Bristol is the UK’s leading smart city, overtaking London in a recent report commissioned by Huawei UK and conducted by Navigant Consulting.

“Bristol has shown leadership in bringing together industry, government, academia and citizens to form a collaborative smart cities program”


The UK Smart Cities Index is based on evaluations of 20 cities and their strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.

Scores on the doors: Bristol stats from the UK Smart City Index


Bristol and London were named as ‘leaders’, with Bristol overtaking the capital to take the lead. Next are 12 ‘contender’ cities: Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, Oxford, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

“People make cities smart,” says Nick Sturge, director of the Engine Shed. “Bristol has a very smart population, mostly thanks to its diversity of sectors and cultures and its pervasive culture of collaboration and high connectivity. This all leads to a high emotional intelligence, and combined with the incredible technologies that are becoming available and accessible, we have a truly smart city, with heaps of potential.”

“The successful cities of the future are going to be smart cities,” says Sir Andrew Cahn of Huawei’s UK board. The company also has a chip design centre in the city.

He adds: “It’s clear from this report that cities across the UK have made considerable progress over the last year, developing and implementing strategies to improve the delivery of public services and the urban environment. The scale of progress throughout the country is represented by a doubling in the number of cities included in this year’s ranking index compared to 2016.

“While Bristol and London are named as ‘leaders’, other cities have entered the index with exciting smart initiatives, such as Newcastle’s, City Futures programme and Cambridge’s, Smart Cambridge intelligent City Platform (iCP).”

Bristol is Open (BiO) manages a private terabit optical fibre network that is connected to various nodes around the city to form the backbone of a smart city.

“Engine Shed, as a node on the Bristol Is Open network, and home to part of the BIO team, aims to help make that technology more accessible so the city, and city-region, can fulfil its potential,” says Nick.

“Cities the world over must look to technology to address the way they manage their resources and infrastructure to deliver innovative services for citizens and businesses,” says Julie Snell, MD of Bristol Is Open. “Bristol has shown leadership in bringing together industry, government, academia and citizens to form a collaborative platform for the development of its Smart Cities program.

“Being recognised in the Huawei UK Smart Cities Index as the city that has made the most significant growth in its Smart City program is testament to the vision and support of Bristol City Council, the fantastic results for the University of Bristol research and development department and the very many other players in the City who all contribute to Bristol Smart City.”

Smart City Operations Centre

A new Smart City Operations Centre (shown above) opened in Bristol last week and uses BiO as the networking backbone. This integrates the council’s Emergency Control Centre, Traffic Control Centre and Community Safety (CCTV) Control Rooms for the first time and also provides services such as telecare, alarm and security monitoring and lone worker support with almost 60,000 welfare and telecare calls received every month.

This is just one of several elements that have boosted Bristol’s position, including Bristol is Open and the Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol. The city also leads in big data and energy innovation and community engagement and leads in global research into 5G wireless technology, driverless cars and machine learning through many projects in the technology cluster.

“UK cities are demonstrating an impressive commitment to service and technology innovation,” says Eric Woods, research director at Navigant Consulting, who led the study. “They are now embedding smart city ideas into city planning and operations. They are also preparing for the impact of the next wave of technologies, including 5G, autonomous vehicles, and machine learning, The growing contribution that local universities are making to these programmes further emphasises the importance of advanced technologies to the future of UK cities.”

“The state-of-the-art centre integrates several of the council’s key services and links into the city’s high-speed fibre network through Bristol Is Open. I’m very pleased that Bristol has been acknowledged this way and we will continue to work towards developing our smart city capabilities in order to improve services for our residents and visitors,” says Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Bristol.

The Smart City report also singled out Bristol for praise in community engagement, including the Citizen Sensing strategy developed by Knowle West Media Centre. This is designed to allow people to build or use sensors to tackle issues that are important to them. An example of this is the use of sensors in the ‘Damp Busters’ pilot initiative to gather data about the problem of damp in homes.

You can see the full report and infographic here: Huawei and Navigant UK Smart Cities Index and Huawei and Navigant UK Smart Cities Infographic. There’s more details about Bristol is Open at

Nick Flaherty