Bristol and Bath best for city-wide tech experiments

The growth of the technology industry in Bristol and Bath means the region has developed into the perfect place for companies to test their ideas on a city-wide scale, according to an industry expert.

Rick Chapman, a high-tech sector specialist, says the technology firms in the region are being brought together to drive the development of next-generation concepts.

Speaking at the South West Virtual Reality Conference, Chapman explained how the Bristol and Bath region could be used to drive development of the building blocks for a ‘smart city.’

He said: “Companies can come here and test their next-generation equipment, not on a building scale, not in a lab, but across a whole city. If we start to talk about a ‘smart city’, it’s a huge word, we don’t quite know what it is, but at least we can start to test some components of it.

“We can put sensors on every lamp post or traffic light; we can start to put video in ambulances to have video triage. We can run tests, we can run real city-wide experiments to try and work out where these opportunities are.

“Building the capability to explore where those opportunities are will directly lead to an exploitation path. If you don’t have the laboratory, then you can’t explore it and that’s what we’re building here and that I find really exciting.”

Chapman also described some of the high-profile work produced by some of Bristol and Bath’s leading technology companies.

He said: “Infineon design a chip that goes into engine management and it’s in one of every two new cars produced worldwide. Now that’s exciting, a chip that is designed next to Bristol Parkway station is in half of the new cars anywhere on the planet. But actually that’s quite a long supply chain to get there.

“Also the emergence of the games hub here, that’s really exciting, I think they’re now the largest independent games hub in the country. That’s one of these sectors that’s really going to drag technology forward.”

Chapman also explained how the games industry in Bristol and Bath, particularly in relation to virtual reality, will drive future innovation in the technology.

He said: “Gaming is obviously a huge market and that’s one of the reasons why a lot of the focus goes on gaming, it’s an enabler to drive the technology. Some of the applications that maybe aren’t high volume, but are very worthwhile applications, can be developed on the back of a large, dollar-driven market like gaming. That will drive the technology forward, that will put the pull on the technology companies around here to deliver solutions and then that will lead to new market opportunities.

“Having something like this [VR gaming] that will pull the technology forward as it’s challenge lead – people want to consume VR in gaming and that will move the technology ahead and we’ve got the companies to exploit whichever way that goes.”

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