David Needle | Wi-Fi Planet | August 18, 2005
Intel and a group of fellow technology companies today announced a "Digital Communities" initiative to help municipal governments use wireless technology and innovative applications to expand and improve services for businesses and citizens.
The applications range from automating mobile workers such as meter readers and building inspectors to increasing the safety and enhancing resource management of first responders by remotely monitoring vehicle location to enhancing parent, teacher collaboration for improved student success.
Coincidently, WiFi got a boost earlier this week when Intel's California neighbor to the north, San Francisco, announced a major initiative. Mayor Gavin announced the city had put forth a Request for Information and Comments about unwiring the 49 square miles south of the Golden Gate.
Intel said it plans to work with a diverse group of high-tech companies, to help 13 "pilot" communities design, develop and deploy comprehensive solutions and services. Examples include solutions to enhance government efficiency, promote economic growth, foster greater community satisfaction and bridge the so-called digital divide by making technology more accessible to poorer communities.
"Intel is coming in with an almost consultative, market development role," Jeff Manning, director of business development Airpath, one of the participating companies, told internetnews.com "We're tied to Intel' s hip on this. The two of us are similarly interested in trying to seed the market.
Cleveland, Corpus Christi, Texas; Philadelphia,; and Taipei, Taiwan are among the pilot areas with significant wireless services already in place.
Corpus Christi, for example, is deploying a large wireless network that will soon span 147 square miles. This "multi-use" network, consisting of Tropos' mesh technology and Pronto Networks' security and management software, allows private and public users to securely share the same infrastructure, accessing only authorized applications and services.
The city expects to significantly benefit from mobile solutions, given 70 percent of its employees work in the field. Three of the solutions deployed focus on building inspection, video surveillance and vehicle location.
Dell outfitted the city's Construction and Permits Department with a mobile solution to re-engineer building inspectors' work processes with the ability to update permit data from a construction site, improving accuracy and reducing the inspection cycle by up to six days.
IBM (Quote, Chart) equipped police cars with the capability for streaming video to help with better decision making regarding incident response and documentation of violators at a crime scene.
SAP (Quote, Chart) developed a vehicle asset location tool, which allows the city to track vehicles more affordably, dispatch work crews more efficiently and ensure the safety of its first responders.
Other communities involved in the initiative are Portland, Oregon; Mangaratiba, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Duesseldorf, Germany; Gyor, Hungary; Jerusalem, Israel; Principality of Monaco; Seoul, South Korea; Osaka, Japan; and Westminster, London, United Kingdom.
Technology companies involved in the Digital Communities program not already mentioned include: Accela, Airpath Wireless, Alvarion, British Telecom, CapGemini, CDW Government, Inc (CDW-G), Check Point, Cisco, Civitium, EarthLink, iMove, Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, Pronto Networks, Szintezis Rt., Telindus, Tropos and Vertex.
Intel said it is also working closely with Muniwireless.com, an online site devoted to municipal wireless broadband. Muniwireless features a solutions library of case studies to detail the return on investment local governments can realize from technology deployment.
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Intel helps cities set up WiFi nets
'ON THE CUSP OF A REVOLUTION,' ANALYST SAYS
By Jessie Seyfer
Intel has been lending a hand to communities across the globe to help them develop citywide wireless Internet systems, the company said Thursday.
The first such projects to come to fruition have followed a more modest model than some, focused on streamlining government functions rather than citywide universal access for residents.
The Santa Clara chip maker highlighted three cities Thursday in particular -- Taipei, Taiwan; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Cleveland -- where wireless Internet systems, or WiFi, have become a community reality in a tangible way.
In Taipei, wireless technology has helped the city's 400-some agencies communicate paperlessly, and to provide real-time information about parking and traffic. In Corpus Christi, wireless Internet devices are helping building inspectors search structures' histories in the field and are tracking city vehicle fleets. In Cleveland, emergency responders can send live video of an incident to colleagues, so everyone can respond to it in a more informed way.
Bay Area companies, including Accela Communications of Dublin and Pronto Networks of Pleasanton, worked with Intel on the projects, which Intel has dubbed its Digital Communities Initiative.
Intel is helping 13 cities across the world develop community WiFi projects, and the company intends to lend its system design and technology expertise to many more. Company representatives said municipal WiFi projects will be a boon for Intel, which supplies processors for 80 percent of the world's computers, and for the entire field of technology. Intel processors are used in myriad wireless products.
