Government // Open Government
News
10/1/2013
05:07 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

How Cities Could Use Wi-Fi for Better Services

Cities looking to improve transportation and other services need look no further than their residents' Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones.

Cities seeking more information to improve their services need look no further than the nearest Wi-Fi network.

Smartphone penetration in the developed world is reaching 70%, and most smartphone users have Wi-Fi enabled in order to use their home and work networks. Every Wi-Fi-enabled device continuously pings for available hotspots to connect to, and those pings offer a potential way to track the devices.

Here's how it works: The media access control (MAC) address embedded into any wireless device cannot be changed by the user, and it doesn't change with the cellphone operator. That MAC address is continuously broadcast when the smartphone user has Wi-Fi enabled. As the device interacts with the city's public and private Wi-Fi networks, it provides the user's approximate location, without revealing any personally identifiable information.

Smartphone data could provide cities with information about traffic and people's usage of public transportation in real time. It could populate databases of preferred routes, mixed use of private and public transport, average use of public parking and so on.

Many cities have deployed outdoor Wi-Fi networks as well, for their municipal services, as shown in the Wi-Fi equipment installed on a Barcelona street in the image accompanying this article. These networks are continually used by the police, ambulances, garbage trucks and taxis, plus sensors installed in different areas as part of machine-to-machine deployment. A significant number of cities are also offering free limited Wi-Fi connection for residents and visitors.

Cities need this kind of information. Most municipalities currently use traffic cameras and aggregate information from smartcard usage on public transport to get a glimpse of people's movements, but data is fragmented and limited. Having access to detailed information about how individuals use public transport and private vehicles could help design and optimize public transport, parking and road use.

Read the rest of this article on Future Cities.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
10/3/2013 | 3:20:29 AM
re: How Cities Could Use Wi-Fi for Better Services
As Philadelphia find out the hard way, there are still very real costs that must be borne by public-private users though.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.