Milton Keynes announces plans to build city-wide Internet of Things network

The city of Milton Keynes is barrelling into the future by becoming the first UK town to establish a city-wide, open access Internet of Things network.

Thanks to a consortium established by BT, Neul and the Future Cities and Connected Digital Economies Catapults, the 18-month project will invite the best of British technology to use Milton Keynes as a testing ground for new services. Supported by the Open University, it is hoped that the new connected city will create the perfect ecosystem for IoT development startups.

Over the next year and a half digital parking spaces that alert drivers when they're empty, smart bins that tell the council when they're overflowing and Internet connected heating systems will be installed across the city centre.

To power this, Neul and BT are building 15 Internet-connected base stations across Milton Keynes which will pick up the signals from sensors placed in thousands of object throughout the city. The stations will be attached by BT to masts and street lamps out of sight of most residents.

"We see this exciting project as a means of establishing an open innovation environment to support the creation of M2M and IoT applications across a whole city. This could include anything from intelligent monitoring of parking spaces in the city to networked bins which signal when they need collecting," said Alan Ward, Head of Corporate ICT Practice at BT.

For example, parking spaces will be fitted with 6in studs that detect radio waves like those emitted by mobile networks. Because cars block most radio waves, the sensors will be able to tell when they are in use. To the naked eye, the sensors will just look like cat's eyes glued to the tarmac.

For more, check out our run-through of the Internet of Things and how it came to be.