Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Bristol hopes to be world’s first open, programmable city

Steve Rogerson
March 11, 2015
The city of Bristol in the UK has started a project to create what it believes will be the world’s first open, programmable city to support the creation of innovative new smart services for citizens, business and academia. Called Bristol Is Open, the project is a joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol.
Japanese company NEC is working with Bristol to virtualise and converge a high capacity wireless and optical network to support a wider diversity of end-user needs in an efficient way. In the smart cities of the future, this is likely to include ultra-low latency connectivity for driverless cars, kilobits per second connectivity for M2M sensors to monitor the health of citizens with long-term chronic conditions, hundred megabits per second for ultra high definition TV broadcasts and terabits per second data transfers for collaborative R&D programmes between global universities.
“With NEC’s support we’ll start turning our bold vision of making the world’s first open programmable city into a reality,” said Paul Wilson, managing director of Bristol Is Open. “NEC’s cutting edge technologies, backed by engineering expertise and dedication, will help us create a collaborative ecosystem of global tech firms, start-ups and local community organisations to use Bristol’s network as a city-scale lab. Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city’s data sets on traffic flows, energy use, crime and health trends to kick-start the creation of innovative new services. We’re excited about all the possibilities to give the people of Bristol more ability to interact, work and play with their city.”
New services and applications will be trialled on the Bristol Is Open network platform as virtual tenants on pooled servers, eliminating stranded capacity and over-used bottlenecks commonly seen in data communications networks. Bristol will be able to create dynamic service chains to enable traffic to take the best path through the network depending on real-time demand and the specific requirements of each smart city service. By being able to up-scale and hibernate centralised server resources easily, Bristol should also be able to reduce energy usage and costs while increasing system resilience.
“This is a truly ground breaking smart city project,” said Dejan Bojic, director of strategy at NEC in EMEA. “It will use the latest NEC SDN-enabled network technologies – which will operate with Bristol Is Open’s SDN platform, developed by the University of Bristol – to create an open, dynamic, virtualised network to serve each traffic type according to its quality of service priorities and real-time levels of demand over multi-carrier Wifi, LTE, millimetre wave and optical channels.”
Bristol is the eighth most populous city in the UK and the second largest in the south after London. It’s a creative hub – home to TV production companies, including the BBC’s natural history unit and animators such as Aardman, and has the largest number of digital technology employees in the UK outside of London. The city also hosts sizeable aerospace, defence, low-carbon technology, financial services, microelectronics and silicon design industries and a cargo port. Bristol is the European Green Capital for 2015 and home to the Playable Cities movement.
Bristol Is Open is a research infrastructure to explore developments in software, hardware and telecoms networks that enable more interaction between people and places and more M2M communications. The project uses a high performance software defined network as the city operating system, then IoT platforms and big data analytics feed an emerging number of smart city applications.