Nokia has joined the Bristol Is Open (BiO) initiative in the UK, becoming the first major telecoms vendor to participate in Bristol’s unique smart city living laboratory.
Bristol Is Open encompasses the entire city, effectively transforming it into a dynamic test bed to explore how integrated technology solutions can benefit citizens – from helping solve problems such as traffic congestion, air pollution and assisted living for the elderly to trials of self-driving cars.
BiO is a joint venture between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council and it is funded by local and national government and the European Union, along with academic research funding and financial backing from the private sector.
The project uses a high performance software defined network as the city operating system, then internet of things (IoT) platforms and big data analytics feed an emerging number of smart city applications.
Nokia was invited to join the project because of its track record in developing solutions for smart, sustainable cities, and its long history of collaborative research, including the Nokia-founded IoT Community for cross-industries collaboration.
Experts from across the company – including Nokia Bell Labs, which already has a strong relationship with Bristol University, particularly in the area of photonics – will provide consulting services to Bristol Is Open, while Nokia’s IP networking division will provide network and infrastructure support.
In addition, Nokia’s application ecosystem programme ngConnect will bring an extensive range of additional applications, ideas and companies into the BiO development program.
At a roundtable briefing on the BiO-Nokia link up in London on 6 October 2016, Cormac Whelan, CEO, UK & Ireland at Nokia, said: ‘BiO brings us the capability to play in a real live sandbox. We have a three-year R&D commitment for both software and hardware and 5G to come. It gives us the opportunity to play with real data from the city.’
He added: ‘Cities going to be a bigger and bigger challenge to manage and BIO allows us to learn about this in a real live environment without jumping in a causing chaos.’ Video, optical networks and 5G technology will all be trialled.
Whelan explained that the first application Nokia will start with is video analytics, as video is one of the biggest drivers of traffic over communication networks. Bristol has 1,700 video cameras and all types of traffic will be studied including vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
‘There are lots of things we don’t really know yet,’ Whelan pointed out, ‘so we need to collect the data and analyse it first. There are lots of possible outcomes. For example, we might be able to educate retailers about how to get people into their stores; or, do pedestrians cause vehicle traffic problems?’
Data will be collected via small sensors, including the smartphones and, in the future, GPS devices of willing citizens, which will supply information about many aspects of city life, including energy, air quality and traffic flows to the three new fast networks in the centre of the city.
The high-powered operating system developed by Bristol University will dynamically host this machine-to-machine communication, allowing the development of a wide range of applications that are linked to the various sensors and actuators deployed across the city.
The BiO initiative was spurred by the continual need for sustainable growth, taking into account an increased awareness of pollution and the City Council’s desire to offer an improved range of services to its citizens. The initiative promotes smart city growth within the UK and across Europe as governments seek to meet environmental targets.
Barney Smith, CEO of BiO, explained the strategy behind BIO: ‘The number of people living in cities is increasing, but even in the UK there is pressure on land use within cites. We need to make the city more liveable, more workable and more enjoyable to live in. It’s about health and wellbeing and aspects such as how we deal with an increasingly aged population.’
He pointed out that the UK population has grown 11% over the last 10 years, but Bristol’s is expected to grow by 16%, ‘We have bad traffic congestion; the average speed is 23mph in rush hour on our A roads. Increasing levels of wealth means more cars and more parking needed, so how do we accommodate this? We need to rethink.’
He added that Bristol and Bath between them support a £1.8 billion technology industry. ‘We are innovative, digital and tech savvy. We are the right size to try some of these new Smart City initiatives out and then help others.
‘We have more people cycling and walking to work than any other city. But how do we make people want to be on foot and not in a car? BiO aims to find the solutions to help the city work better in a safer environment.’
Smith explained that Bristol has installed most of the infrastructure needed to support smart city applications. It has a 144 core fibre optic ring around the city centre with four tech nodes: one in the Engine Shed at Bristol Temple Meads rail station where SETsquared is based, for example; one at the Watershed area; another at the At-Bristol science centre, which houses the Planetarium; and a fourth at the high performance networking laboratory in the University of Bristol, which houses a traffic emulator.
Bristol is also developing an RF mesh across city with nodes fixed to lampposts and which will be used to support low data IoT applications. There is also a software defined network (SDN) system with a lot of virtualised functionality behind it; and then there are the cellular mobile networks as well.
‘There is a lot of hardware in place and we need to support faster bandwidths,’ said Smith. BiO is looking at trialling applications for smart waste collection, autonomous vehicles, and ways to support operations across multiple networks and technologies.
‘We also want to nurture small businesses and start-ups to encourage experimentation. We are trying not trying to dictate anything. We don’t know what people are going to do with the technology, but we want to make it easy for anyone to just plug in and try something,’ said Smith.
Markus Borchert, Senior Vice President Market Europe at Nokia, noted that BiO will help Nokia look forward to 5G and the new use cases it will enable when software and analytics will be able to transform whole industries and sectors.
‘We have end-to-end capabilities on the communications side, plus Cloud and analytics and we are moving into verticals such as health,’ he said. ‘But we should not be dogmatic about different technologies; it is about what is the right technology for the particular application. We don’t need to wait for 5G to be standardised though. Things will happen before that, hence our 4.5G, 4.5G Pro, and 4.9G roadmap ahead of 5G.’
Smith said that the skills and experience that Nokia has will help take BiO to the next stage of its development by solving real world problems for citizens and creating opportunity for all.
‘Nokia brings a unique set of capabilities for smart city solutions that, through our open programmable city, are replicable and applicable in other cities,’ he observed. ‘The Government helped pay for the infrastructure, but I need revenue to sustain my engineering team and develop it, so Nokia’s involvement is very helpful.’
Whelan explained that Nokia was bringing some cash to the initiative, but its input is more about providing time, people and equipment. ‘For us it is really about R&D in a live environment,’ he reiterated. ‘The challenge of the future is ubiquity of connectivity and how to get it all to talk to each other. We need joined up data systems and analytics to enable these new capabilities’
‘As far as IoT and smart cities are concerned it is about: stop talking and start doing,’ said Borchert. ‘There is tremendous power in the ecosystem and Nokia is in a good position for smart cities, but we recognise we can’t do it alone and so we are looking for partners to help solve real world problems.’
For more information see: http://www.bristolisopen.com/
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