UK researchers test future Internet tech to enable smart cities

UK researchers are creating an “Internet playground” to try out new technologies that can support smart cities, according to a report in the New Scientist.

Through the Initiate project, the researchers are setting up their own Internet to test technologies that will make Internet connections faster and more secure and lay the groundwork for smart cities and other Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

“We know the Internet needs reinventing,” Dimitra Simeonidou at the University of Bristol told the New Scientist. “It was originally designed for basic communication like email, and now we want 4K video available to us standing on the street.”

The project will create a specialist distributed test-bed to facilitate the increasingly complex experimentation required for future Internet research. This will be achieved by interconnecting state-of-the-art operational laboratories at the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Kings College London with high-speed fibre-optic cables, controlled from a server in Slough.

According to the University of Bristol, considerable progress has been made in the UK over the years on the development of communications laboratories infrastructure in ICT domains such as optical & wireless, signal processing, networks and distributed systems. However, UK telecoms research remains largely segregated in independent optical, wireless or computer network research labs, so researchers don’t usually have the opportunity to experiment across the boundaries between these disciplines. Due to the limitations of performing research in discipline-specific facilities, the current UK ICT research output does not address realistic end-to-end Internet systems.

The labs involved in the Initiate project will contribute many key capabilities including optical networks, wireless/RF communications, IoT, software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualisation (NFV) and cloud computing.

A team from Bristol will connect thousands of smart city sensors, which monitor everything from air quality and traffic flow to energy usage, while a group at Edinburgh will test a light-based alternative to Wi-Fi called Li-Fi, which uses LEDs to transfer data at high speeds.

The project will allow these technologies to be tested at a national scale.

Initiate was launched this month and will run until January 2021.

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