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OpenGov speaks to Prof Dimitra Simeonidou, CTO of ‘Bristol is Open’

OpenGov speaks to Prof Dimitra Simeonidou

The city of Bristol, United Kingdom, is on its way to doing something that has never been done by any other city before. Bristol is on the path to turning itself into a full functioning test bed for technology.

Bristol is Open is a project coming out of the joint venture between the University of Bristol and the Bristol City Council. The project is delivering several initiatives that will contribute to the smart city technology development within the city of Bristol. The goal is to build citywide innovation around new future smart city technologies.
Sensors will be integrated throughout the city of Bristol through devices such as smart phones and GPS systems. From these sensors, data will be collected on information about energy, air quality, and traffic. 



Professor Dimitra Simeonidou is the Chief Technology Officer of Bristol Is Open and Professor of High Performance Networks, University of Bristol. She is one of Europe’s leading High Performance Network academics with considerable research funding from both the European Union and the UK Government.

Prof Simeonidou spoke to OpenGov Asia about the progress being made in Bristol. She describes the venture as, “Quite a pioneering project, because it is not building a smart city. Yet, it is working collaboratively to build technologies to support new industries.” Prof Simeonidou states that since the project started two and a half years ago, they have made tremendous progress. They are well on their way towards completing phase one of their project and will open up experimentation to their partners.

As the City Council is directly involved with the efforts of the project, it openly embraces the opportunities presented by future digital services. As Prof Simeonidou told us, “The City Council is committed to delivering new and innovative services to citizens. This is because citizens are adaptable to change. When the mayor was elected, he did not have a political agenda. First thing he said, when he was elected, was that he wanted to make Bristol a testbed for innovation.”

When asked what challenges are faced by the project, Prof Simeonidou answers without pause. “What we are doing here is so unique, there is a complex test bed being implemented. We want it to be available in an open way so people can experiment and use it to their abilities and benefits. We call this, experimentation as a service. It is community programmable and supports community innovation,” she says.

In describing the main entities of the project, Prof Simeonidou emphasises, “Delivering the infrastructure is at the heart of the project because it is necessary. The users and applications must be taken into account when developing this.”

Recently, the Bristol Science Museum Planetariam was converted to allow for 3D interactive visualization. Prof Simeonidou told us it will be connected with a network infrastructure of Bristol is Open and the university super computer. “Key applications are to be innovated from the data collections of Bristol is Open, allowing for real time 3D visualizations. This will represent a system of supercomputing cloud infrastructure,’ she says.

Specific populations that will be most impacted by the study include the elderly and youth.

Looking to the future, Prof Simeonidou says that they are looking to make the joint venture long term. They are working on an agreement to extend the testbed dates. Bristol is Open could then reach outside its current limits.

Prof Simeonidou told us they are about to name 5 strategic partnerships with companies, from big industries, across all sectors to team up with them on deciding how the testbed is going to be used. Beyond this, the project seeks to expand to nearby cities, like Bath, to see if it is meant to ‘grow and evolve’.
Expanding outside of Bristol is necessary as Prof Simeonidou states, “[We] can’t solve all the problems in one city on its own. Expanding into the region, bringing companies into the mix, involving them in the delivery of the test bed, will allow for greater innovation.”

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