Local authority installs the Intelligent Play System

Local authority installs the Intelligent Play System to create a playground that grows up with the children using it

Barrow Park will be the first to install the intelligent playground equipment that guarantees its outdoor play area’s continued resonance and popularity with a generation of children weaned on TV and videogames.

Barrow Borough Council will introduce the system to entice those children seduced by the latest technology back to the playground and, more importantly, keep them hooked on healthy, interpersonal play. Setting a new standard for play areas nationwide, the system will take Barrow Park into the 21st century and transform the way the play area is used.

Bill Brown, Barrow Borough Council’s parks manager, explains that the role of the playground is instrumental in child development, but acknowledges that today’s children define ‘fun’ very differently to their parents. He comments: “We’re delighted to be the first to install the system as it will generate refreshed interest in an already popular play area. The park has many regulars and it’s important that the play area grows with the children using it.”

Launched earlier this month, the system is next generation playground equipment, developed by playground product specialist Playdale and Loughborough University spin-out Progressive Sports Technologies (PST). The system is proven to provide a whole body, high energy work out that improves fitness, coordination, agility, reaction time and muscle power. It issues a series of instructions via an embedded LED screen, which involve single or multiple players running, jumping and twisting to interact with activity switches situated at different heights on the unit.

Barrow Park’s intention in the future is to take advantage of the system’s GPRS wireless connectivity, which means that new games, sound effects and even music can be uploaded to the system, resulting in scalable equipment that continues to present new challenges.

Brown continues: “We have to realise how technologically literate children are if we’re going to keep them interested in outdoor play. By combining the gadgetry kids have come to expect in everyday life with traditional playground equipment, the system gets them off the couch and onto the playing field, meaning they don’t miss out on the crucial social skills learnt in the playground.”

The system’s dedicated website,, will host an online league table for players to post their scores and rank themselves against peers, enabling competition on an unprecedented geographic scale. The website also acts as a platform for educating children about the impact of diet and fitness on health and well-being.

Playdale spokesperson Barry Leahey explains that exercise by stealth, physical activity that is enjoyable enough not to feel like a chore, drove the development of the system: “The health of the nation’s children is the defining issue of our time, but unfortunately we’ve reached the stage where we’re focusing on making children exercise. It was important to find a way of combining children’s technology-centred idea of fun with physical exertion. Remember that kids are meant to play because it’s enjoyable, not because they want to burn calories.”

Brown concludes that all at Barrow are eagerly anticipating the installation: “The system will create a truly innovative, inclusive and interactive public space that we can really take pride in. We already enjoy a strong relationship with Playdale, who have created bespoke playgrounds for us in the past that have always been of a very high play quality. We are confident that the system will keep kids entertained for years to come.”