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Bristol gets smarter with launch of ground-breaking innovation project

Press release issued: 27 January 2015

Bristol is set to see the launch of its first joint venture between the city council and the University of Bristol. In a move to combine University research and advanced technology with council owned infrastructure, the company will develop an innovative high-performance, high-speed network in Bristol.

The company, known as Bristol Is Open, will be brought to life by the collaboration between both organisations, subject to approval by the council’s Cabinet on 3 February.

This new 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 real-world test-bed to help understand issues such as mobility, health and energy efficiency in the modern city.

With funding secured from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and Innovate UK, Bristol Is Open will seek to capture information about many aspects of city life, including energy, air quality and traffic flows. This is 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 last five years.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol 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 £12 million 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.  Some of 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, and 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.

Stephen Hilton, Director of Bristol City Council’s Bristol Futures team, 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 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.”

Further information

About Bristol Is Open

Bristol Is Open derives from Bristol’s Super Connected Cities programme called Gigabit Bristol. Other initiatives under this programme include a broadband voucher scheme to provide internet upgrades for businesses; technology demonstrators such as Engine Shed; improvements to street furniture and other technology projects designed to stimulate business take-up of superfast broadband.

The proposed research infrastructure is an experimental broadband, wireless and high performance computing network that will stimulate and study how telecommunication, software, hardware, data and sensing technology come together in a medium sized European city. This is the Open Programmable City.

The infrastructure put in place will enable the collection of anonymised data from other connected devices on a grand scale within the high speed network area. This is called “Big Data”. This is done by combining Bristol Is Open’s Software Defined Network with the University’s IoTBay platform on the high performance computer.

This data will then be analysed and programmed by applications developed during the coming year to reveal new insights into how the city operates in real time. Insights drawn from the collection and analysis of this Big Data will enable Bristol Is Open to form partnerships with a variety of organisations seeking to develop solutions to many of the challenges facing a city in the 21st century.

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