``We like to look out on to the future,'' said Paul Butcher, Intel's marketing manager for state and local government. ``We look at the paradigm shifts that are happening. Municipal wireless and the business models are evolving quickly on this front.''
Thursday's conference call came on the heels of San Francisco's announcement earlier this week of its intention to institute an ambitious, citywide WiFi system in about a year. Intel officials said Thursday they had lent San Francisco technical advice about three months ago, but do not plan to bid on the city contract because they are not an Internet service provider.
Independent telecommunications industry analyst Jeff Kagan said Intel's announcement is a sign that the municipal WiFi trend has gained serious steam.
``We are on the cusp of a revolution of bringing WiFi to city after city after city,'' he said. ``The companies are trying to stick their flag in the ground and say that they're there. Intel is trying to do that -- trying to say they're one of the key players. Companies want cities to think of them as part of the process.''
Besides San Francisco, Intel has not yet worked with any other Bay Area cities as part of its Digital Communities initiative, Butcher said.
The three cities highlighted Thursday ended up focusing first on streamlining city services before moving on to providing Internet service to rich and poor across entire city landscapes, Butcher said. Many cities, including San Francisco and Philadelphia, have touted their WiFi programs as a way to bridge the so-called digital divide.
A JupiterResearch report last month found it was most economical for cities to focus on distinct, measurable WiFi objectives.
``Defining realistic goals as well as sound strategies and operational models today will greatly benefit vendors, government decision-makers and citizens alike,'' said Julie Ask, research director at JupiterResearch.
Cities join Intel's Wi-Fi program
Published: August 18, 2005, 2:05 PM PDT
By Michael Singer
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Intel and several corporate partners launched a program on Thursday aimed at helping cities use wireless networks to better serve their citizens--and perhaps make a little cash on the side.
Thirteen cities are currently participating in the initiative, called "Digital Communities." Its goal is to give cities technical resources and discounts to help them establish or build out their broadband wireless infrastructure so they can better connect with police and fire personnel as well as with public-works employees such as meter readers and building inspectors.
The program also educates city leaders on ways they can use their wireless network as a commercial service, by selling access to the system and by providing wireless services to consumers.
Intel's project is heavily supported by other technology companies, including Cisco, Dell, IBM, and German-owned SAP. Intel, which has been an advocate for municipal wireless networks for several years, is also working closely with Muniwireless.com, an online site devoted to municipal wireless broadband, to help develop case studies focused on Wi-Fi network development.
The program could be a boon to cities that don't already have the expertise it takes to build a commercially viable wireless network, said JupiterResarch analyst Julie Ask. A boon, that is, if they can get the public behind the project.
"Communities are going to have a hard time persuading their constituents that bridging the digital divide or free Wi-Fi on Main Street are worthwhile uses of tax dollars," said Ask. "However, when you mix in a long list of benefits--some quantifiable and some more qualitative--it's a lot easier to get to the point where folks think, 'Yeah, this makes sense.'"
Ask said cities can leverage Intel's investments into a bit of revenue for themselves from a number of sources, such as occasional wireless hotspot users and residents not already served by a broadband Internet service provider.
The program can also help cities save money, Ask said, because support services for city employees in the field can be provided more efficiently using wireless communication.
Administrators in some large cities already view wireless broadband technology as a feasible, low-cost alternative to broadband services provided by commercial carriers such as phone companies and cable companies.
San Francisco announced this week that it is developing a program that would blanket the city's entire 49 square miles with free or inexpensive wireless service. The city will make special efforts to provide broadband access to its low-income neighborhoods, according to the city's mayor, Gavin Newsom.
Cleveland, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Duesseldorf, Germany; Jerusalem, Israel; and Taipei, Taiwan, are among the urban communities participating in Intel's project. Other participants are Mangaratiba, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Gyor, Hungary; Principality of Monaco; Seoul, South Korea; Osaka, Japan; and Westminster in London.
Corpus Christi, for example, is installing a 147-square-mile multiuse network that will let private and public users share the same wireless system. Taipei is using its wireless networks to support some 500 agencies, as well as to create an online university program for its 2.63 million citizens.
Cleveland is expecting to expand its wireless network, powered by OneCleveland, to enhance public safety, improve access to health care information and services and expand distance learning