Opening a city
An R&D testbed that can be used for city scale trials
• A partnership company between Bristol University and Bristol City Council, working with large and small technology companies, is creating an R&D testbed that can be used for city-scale trials of applications for Smart Cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). ‘Bristol Is Open’ has effectively implemented a blueprint for other cities, which signifies a sizeable step forward in the direction of the IoT.
• Bristol Is Open will be offering R&D rate Pay As You Go access to its platform to partners who want to trial IoT applications at city scale from summer 2016.
• The test-bed will run for at least five years and looks to extend beyond, providing there is demand from long-term partners. This will allow research institutions and companies, both large and small to develop and deploy applications that gather data from a wide range of sensors. It will also allow remote control of new and existing devices, creating a programmable city and allowing the participants to gain a deeper understanding of its implications.
Prepared in partnership with Machina Research.
- NEC is the first publicly named commercial organisation to join the partnership and there are another four currently in negotiations.
- The initial network has been paid for by the Department for Culture Media & Sport with £5.5m, as well as EPSRC academic research funds. The City Council has provided use of underground fibre ducts acquired by the City from a cable TV company. The University has provided software, high-performance computing, and facilities.
- A wireless mesh network provides a canopy of IoT connectivity across the city centre and connects to the fibre network at nine locations. This wireless mesh network sits on 1,500 lampposts that host a set of sensors for heat, sound, light and air quality.
- Bristol City Council has already made more than 200 datasets open, including those on traffic flows, energy use, crime and health trends, allowing developers to create new applications using the data.
- The existing 100 seater city planetarium has been re-equipped as an data dome where impressive shows of data visualisation are being put on for the public, to raise awareness of the exciting possibilities of big data and showing people how their own actions contribute to the city’s problems. Creative companies using the data dome to creative 100 player games, and engineering firms are making use of its connection to the High Performance Computer to visualise big data.
- There is a funding application close to being signed off that will allow the network to be extended to the whole of the West of England, which is comparable to any large metro area in the world. If the £15m of funding is signed off, as expected, the extension will take place over a two-year period from 2016-18.
- The team is in the process of building a scalable environment that is able to support a number of large scale projects simultaneously. The IoT mesh should be available for participation in April 2016.
- To increase public participation, the Council’s City Innovation team is working with Bristol Is Open to involve residents from more deprived areas of the city in designing and building ‘citizens’ sensor boxes’ to mount on the lamp posts at waist height (touchable and brightly coloured, to emphasis accessibility) to gather more data about the environment and how the city is used.
A wireless mesh network is one in which all the nodes co-operate to relay the data around the network. So if at any moment there is a problem with sending the data to a particular node, another can be used instead.
It’s great to see that Bristol is fostering an ecosystem of academics, city council and private companies. This type of collaboration will be key to delivering new opportunities for efficiencies and openness. The rest of the UK will no doubt be looking with interest to see what kind of innovative uses emerge from sharing data in Bristol.
Idris Jahn, Principal Consultant, IoTUK, Digital Catapult