July 16, 2008 By Blake Harris
at any time using HDPS [hard drive photo storage]. And when the vehicles arrive at the police station, the video is downloaded.
We've also used fiber optics for parking advisory signs at all of our parking structures. Before the public goes into one of the multilevel structures and drives around to find there is no parking, they are advised before they enter. We also push out information in real time to the Web every five seconds; the public now has a refresh. And we've been working with Google: Google now has applications in their "maplets" and we are now working with them on an SMS [short-message service] application, so you can get parking availability on your cell phone. Of course, we've implemented voice over IP, which saved us a bundle of money and allowed us to do away with T1s. We no longer lease those circuits. We now put all our traffic signals on our network; so far we have moved about 50 percent of the traffic signals on the city's network. We are working with the regional partners, such as the MTA [Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority] for Rapid Bus transit priority in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
We have implemented traffic cameras throughout the city and we are now deciding whether to make this available to the public to view over the Internet. We are also investigating wireless parking meters through Wi-Fi and cellular technologies. And again, none of this would have been possible without the underpinnings of fiber broadband.
Q: What have been the primary challenges in accomplishing all of this?
A: We believe you have to organize your IT internally to effectively communicate with your business partners. Some of the areas that were a focus for us were: GIS document management, Web services and many others. We aligned staff to ensure those areas were well understood and well staffed within the organization. That way our clients were able to go to those areas for resources that would help them with their particular needs. When we found there were needs for our clients outside the areas IT typically manages, such as water utility or permitting, we actually outsourced our staff and they would sit in the trenches so to speak, working with that business unit, even though they still reported to my IT managers.
It was very important for us to make sure we had ongoing funding. We made sure we communicated the need for depreciating all of our assets, including what's on the desktop, the server assets and our network assets. Everything we own is now depreciated and is in a refresh cycle through enterprise funding, which covers desktops, servers, networks, telecommunications, and fiber-optic enhancements and growth. It has been extremely useful for us to stay current and to make sure everyone is working on the same playing field. That's been key for making sure we can deploy enterprisewide applications in a timely manner.
Q: Did you also look for alternate sources of funding?
A: Yes, but really when possible, we would become entrepreneurs and look at ways to pool funds. I mentioned that we pooled funds from the city, school district and college to build our fiber networks, as well as to manage those. But we are now in the process of leasing colocation space and dark fiber to companies, such as HBO, Google, Fox Entertainment and many others. Santa Monica is fortunate in that we are close to Hollywood; there is a lot of video production and postproduction houses that serve the studios here that need to communicate to the rest of the world. We now have become their connection point, and this is actually nurturing them to stay and fostering new ones to move into the community.
You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to