Philadelphia Mayor John Street and Dianah Neff, the citys chief information officer, will welcome technology professionals from some 33 cities, as well as counties, states and municipal coalitions, to their city next week as representatives from Dallas to Shanghai gather for the Digital Cities Convention there.
Sponsored by the Wireless Internet Institute, the convention promises to provide three days of brainstorming, analysis and consensus-building among representatives of wireless and mesh networking providers and the city, state and international representatives interested in implementing their solutions.
Stephen Rayment, chief technology officer of BelAir Networks, specialist in wireless mesh networks, who is chairing a solutions panel on the technologys impact on city social and economic development, expects the conferences focus to extend well beyond contentious plans to provide free and low-cost Internet access to city residents.
Those plans have prompted heated political debates at the state level, where telecoms have sought legislation that would prohibit cities from offering municipal service.
Rayment will focus on the question: “How do you make the business case make a lot more sense than just giving away free Internet access?”
Rayment said he was encouraged that Philadelphia has expanded its plan beyond simply providing free access and is outsourcing the build-out and maintenance of its network to third parties.
“Initially what they wanted to do was just provide Wi-Fi stuff,” said Rayment. “But there are a lot of other applications that can run on public networks.” Among them, he cited public safety, surveillance and inter-departmental communications.
“You need to think about multiservices and network architectures that can scale to grow and accommodate that type of thing.”
The conference is proving to be a magnet for vendors with metro wireless and mesh networking solutions.
Intel Corp. heads to the convention hot off a demonstration of its WiMax base station platform at the International Basestation Conference in London this week. The company, which began shipping WiMax chips this month, expects the chip to be installed in notebooks and available to the public by 2006.
Intel has already begun developing markets in Europe. This week, Intel officials announced plans to open a technology center in Moscow this summer to promote the companys broadband wireless WiMax technology.
Nomadix Inc., a supplier of public-access network solutions, and its partner Firetide, a wireless mesh networking specialist, will be exhibiting a public access gateway optimized for metro deployments.
The solution, said Scott Zumbahlen, director of marketing at Nomadix, is designed to centralize and resolve security and billing, allowing municipalities to outsource those functions to the Nomadix network.
“If someone has to take a trouble call, theres no cost model [for cities] that justifies that,” said Zumbahlen. “We make sure the user gets onto the network quickly, and the operation is designed so that they do not have to call for support.”