Canberra public Wi-Fi network to power smart parking

Free Wi-Fi should be 'no brainer' for local governments, says Digital Canberra senior manager

The ACT government says it wants Canberra to be a leading digitial city.

The ACT government says it wants Canberra to be a leading digitial city.

Smart parking, lighting and waste management could soon be coming to Canberra, according to the ACT government official leading the city’s digital city initiative.

These new Internet of Things (IoT) applications would link into the public Wi-Fi network currently being rolled out by the ACT government in partnership with iiNet, Digital Canberra senior manager Roger Rooney said during a panel hosted by Cisco.

Canberra’s $4 million Wi-Fi project, announced in late May, will see iiNet deploying more than 700 Cisco wireless access points covering 12 business districts across the city. The network will provide each user with 3GB per month of downloads for free.

The ACT government is especially keen on smart parking to combat congestion in Canberra, said Rooney. The government is looking at various options with the hope of doing a trial in one of the 12 business districts by 2015 or 2016, he said.

“We do have a morning peak half-hour in Canberra,” he said about Australia’s city, which has a population of slightly more than 381,000. “We do have a traffic issue here, and we still have coin-fed parking down here and it just drives everyone nuts.”

Digital Canberra is also looking at using the public Wi-Fi network to connect 70,000 light poles and the city’s waste management system, he said.

Cisco has been increasing its headcount in Australia to meet a surprising level of demand by local governments for smart parking and other IoT projects, said Cisco ANZ vice-president Ken Boal.

In Canberra, Rooney said he wants to create a “vibrant downtown” out of “not one of the best downtowns” in Australia.

Digital Canberra has looked to Adelaide’s free Wi-Fi network — also deployed by iiNet — as a model, said Rooney. As in Adelaide, it was important to make the Canberra network free to prevent any social group from being excluded, he said.

A big test for the Wi-Fi network will be next month’s Floriad festival, a flower show that is Canberra’s largest event and attracts 40,000 people a year, he said.

Rolling out the public network is a key first step to making Canberra a leading digital city, he said, adding that public Wi-Fi should be a “no brainer” for municipalities.

“This is an expectation now. It’s not really a choice … It’s disruption. It’s revolution.”

iiNet chief business officer Greg Bader agreed. “In terms of the Internet of Everything, we see the Wi-Fi network as the base infrastructure.”

“This is going to become the norm. This is going to become the cost of entry for an urbanizing CBD … The city’s got to become a 24-hour operation, and Adelaide and Canberra are doing it.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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