Over 100 business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and public service professionals gathered at MK Gallery on 24 October for MK Digital Futures, a showcase of the digital and technological innovations that are set to transform the way we live now and in the future. Hosted by CityFibre and supported by South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and Barclays Eagle Lab, speakers and exhibitors focused on how innovation could revolutionise many aspects of our lives - from healthcare and transport infrastructure to business, housing and urban environments. Giving both a national and regional perspective, the event shone a spotlight on Milton Keynes which has been identified by the Centre for Cities as one of the UK’s five Fast Growth Cities and is playing a pivotal role as a test bed for these new technologies. This test bed status depends on access to future proof full fibre digital infrastructure, which CityFibre is currently investing around £40m in delivering to almost every home and business in the city in the form of full fibre networks.
Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre, said: “In recognition of the strength of its tech sector and its smart city ambitions, Milton Keynes was chosen as the first city to benefit from Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband under the Vodafone and CityFibre Fibre-to-the-Premises programme. “Advanced fibre networks play a critical role in futureproofing cities’ by providing the capacity and backhaul connectivity required to support Internet of Things products and 5G mobile services. Milton Keynes is clearly a leading destination for technological innovation, and this is cause to celebrate as we explore new ideas and plan for the decades ahead. “This event was aiming to showcase the incredible innovations which are being pioneered here in Milton Keynes and the ways in which digital connectivity, and the tech it enables, will enhance the lives of communities across the UK.”
One of the speakers at the event, Geoff Snelson the Director of Strategies and Futures at Milton Keynes Council, commented, “Growing the digital economy is at the heart of our 2050 Futures strategy for Milton Keynes. This event is very timely as we have a number of exciting new initiatives coming forward, including the MK university project and 5G infrastructure trials linked to new mobility services.”
One of the key focuses of the event was the ways in which healthcare services are currently utilising emerging technologies and how the sector will be revolutionised by the technologies of the future. As part of the exhibition, Milton Keynes University Hospital demonstrated how Augmented and Virtual Reality is being used to train staff in the use of ultrasound and flexible bronchoscopy.
Peter Sleeman-Barker, Simulation Educator from Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As technology advances, it is essential to provide task trainers like EVE and ORSIM which we are demonstrating at MK Digital Futures, to allow staff to be given instruction in these procedural clinical skills.’’ “The virtual format facilitates training and promotes skill development and dexterity, as well as providing an economical and safe solution to training. It also provides rapid exposure to a multitude of scenarios before clinical application which ultimately benefits the learner and improves patient care.’’
Another exhibitor at the MK Digital Futures event was Robotazia, a company which is in the process of establishing a sci-fi themed restaurant staffed with robot waiters. Commenting on why Milton Keynes is a great place to start their new venture, Joy Gittens, Founder of Robotazia, said: “We are aiming to establish a venue of extraordinary robot and sci-fi themed creativity with an emphasis on recycling and repurposing. We chose Milton Keynes not just because it is our home town, it is an innovative and forward thinking Smart City.”