£15m project to monitor homes and businesses in Ipswich clears major hurdle

Could shoppers be enticed in by messages from retailers.

Could shoppers be enticed in by messages from retailers. - Credit: Archant

A £15m project to introduce electronic sensors to 50,000 homes, businesses, and public buildings across the Ipswich area is still on track after making the shortlist of a national government competition.

But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council denied it was part of an Orwellian 1984-style attempt to keep people under surveillance: “It is all about making life easier for people and businesses,” he said.

The “Smart Ipswich” scheme would see tens of thousands of properties linked up electronically. It would allow homeowners to monitor how efficiently they were using energy and give frail people the opportunity to be monitored while staying in their own homes.

From a business perspective, it would give town centre shops the chance to monitor the number of people near their premises – and could even send invitations to the smartphones of potential shoppers nearby.

Smart Ipswich is a partnership of local authorities, UCS, and businesses including BT and the Chinese-owned phone manufacturer Huawei.

It has applied for £10m of public funding in a competition organised by Innovate UK on behalf of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This would also attract £5m from the private sector.

Billing the scheme the “Internet of Things”, the partners hope Smart Ipswich could start in April next year if it wins backing in the competition whose results are due to be announced in December.

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Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble said: “Technology is playing an increasingly important part in all our lives and we want Suffolk to remain at the forefront of technology research and development in the UK.

“That’s why this particular project around the Internet of Things is so exciting – it brings together our research excellence in the region, the latest thinking in technology and our ambition to continue to provide high quality services for the people of Suffolk.

“It’s a real statement about Suffolk’s desire to be a national leader in innovation in public services.”

Ipswich Council Leader David Ellesmere said: “This concept will itself benefit from hi-tech developments in Ipswich and use the university’s own expertise to take the project forward.

“We are at the heart of one of the most technologically advanced research centres in Europe and we are delighted to have been shortlisted for this major funding award.”

Mark Pendlington, Chairman of New Anglia LEP said: “Smart Ipswich is another demonstration that, together with business expertise, world-class academia and local authority support, we can achieve amazing things that will bring real tangible benefits to the lives of our residents and visitors.”