Wireless Works: Citywide Wi-Fi in the Smart City

Paul West, Business Development Manager at Rhyzome Networks, Stratford’s city-owned “data utility”, reflects on the role of municipal broadband – both optical fibre and wireless.

One of the Wi-Fi nodes installed in Stratford.

As a citizen of Stratford since 1986 and having worked over 25 years globally in the enterprise wireless industry, I was convinced that the inventive City of Stratford’s vision for the digital economy was a winning strategy – a project that I wanted to contribute towards. So in 2009, I left a Silicon Valley technology company to join the city owned data utility company.

In 2010, the City of Stratford launched Rhyzome Networks a wholly owned data communications utility serving Stratford and six rural communities in southwest Ontario: Stratford, St. Marys, Brussels, Dashwood, Hensall, Seaforth and Zurich.

The Rhyzome Networks’ unique innovation was to “light” 70km of existing fibre optic infrastructure and add 100% city-wide high speed Wi-Fi for community services including;

  • municipal mobile workforce
  • utility smart meters
  • health care
  • citizens
  • digital inclusion
  • media
  • education
  • tourism
  • business applications.

Within the first year, Rhyzome played a key role in Stratford achieving the prestigious New York-based Intelligent Community Forum global Top 7 designation.

Here in Canada, community data connectivity is a critical factor in the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) “i-Canada Declaration”; Stratford is seen as a model city for their national communications high speed access standard.

Rhyzome Networks is a proven strategy with “best practices” being shared in a transferable model that would also serve other cities across Canada.Rhyzome Networks

So how does that affect people’s day-to-day life?

At a more quotidian level, here’s something that happened just today. One of Rhyzome’s clients called at 1PM this afternoon to say their current data network was down and they were sending their staff home.

However, we were able to provide a high-speed Wi-Fi link in less than an hour and kept their business open.

Owners, employees, customers… having ubiquitous Wi-Fi throughout the city  made the day better for everyone.

Under: Summary 28 February 2011 3 comments

3 Responses to Wireless Works: Citywide Wi-Fi in the Smart City

  • Josh Queyron says:

    I, a very high manager and position in the wine industry as a lot of you may know, was looking for a house in stratford with my family. we were just leaving a house we visited when my daughter ( age 12) asked me what the white box was. I didn’t know so i went on my iphone and found that it was a smart meter. then my son (age 15) spotted another one only 15 meters away from the other one. I asked my self why are there dozens and dozens of smart meters in stratford when you can just put a cellphone pole outside of town. then i searched up if it was dangerouse or not. and yes good citizens wireless is dangerouse. i said to my wife who was going to audition in the theatre the fillowing day that we can forget stratford. I think that this installation is just a waste of money and of peoples health . i wish everyone in stratford and the good people at st.mikes that have cancer bon santè.

    • davidhicks says:

      Hi Josh,
      We are sorry to hear that you’re thinking of giving Stratford a pass.

      The reason that there are so many smart meters around Stratford is that the Ontario Energy Board is requiring all electrical utilities to implement time-of-use billing. Their thinking is that having hourly usage information will encourage electricity users to shift some of their usage to off-peak hours, and find for ways to reduce their overall energy use. Knowing how much you’re using, and when, is an opportunity to manage costs, to conserve energy, and to reduce their own carbon footprint.
      That’s why every electricity user, whether residence, business or institution, gets their own smart meter.

      To comply with the mandate, Festival Hydro looked at several systems — Wi-Fi, cellphone and hardwired.

      They decided pretty quickly that running new wires to all 20,000 meters in six communities was inefficient and more disruptive than necessary.

      Cellphone technology was an option, and some utilities have gone that route, but the latest wireless standard also opened up the possibility of using the same system for high-speed internet connectivity. And in light of Stratford’s re-positioning as a “smart city” and technology centre specializing in digital media, the broadband opportunity made sense. The City’s leaders see that the economic development and community service opportunities made the investment more than worthwhile. Indeed, it was a key factor in Stratford being named one of the world’s “Top Seven” Intelligent Communities.

      As to health concerns, the Wi-Fi system is fully compliant according to the verifiable scientific health & safety data out there and public standards set by federal regulatory agencies, in particular, Health Canada.
      Here’s a link that you might find informative:
      http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/prod/wifi-eng.php
      “RF energy exposure from Wi-Fi equipment in all areas accessible to the general public are required to meet Health Canada’s safety guidelines. The limits specified in the guidelines are far below the threshold for adverse health effects and are based on an ongoing review of thousands of published scientific studies on the health impacts of RF energy. The public exposure limits apply to everyone, including children, and allow for continuous, 24/7 exposure.”

  • Re: Post from Josh,

    (I resist questioning the grammar of the first sentence “high manager”…)

    I think your conclusions/statements are alarmist and slanderous: they represent nothing more than offhand remarks, and emotionally driven ignorance colouring what could be a meaningful point. I am surprised your remarks were not purged.for their complete lack of any facts to back them up. (unless being a manager in the wine industry has provided you with some expertise with RF radiation that could make you an authority).

    I think it is worthwhile to examine and question the health impact of RF radiation in our community, but in my view, this kind of grandiose fear mongering should be stricken from this site, followed by my post. (bettter to not approve it to begin with).

    For the benefit of everyone – how about presenting some facts and or research, or at least reference to them so we don’t get bogged down with knee jerk sweeping comments. Keep an open mind either way – but keep it open to “good information” not drama…

    Keith Waldron

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