Recently some of my colleagues have set out to examine the pros and cons of the new Bristol MetroBus Project. A portion of the evidence seems to suggest that it might solve some of Bristol’s travel problems, of which there are many. Personally I don’t think it’s the solution we should be focusing on. I believe big data holds the solution (as of course I would). What we need is a Smarter City! Referring of course to IBMs Smart Cities project, which I’m sure everybody knows about. Just in case you don’t however, a little background!
IBMs Smart Cities project seeks to integrate all the systems that make up a modern city. The end result is a networked city where the data all flows into a central control station (probably in a bunker under Park Street or something weird) where the huge volumes of incoming data is processed and reported in near real time. With all that data at their finger tips, a team of skilled operators can manage the city’s infrastructure, utilities, transportation and more, making it a greater and better place to live. In other words it’s basically like Sim City, only without all the sewage issues or giant robots(at least not yet).
So Smart Cities sound pretty great right? Sounds like something we should be all over right? Good news, we’re all over it (and by ‘we’ I mean Bristol City Council). The vision is that of a connected city, one with its own operating system and the mayor as its super-user. The City of Bristol certainly has some bold plans, seeking to replicate the successes of New York’s own Smart Cities project. It’s something that’s sorely needed in a city where the average length of commute is second only to London (within the UK). I love Bristol, but there are so many things about it I dislike, such as how it grinds to a halt the moment a drop of water falls from the cloud. 192168-11-adminThis project’s long term goals include improving transport, creating jobs and improve the health and well being of the city; with the aim being to get Bristol into Europe’s Top 20 cities by 2020.
But the council has very little money you say? This is true, and I think that normally a project of this scope and vision simply wouldn’t be feasible for local government and the peanuts they’re given to manage a city with. Conveniently, the tools required are all open source, in other words they’re free. Just to improve things further, Bristol has seen a steep rise in the number of tech start-ups setting up shop, meaning there is ample supply of technical experts ready to get involved in the project. They might actually pull this off. If you have the time read through the feasibility study I would recommend you do because it proposes some radical things.
Can you imagine a networked city where everything is interconnected? Data would literally be flowing through the streets and buildings, helping to make Bristol a better place to live and work! Or it’ll be Skynet.
Special Guest Contributor & Local Cricket Legend: Mike Burgess