initial research and development of a prototype for the platform. He said: “In the future, we expect that people will be able to check their smartphones not just for news on a national or regional level, but to find out what’s happening at the end of their street.

“This grant will give us the opportunity to explore ways in which natural language processing methods can help the Near You Now platform to deliver increasingly relevant content to individual users.”

Near You Now was developed at the Sussex Innovation Centre, at Falmer, which supports collaboration between public, academic and business sectors, and is owned by the University of Sussex.

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