The city of Bristol has announced a multi-million pound experiment to create the smart city of the future. Work is already underway to turn the city into a high-tech testbed for innovation, with a 30 Gigabit per second fibre broadband network powering the ambitious research project.
The city's council is working with Bristol University and commercial partners including Japanese firm NEC to equip the city with the latest in sensor and connectivity technology. The high-speed fibre network, which makes use of disused cable ducting owned by the city, is being combined with the university's 12m supercomputer and a new 'city operating system' that will power the experimental network.
Known as Bristol is Open, the project will effectively turn Bristol into a giant laboratory and look at how big data can be used to solve problems such as air pollution, traffic congestion and assisted living for the elderly. The network could also be used to collect and understand data from the city's trial of self-driving cars. Bristol is one of four UK cities currently testing driverless car technology as part of a government scheme.
Peter Wilson, managing director of Bristol is Open, said the experiment was "disruptive" to existing infrastructure and would look at how networks can "measure beyond consumption and into quality of life". He described it as the "mother of all big data systems".
"Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city's data sets on traffic flows, energy use, crime and health trends to kickstart the creation of innovative new services," Wilson said, adding that the technology would allow people to "interact, work and play with their city."
The project has received 5.3 million in funding from the government's connected cities plan, with support and technology being provided by the city council, university and a number of commercial partners. In total Bristol is Open said it had access to 75m worth of infrastructure and technology.
To support the project a new mile-long stretch of wireless connectivity is being rolled out along the 'Brunel Mile' running from Temple Meads station to the SS Great Britain. As well as providing ubiquitous connectivity the area will also be used to test experimental wireless technology such as 5G mobile broadband. A mesh Wi-Fi network will also be installed across Bristol city centre, using 1,500 lamp posts to create a "canopy of connectivity".
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