By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.
Cities face numerous constraints (including land availability, population growth, revenues and resources) but must also look at ways to facilitate improvements in the citizens’ and visitors’ standard of living. Therefore, it is not just about technology, but also about the management framework supporting the connectivity technologies.
Connectivity in general plays a central role in any smart city development. It provides the means for interconnecting infrastructures (i.e. networks, sensors, devices) and collaboration between the different stakeholders, including citizens, city authorities, private sector companies, innovators, entrepreneurs and academia, that are key to success.
Bristol has been recognised in the UK Smart Cities Index 2017 as leading the way in areas such as open data access, energy innovation, and community engagement.
Bristol has been forward looking through its investment in Bristol is Open, which is a joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol. This has resulted in a Smart City Research and Development network platform of multiple communications technologies installed around the city.
Currently three networks are integrated through software controls: fibre in the ground, a wireless het-net along the Brunel Mile area of Bristol with Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, LTE, and 5G experiments, and a radio frequency mesh network deployed on 2,000 of the city’s lampposts.
This platform is allowing companies of all sizes to come and test new technology in a real-world environment rather than just inside a laboratory.
Bristol has a wealth of local companies and start-ups, some of whom are already working with Bristol is Open to trial their technologies. It is particularly exciting to see local start-up companies like Zeetta Networks, who have developed an interactive programmable open platform that connects multiple elements to the Bristol platform.
A key element of Bristol’s smart city and innovation strategy is a focus on citizen-centric solutions. The city council, along with the Knowle West Media Centre and Ideas for Change, launched a programme called The Bristol Approach, which aims to put communities at the heart of innovation. The Bristol Approach focuses on supporting people to work together to identify the knowledge, technology, and resources needed to tackle a problem.
The city is focusing on the development of smart districts, where a more holistic view can be taken across issues like transport, energy, housing, and the potential use of new technologies and better data. One of the EU-funded programme such as REPLICATE is delivering just an integrated smart district in the east of the city.
It is important that smart city strategies don’t lose sight of the local issues and work collaboratively to break down silos. This will lead to smarter, more effective ways to provide city wide services, make better use of the funding and allow cities to support all citizens – from those living on or near the poverty line to those who are more fortunate.