Internet Things and Municipal Wi-FI

MuniWireless has posted a nice article by Anthony Townsend of the Institute of the Future entitled Ad-Supported Municipal Wireless Networks and the Future of Cities: Three Issues Missing From the Current Debate .

The three key issues he mentions are:

  • Guaranteeing citizens’ role as content providers
  • Finding a balance for location privacy
  • Enabling the Internet of Things

These issues, he feels, could shape a whole generation of infrastructure and governance even if the technologies change in five to ten years. He states “If cities fail to think ahead, they may find it more challenging to leverage wireless infrastructure for digital inclusion, economic development and public safety in the future.”

I’m very happy to say that two of these issues are receiving attention here in Minneapolis as we prepare to recommend community benefits to the vendor of our wireless deployment. I will post the final version of our CBA recommendations when we are done.

The missing issue here is ‘Internet of Things.’ I sent out a link to the article to members of our Digital Inclusion Roundtable (the folks drafting the CBA) and hope to discuss it more tomorrow evening when we meet to clean up the current draft.

Townsend thinks that this might be the most important of the three. It’s about “browser-less objects that can benefit from being connected to the Internet.” These are things without a log-in screen.  He mentions Yuri Gitman’s MagicBike as an example. The bike was able to provide Wi-FI access in the immediate vicinity. Other examples might include lighting networks in buildings or even toys. Cities are the most likely places to experiment with the ‘things’ because they already have a complex ecosystem of things. This could grow some serious economic development and cities should be requesting some even minimal network resources from vendors to experiment in this space.

(Open Spectrum just posted about Zigbee which enables some of the ‘Internet Things.’  Zigbee is free for noncommercial use.)

Vendor Update. We are down to two candidates: Earthlink and US Internet. Both are building pilot projects that are supposed to be ready in mid-June. We plan on signing a contract in the fall.

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