Bristol has just overtaken London as the UK’s leading ‘smart city’ according to the second UK Smart Cities Index.
The report evaluated twenty cities and their strategies, key projects and overall ability in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services, such as transport infrastructure and healthcare. Bristol was differentiated from the other contenders through the clarity, breadth and inclusiveness of our smart city vision and planning, and was named as a ‘leader’ in the field.
This achievement has in part been made possible by the work of Bristol Is Open, a joint venture between BCC and the University of Bristol which aims to develop Bristol as a smart city and support an ‘Internet of Things’. Our new Operations Centre uses state-of-the-art technology linked to our high speed fibre network and monitors traffic flow and CCTV around the city. This could eventually provide services in areas such as health protection, traffic management, waste management and energy monitoring. Our city also leads the way in open data access, energy innovation and community engagement.
The University of Bristol has recently been named as one of three UK testbeds for cutting-edge 5G technology, keeping the city at the forefront of this pioneering research. This innovation and forward-thinking makes us more attractive to the global tech sector, academics and media innovators, whether they be Channel 4, the BBC or independents.
However, we need to ensure that improving connectivity is experienced by the whole city and that progress is shared by all. Some areas of Bristol, such as Whitchurch, are still experiencing below-average broadband speeds and we are working with providers to upgrade exchanges and improve service in these less connected areas.
Being a smart city means being a more resilient, efficient and integrated city, which is able to adapt to change more readily to an unpredictable future. Being named as the UK’s ‘smartest’ city is an impressive accolade, and one which demonstrates our city’s capacity to lead in research and technology on a national and international scale. But making sure this progress is inclusive is vital to the future success of Bristol’s economy and communities.