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Bristol signs NEC to develop smart city infrastructure

NEC, Bristol Council and the University of Bristol create an open, programmable city for smarter transport, environment and health services

Bristol City Council, together with the University of Bristol, has signed a memorandum of understanding with NEC to build a joint venture around smart city technologies.

The Bristol is Open project, which formally launches on 10 March 2015, aims to create the world’s first open, programmable city to support smart services around transport, environmental, health and community issues.

It will be funded by local, national and European governments, along with money from academic research and the private sector.

NEC was already working with Bristol to virtualise and converge the council-owned BNet, a high-capacity wireless and fibre network to support the project's needs more efficiently.

The project aims to use a high-performance, ultra-low latency software-defined network (SDN) to run a City Operating System (CityOS) for internet of things (IoT) platforms and big data analytics to drive growth around smart city applications.

CityOS was developed at the University of Bristol by Dimitra Simeonidou and colleagues in the University’s High Performance Networks research group. The University’s BlueCrystal High Performance Computer facility, a supercomputer capable of 200 trillion calculations per second, will also be pressed into service.

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A startup ecosystem

Bristol Is Open managing director Paul Wilson said NEC’s involvement would help the project establish a local ecosystem of technology firms, startups and community organisations to use the network as a city-wide laboratory.

“Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city’s datasets 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,” he said.

Bristol already has a reputation as something of a creative hub, and is home to the BBC’s Natural History unit and Aardman, the animation firm behind Wallace and Gromit, as well as a large number of digital technology firms, aerospace, defence, micro-electronics and silicon design industries.

SDN avoids data bottlenecks

The network platform will enable stakeholders to trial their services and applications as virtual tenants on pooled servers, which NEC said would eliminate the stranded capacity and overuse bottlenecks usually seen in data networks.

Using SDN techniques, Bristol Is Open will be able to create dynamic service chains to enable traffic to take the best path across the network, depending on demand and requirements, while minimising energy usage and costs by up- or down-scaling centralised server resources.

Dejan Bojic, director of strategy and solutions at NEC Europe, commented: “This is a truly ground-breaking smart city project. 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 Wi-Fi, LTE, millimetre wave and optical channels.

“Looking further ahead, we see our partnership with Bristol as an opportunity to apply and showcase NEC’s ‘Solutions for Society’ in close collaboration with local government, universities and industrial partners.”

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