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Why are smart cities important for small businesses?

The concept of the smart city has long been on our radar here at O2 Business. But we wanted to show how small businesses can benefit from them.

By most counts there are four smart cities in the UK, Bristol being the furthest advanced. So we went along to find out what a smart city actually is from the people that live there and why it’s such a great place to work:

Bristol is now a melting pot of creativity, technology and smart people. And this hasn’t happened by chance. There has been a top-down approach to encourage small businesses and artists to experiment with technology and be genuinely innovative.

One of the main organisations leading this creative charge is Watershed. We spoke to Verity to find out what in the world was going on:

Verity McIntosh – Producer at Pervasive Media Studios, Watershed

“Bristol is an experimental city. It has a really strong tech cluster and really strong creative cluster and this is what has made places like the Pervasive Media Studio come together. Bristol is particularly fond of the idea of being a laboratory smart city.”

But why is it so important to experiment, specifically artistically? Jo from app development company Calvium had the answer to this one:

Jo Reid – MD of Calvium

“It’s great for technology companies to be able to harness that power of creative thinking. It moves them outside their comfort zone and forces them to think about how technology can be applied in ways that aren’t just useful for companies but in ways that change how society can work.”

So who are these artists experimenting with technology and why do they come to Bristol? Meet pervasive game designers, Simon and Simon who’s latest piece ‘Black Maze’ was on show at The Rooms Festival, an experimental art and tech exhibition produced in part by Watershed.

Simon and Simon – Pervasive Game Designers

“Working in technology requires teams of creative people, programmers, scriptwriters. Bristol’s a great place to meet people. Its whole raison d’etre is to bring people to together so they can share knowledge and work together on projects.”

“The ‘Black Maze’ is a bio- activated horror maze. We use your own heartbeat as a game-timer and give you 1000 heartbeats to solve a maze puzzle.

“Bio-data is a grand new arena for people to start playing in. Look at the way location technology has changed over the last 10 years. It was very difficult to access and now it’s in everyone’s hand all the time. Bio-data is on that transitional line as well. There will be a lot more applications that use bio-data embedded in your daily life and we just happen to be here at the forefront of it.”

So what of the future of this smart city and why should small businesses get involved?

Verity McIntosh – Producer at Pervasive Media Studios, Watershed

“Small businesses can really get involved in the development of our city and there’s no better time to do that. Places like the Pervasive Media Studio exist to give time and space to these kinds of potentially disruptive, transformative ideas about what we might do differently. If you are a small business you should never be afraid to pitch the biggest of the big ideas. Those are often the ones that will push something forward and open up new opportunities for you.”


To find out more about Watershed and how you and your business can get involved follow this link.

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