Bristol is open. Imagine going on an interactive treasure hunt powered by everyday objects fitted with high-tech sensors connected to a network in order to share their data, and where the same network lets driverless cars ferry you around as you do it.

bristol-is-open-data-domeOr how about a brand new 12,000 seat arena running on the same shared data while terrabytes of video data whips round the city at superfast speeds allowing it to be played in real-time immersive 3D in a 180 degree data dome. Sound pretty futuristic?

These are some of the planned outcomes for Bristol Is Open – a collaborative project between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol – that will connect people with places and things.

“Bristol is a fast growing city, with this it brings opportunities but also challenges… Bristol Is Open and data are part of the solution”


It will create an infrastructure of high-speed networks and Internet of Things technology to record and capture useful information such as traffic and pollution data (amongst many other things) to revolutionise how the city works, and will produce a sharable data set that is open for the public to use. 

You can watch an explanation about Bristol Is Open straight from the horse’s mouth below (it has a lot of possible applications – hence it being 36 mins long!):


The project, now in its third stage of development, has already gained recognition for what it has achieved so far, including: putting fibre in the ground; a digital mesh bouncing from lamppost to lamppost across the city; and a mile of experimental wireless connectivity along Bristol Harbourside. This progress led to Bristol is Open winning the Smart City Innovator Award that ‘recognises the most innovative service breakthrough focused on positive impact to the lives of citizens’.

With a mission to create a better Bristol as it grows, Stephen Hilton, director of city experimentation, tells us that: “Bristol is a bristol_is_open-tornv3fast growing city, with this it brings opportunities but also challenges, for example: how do we keep the cars flowing, how do we manage air quality, how do we care for a growing older population, and public safety? Bristol Is Open and data are part of the solution.”

Experience Bristol is Open

Ideas for projects spin-offs are happening already. For example, the public can enjoy immersive visualisations of this high performance data network through Bristol’s Data Dome.

Also, Playable City brings together artists and designers to create playfulness that connects people to each other and the places they live and work. End products include the amazing digital urban animals, talking lampposts and shadow stealers, that have taken over the city in recent years.

“Bristol’s unique take on people-centred technology solutions and the belief that our future cities need to be democratic, surprising and inclusive”


Clare Reddington, creative director at Watershed – Bristol’s cultural and digital creativity centre – says: “Playable City is born out of Bristol’s unique take on people-centred technology solutions and the belief that our future cities need to be democratic, surprising and inclusive.”

BIO city

What to do with all that data?

The sensors and other IoT devices being used in the project will be collecting huge amounts of data over the fibre network. This means that key parties will be able respond in real-time to everyday events, including congestion, waste management, entertainment events and much more.

In order to manage all the data being collected the network will be split up into ‘slices’, with each application handed a portion of available bandwidth from the city-wide terabits per second fibre network. Such network bandwidth would, for example, allow for multiple streams of 4K video to be carried at once.

“We want to turn the city in to a a giant high tech R&D test bed”


Bristol Is Open’s Jess Ellis – Director, Customer Services says, “We want to turn the city in to a a giant high tech R&D test bed, working with partners large and small to develop smart city technologies and operations.”

She adds: “We have been approached by countries from all over the world to discuss what we are doing here in Bristol which was unexpected when we first launched.”

 You can change the city

With statistics that show that more than 61,000 people work in digital technology in the Bristol/Bath region – more than anywhere else in the UK, outside of London – Bristol is Open want your help to develop the possibilities of what to do with this city network.

Jess believes Bristol Is Open is about responding to the ideas of the community, and readily invites ideas: “We are looking for long term and project partners. These can be organisations of all sizes and shapes and skill sets who want to use a slice of the Bristol Is Open network to develop their products and initiatives around IoT and smart cities.”

If you have an idea you would like to discuss then please get in touch with Bristol is Open. Also watch the Bristol is Open website, follow them on Twitter, or sign up for the newsletter for information on meet ups. There are also plans for hackathons that developers can get involved with later this year.