Wireless canopy will turn Bristol into a living lab

Fri, 2015-03-13 06:00 -- SCC Staff

A city in southwest England will soon be covered by a wireless umbrella designed to connect everything, allowing enterprising researchers to find new uses for the data that’s generated. The goal is to turn the city of Bristol into a hotbed of smart cities research.

Council Associate Partner Silver Spring Networks has been selected to build the backbone for the project, dubbed Bristol is Open for the project’s open data component. Backers of the project say it will turn the city into a living innovation lab that could benefit other enterprising cities worldwide.

The project will give the city of nearly a half-million three high-speed networks: in the ground, wireless along a main thoroughfare and lamppost-to-lamppost. Those networks will connect everything from traffic and waste sensors to people who agree to be tracked.

Open, programmable city
Bristol is Open is a partnership between the city and the University of Bristol. While data collected through the effort will be anonymous and shared with the public, the initial focus is at the university. The university and city council will manage research and development projects to find innovative uses for real-time data to improve the city’s livability. Congestion, waste management, entertainment, e-democracy and energy are all among the areas of interest.

The goal is to build an overall open data operating system that powers the city, which is made possible by the open framework of the Silver Spring Networks solution. This operating system will dynamically host this machine-to-machine communication, allowing the development of a wide range of applications. Based on the success in Bristol, it will gradually be rolled out to neighboring communities.

Building engagement
Another part of the project is to build community engagement and a number of events are planned to dazzle residents with the potential of the network. Open data and the types of networks that will transmit it can be difficult concepts for people to grasp and the events are designed to be illustrative.

One idea is to use the fast network speeds to project 3D images into the night sky. Another idea is to have one event, such as a concert, in several venues simultaneously across the city. Bristol has brought community groups into the planning process to help think of ideas that will truly connect with residents.

Are you ready for open data?
The Council's Smart Cities Open Data Guide captures lessons learned and best practices to provide city leaders and staff a starting point to chart their own open data initiatives. The guide is available at no charge to members of the Smart Cities Council. Download your free copy today.