City Government Business Drives Municipal Wireless Network Implementation

Municipal wireless networks must focus on the multiple-use applications that will run on those networks.

by / May 20, 2008

Photo: Automated utility-meter reading is one of the many city applications that can run on a wireless network.

Cities across the U.S. are exploring the possibility of building wireless networks. Two hundred and twenty four cities have actually built networks twenty five percent of which cover the entire city. All this despite the high profile collapse of deals to build and maintain large wireless networks for public Internet access in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Yet cities continue to express interest in building wireless networks even though the free ride is over. So what is driving this continued interest and why should cities continue to invest in wireless networks?

At the recent Conference on California's Future in Sacramento, Eric Daversa, vice president, business development for NetLogix outlined why these networks failed:

  • They focused on the free/low-cost consumer Internet access model.
  • The networks lacked ubiquitous citywide coverage.
  • Expectations were improperly set.
  • Unsolved challenges of mounting wireless access points on city-owned light poles.
  • Lack of industry cooperation.

With all those reasons for failure, success will require city governments to examine the business reasons for building wireless networks, since the wireless efforts of community groups will not address local government requirements.

Regardless of technology, Daversa urged city and county governments looking to build wireless networks to focus on the applications that will run on the network and facilitate government business. Networks should have multiple uses, so start by piloting small networks and build out from there. The design of the network should be application driven, he said.

Wireless Network Applications

Automated utility-meter reading, parking-meter automation, public safety communications, data sharing and gunshot detection and location are some of the applications that make business sense for wireless networks.

Video surveillance and automatic vehicle license plate identification are two more applications for wireless networks. In one example, Daversa said, a city made $100,000 in revenue from one car.

The city of Los Angeles is currently monitoring traffic on its streets and freeways with wireless cameras.

In the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse last year, wireless sensors are beginning to be put on bridges to warn officials of tremors in the ground so that bridges can be closed, traffic rerouted and lives saved.

The idea of a city using free citywide wireless Internet access to drive economic development is not entirely dead. The city of Maywood, Calif., implemented a wireless network in the middle of town. As a result, more businesses and tourism came to the city.