Festival Hydro Services Inc., a distributor of electrical power to the City of Stratford and surrounding communities, is taking advantage of smart meter technology mandated by the Ontario government to transform the city into an 802.11n WiFi hotspot.
The smart meter program aims to conserve electricity by replacing traditional meters that read energy consumption on a monthly basis with “smart meters” that allow utilities to see consumption by the minute. With daily readings, utilities can bill consumers according to time of use (TOU) and charge different rates for energy consumption during peak or off-peak hours.
Smart meters can collect data using WiFi or cellular signals, said Paul West, business development manager for Festival Hydro Services. “We will be one of the first communities to do WiFi collection,” he said.
Festival Hydro will also use the WiFi smart meters to create a city-wide WiFi hotspot for residents and visitors. West said 20 per cent of the city will be covered in time for the Canada 3.0 digital media forum, which will take place at the Stratford Rotary Complex on May 10 and 11.
Other cities in Canada, such as Fredericton, Regina and Saskatoon, have city-wide WiFi, but Stratford will be unique by supporting faster broadband speeds and independent service providers, he said.
What’s exciting about the service is that it travels with you everywhere, so there will be opportunities for new smart phone applications and voice capabilities that will provide an alternative to cellular service, he said.
Festival Hydro is currently working with independent service providers to deliver the WiFi service to consumers.
Full Internet access will require signing up and paying for the broadband service, but free access to selected Web sites will be provided to help bridge the digital divide for citizens with low or fixed incomes, he said.
“Our entire community will have access to all the city services, library services, local events and so on, so we are improving the inclusiveness of our community,” said West.
Festival Hydro is also working to improve WiFi access specifically for the canada 3.0 forum, which will provide free indoor and outdoor WiFi to all attendees.
The indoor network will use Motorola Inc.’s AP-5131 wireless access point for 802.11a/b/g service, while the outdoor network will feature 802.11a/b/g/n using Motorola’s new high performance AP 7181 access point, he said.
This is Motorola’s fastest outdoor mesh-enabled WiFi system, said West. “With 802.11n, you can start providing 300MB bandwidth through the air … Stratford will be the first community in North American with that platform,” he said.