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IoT mesh nears completion in Bristol

Bristol’s plans to be the world’s first open programmable city take another significant step this summer with the launch of its IoT mesh

Data visualisation inside the Bristol Data Dome (Innovate UK)
Data visualisation inside the Bristol Data Dome (Innovate UK)

Bristol Is Open will launch its Internet of Things (IoT) mesh network across the city this summer. Paul Wilson is managing director of the joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol which aims to create the world’s first open programmable city that will support the creation of new smart services. He told SmartCitiesWorld that the mesh will “open up the data flow” in the city.


“It will enable it to flow into commonly used and open places,” said Wilson. “Smart cities means all sorts of things to all sorts of people but obviously connectivity is key. The way today’s networks have grown up doesn’t give us what we need to get to the next step. We need more flexibility and a more malleable and on-demand approach to the issue. That is at the core of what we’re doing at Bristol Is Open.


“The city has fibre in the ground, a wireless mile that includes humble wifi as well as sophisticated 5G experiments and an RF (radio frequency) mesh across the city, created from access points mounted on 1,500 street lamp posts.”


The mesh, supported by Silver Spring’s standards-based IPv6 wireless network used in a number of cities around the world, can be used for low-bandwidth applications and can accommodate a large number of sensors spread across the city. It will enable IoT devices to be implemented at scale across the city and provide test facilities to network operators, application developers, and manufacturers of IoT devices. Bristol Is Open anticipates it will lead to greater understanding of how the IoT can be deployed in a city environment.


The mesh is one of a number of ongoing projects by the organisation. It has already opened the Bristol Data Dome, housed inside At-Bristol Science Centre’s Planetarium, which can be used as a data visualisation environment. It boasts one of the highest definition digital projection environments in the UK and is connected to the rest of the city by a 30Gb/s fibre link and high-performance computer, hosted in the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering. Rolls-Royce is a project partner in the dome and is already using the immersive hemispherical display system for high-end visualisation of its products and associated big data.


“In time, we will enable us to pull in data from the IoT across the city and show it in the dome in real time,” said Wilson. It has already created a prototype of open city-data visualised onto a 3D map of the city.


Digital economy Minister Ed Vaizey described Bristol Is Open as one of the UK’s “flagship digital smart city projects”. According to Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, more people use the internet in Bristol than in any other major UK city and more people work in digital technology in the Bath and Bristol city region than anywhere in the UK outside of London and the south-east.

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