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BT and Intel invest in lab to research into future cities and telecoms technologies

Caroline Baldwin

BT and Intel are joining forces to develop networking technologies and smart city capabilities.

The two companies will provide researchers, hardware and software to the Collaborative Laboratory (Co-Lab) programme, which will be situated at BT’s Adastral Park R&D facility near Ipswich.

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The research will focus on technologies to manage and deploy network capacity in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The lab will also research how telecommunications will be used to provide sustainable living solutions.

Co-Lab  will conduct research into smart cities and the ability to connect communities via networking technology. These could include optimising energy usage in the home and transportation systems.

“There’s a global need to bring all this innovation from computing and communications to bear on these future cities and it will transform the lives of billions of people who live in cities,” said Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer.

“From a global perspective the city-scale research is absolutely vital. Globally there’s this enormous migration to cities and existing infrastructures are absolutely going to be pushed to the limit. They operate largely in siloes. And in many cases they’re dealing with infrastructures that are so ancient they don’t even know where the power or the water is going,” he added.

Utilities in London are very inefficient, said Rattner. Power distribution, from generation to socket, loses up to 50% along the way, the same goes for water, he said, “Even modest gains in the efficiency have huge financial implications. And it’s a global phenomenon.

“We’re not engineered as cities of tomorrow, we don’t have the in place the infrastructure. We have a very cosmopolitan lifestyle, yet pieces of the infrastructure are hundreds of years old, so how does a city succeed in maintaining that excitement and desire amongst its citizens to live there when it’s dealing with these enormous challenges?” he said.

Additionally, the lab will research  network function virtualisation (NFV) , to enable telecommunications to run on off-the-shelf hardware rather than dedicated equipment. By virtualising gateways, encryption, content delivery, user authentication, testing or monitoring functionality, dedicated telco equipment from companies like Ericsson or Alcatel Lucent could be by-passed, saving time, money and energy in the process, according to Intel and BT.

NFV [research] is going to look at the economics, energy consumption and scaling, so there’s an emerging pattern of how IT transforms industries. It’s going to happen in smart grids and cities. What Intel and BT are trying to do is co-create, share risks, expertise and funds to accelerate the ad hoc innovation that’s going to happen and do this in a very deliberate fashion,” said Martin Curley, director of Intel Labs Europe.


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