A VAST digital network linking Oxford’s roads, streetlights, shops and car parks could transform city life, a UK internet chief said.

Entrepreneurs and start-up businesses are being called on to put forward proposals for how technology can be used to tackle the city’s biggest issues, with Oxford set to bid for £10m of Government funding to pay for trial schemes.

This month an event hosted by Nominet – the firm which manages the UK domain names – will look at addressing traffic jams, air quality, flooding, energy use and parking.

It is part of the ‘Smart Oxford’ initiative, backed by both of Oxford’s universities and the city and county councils.

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Nominet chief technology officer Simon McCalla said the digital network could tell drivers how busy roads were, if there were free parking spaces and tell businesses what times the highest number of shoppers were visiting.

It would do this by linking up different devices across the city, using a so-called ‘internet of things’, such as cars and sensors in roads, traffic lights, street lamps and car parks.

There are also companies working on software that can show people the fastest route through a shop to collect their items, or message them about promotions and deals as they pass.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Mr McCalla said: “The key thing about these proposals is that they are not science fiction.

“They are actually about having basic connectivity to provide solutions that are in reach.

“The real challenge is bringing all the different players – in the public and private sectors – together to make it work.

“It is the kind of change that without a doubt would be transformative in Oxford.”

Mr McCalla said Oxford could harness its reputation for science and technology to lead the way in this industry, which is expected to be worth £255bn a year globally by 2020.

Nominet has already begun using the ‘internet of things’ to learn more about flooding in Oxford.

Using spare airwaves freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television, it created the Oxford Flood Network last year.

This uses sensors at locations in the city’s waterways to collect data about water levels at a detail not previously recorded.

And Mr McCalla said there would be scope for bigger schemes if funding from the Government could be secured.

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport last month announced it was taking bids for the £10m Internet of Things fund.

Wantage MP and Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said the technology was “rapidly becoming part of our everyday lives”.

Nominet will choose ideas for Oxford to put forward at the Smart Oxford Challenge event on September 18 at the Jam Factory in Hollybush Row.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the local authority would then put together a bid with businesses, ahead of the September 30 deadline.

Mr Price said: “Oxford is a good model to use because it has the qualities that allow you to test ideas and then scale them up for bigger cities, as well as a good mix of different people who are very computer-literate.”

Dr Jonathan Bright, a political scientist at Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute, said there were also plans to put data that is already collected to better use.

An example of this was using data collected by mobile phone companies to learn about traffic patterns, he said.

Dr Bright added: “You also have to consider that traditional forms of data in Oxford can get out of date quickly because of the massive turnover of population, because it is a partly university-driven town.

“Local government needs up-to-date data to make decisions about where services are needed most, you if you can update that faster you can do that better.

“It is about giving people more data so they can make better decisions.”