Bristol ready to get smart by creating world-leading test-bed for innovative tech-based ideas

January 30, 2015

Bristol’s ambition to become a leading ‘smart’ city with an experimental high-speed network linking academics and businesses to create new tech-based products and services is set to take a major step forward.

The first joint venture between the city council and the University of Bristol – known as Bristol Is Open – is likely to be created next week if approved by the council’s Cabinet.

It will combine university research and advanced technology with council-owned infrastructure to develop an innovative high-performance, high-speed network in Bristol.

The initiative will create an experimental high-speed network where technology companies, research organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises will be able to develop and experiment with the next generation of network technology; creating a test-bed to help understand issues such as mobility, health and energy efficiency in the modern city.

Funding has been received from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Innovate UK for Bristol Is Open, which will seek to capture information about aspects of city life such energy use, air quality and traffic flows.

This has been made possible by a unique City Operating System (CityOS) developed by Professor Dimitra Simeonidou and colleagues in the university’s High Performance Networks research group over the past five years.

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “This pioneering project has massive potential and will go further to cement Bristol’s growing international reputation as a collaborative laboratory for change.

“During our year as European Green Capital and beyond it will help people develop tomorrow’s technology and better understand how a modern city operates; linking things up in brand new ways and opening us up to all sort of possibilities.

“I’m looking forward to giving careful consideration to the joint venture proposal when it comes before Cabinet.”

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, added: “Bristol Is Open will enable the people of Bristol to interact, work and play with their city.  The project is a unique opportunity for the university and city council to work together to ensure the city is at the forefront of technological innovation.

“The University has invested £12m in its Advanced Computing facilities since 2006, making it one of the country’s leading centres, and its supercomputer is a resource for the whole city.”

Among the projects that will benefit from the joint venture are TOUCAN (Towards Ultimate Convergence of All Networks), SPHERE (a Sensor Platform for HEalthcare in a Residential Environment) and ICIF (International Centre for Infrastructure Futures).

TOUCAN is addressing the global demand for broadband communications by revolutionising the way communication networks are built and used while SPHERE is developing sensor systems to monitor health and wellbeing in the home.  This is an exciting time for the city.”

If approved, Bristol Is Open will allow for the trialling of new technologies in a range of industries including media broadcast, entertainment and culture.  The project will also benefit the development of autonomous systems, robotics and advanced manufacturing in the city.

Director of Bristol City Council’s Bristol Futures team, Stephen Hilton, said: “The coming together of the city council and the university in this historic joint venture is an opportunity for Bristol to offer the country a platform to face the difficulties of modern urban living head on.

“Growing city populations, climate change and scarcer resources are but a few of the growing problems cities face from Bristol to Bordeaux to Porto. Bristol Is Open will provide a test bed that enables researchers, companies and organisations from around the country to come together in the spirit of innovation, with the aim of exploring solutions on a city wide scale.

“Bristol has a reputation for being a city of innovation and a place where people can come to test their ideas, as recently recognised by our International Award for Urban Innovation from our Chinese sister city Guangzhou. Bristol Is Open and the infrastructure it will deliver is yet another example of this great city putting a bold first step forward on the long road to greener, more efficient urban living.”

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