Cities are increasingly important to the economic and innovative prosperity of the UK, with a recent Deloitte paper highlighting the crucial role London in particular plays.

Technology plays an increasingly important role in the performance of cities, but it can be tempting for technology to be managed in silos despite the interdependence of cities.  To ensure the successful coordination of investment therefore, a citywide management platform, or operating system if you like, can play a crucial role, and in this the University of Bristol are a leading player.

Bristol is Open

We have worked with the council in Bristol to develop the Bristol is Open project, which will provide an open data repository for public use.  At the moment there are approximately 200 anonymised datasets on everything from energy usage and pollution to health and infrastructure data.  The city is equipped with approximately 1,500 RFID equipped lamposts to provide a data infrastructure that allows innovators to do their thing.

Central to this is the CityOS that underpins the project.  Having such a centralised operating system allows for simple implementation of new technologies into the system, and will play a major role in the development of things such as driverless technology.

Peter Wilson, managing director of Bristol is Open, said the experiment was “disruptive” to existing infrastructure and would look at how networks can “measure beyond consumption and into quality of life”. He described it as the “mother of all big data systems”.

“Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city’s data sets on traffic flows, energy use, crime and health trends to kickstart the creation of innovative new services,” Wilson said, adding that the technology would allow people to “interact, work and play with their city.”

The code for CityOS is all open source, which will hopefully help developers test out their ideas more thoroughly.  Initial applications include equipping ambulances with the ability to connect up to traffic management systems that would allow for easier passage to emergencies.  Smart rubbish bins could also communicate with refuge collection lorries to tell them when they’re full.

Suffice to say, these concepts are at a very early stage but the ability to integrate multiple aspects of a citizens life across multiple touch points and platforms will surely be a valuable asset for a city to have.

Bristol’s CityOS is leading the way in the provision of such a platform, but other cities are following suit.  For instance, Singapore has a City Platform as part of its Smart Nation Programme, with cities across the world aiming to replicate this.

If you’d like to learn more about the Bristol operating system and how you can work with it, download this free pdf here.