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Why Bristol is at the heart of the UK’s smart city plan

Highlights from Bristol / Sweden Future Cities Summit 12 September 2019 – Mikael Sandberg

Last week saw Bristol unlock its doors to a well-connected future with the Bristol | Sweden Future Cities Summit, which centred on how to become a truly smart city. With a raft of inspiring speakers ranging from Bristol City Council and Bristol Energy to Volvo and Business Sweden, the event was a positive and productive day focused on how to achieve the city’s main objective: to take charge of its digital destiny.

I was given the opportunity to speak about the importance of a strong digital backbone and the vital role full-fibre networks play in strengthening the business case for developing a smart city. All in all, the event proved that the notion of the smart city is no longer something we simply refer to when talking about the future – it’s now starting to play a larger role in everyday life. So, how can we help Bristol to make its smart city dream a reality? Some of the key take-aways include:

Why collaboration is important

With attendance from the City Council, along with other key stakeholders such as the City Office, the Bristol Operations Centre and Bristol’s Connected Cities Programme, the event highlighted the need to collaborate on building a plan that can take a holistic approach to solving some of the crucial problems facing the city. Through working together, on tackling issues such as connecting the unconnected, regenerating local areas and offering social benefits – e.g. economic stability and the creation of new jobs for citizens – the event showed that Bristol’s smart city strategy will not only be achievable, but highly effective.

The need for strength of vision and ambition

Collaboration would of course not be possible without the strength of vision and ambition behind the key players involved in building Bristol’s smart city. There’s no doubt that Bristol has the guts to make a real difference, and it’s encouraging to see how Bristol aims to unlock innovative potential to develop a safer, cleaner and more efficient city. Already living up to its reputation as a leading smart city in the UK and beyond, yesterday’s event demonstrated that Bristol is on the right path to seeking creative solutions that will benefit Bristol’s residents of all ages, in years to come.

Achieving tangible outcomes for residents

Indeed, these opportunities afforded by the transformation of Bristol as a smart city include the growth and economic development of local, individual communities across the city such as: improved healthcare services; solving energy poverty; dealing with traffic congestion and ensuring public safety, to name a few. Not only that, the event took inspiration from the success Sweden has seen in regard to developing its own smart cities, driving a more sustainable approach to living. With digitisation offering the solution to cutting emissions, eco-friendly innovation puts the climate at the heart of smart city development to ensure it is truly future-proofed.

While it was fantastic to see how Bristol is climbing up the rungs of smart city success, it’s a reminder that all cities across the UK should be re-evaluating their ways of living. By embracing the many opportunities that digitisation can bring, the smart city will be the key to unlocking vital economic and social benefits. As tech such as 5G and IoT continues to gain momentum, a full-fibre network will play an essential role to enhancing economic, social, environmental and efficient long-term goals for consumers and businesses alike. So, take note, and keep Bristol in mind – it’s a truly forward-facing city that is set on its path to embracing its digital destiny.

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