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High Tide for Sidney Wireless


Incorporated as a village in 1952 and now a bustling seaside town with a population of over 11,000 residents, picturesque Sidney-by-the-Sea is not a place you would expect to call ‘hi tech’.  But look again, and you will discover that not only is it a pioneer in bringing the latest wireless technology to the community but it is doing it in a collaborative fashion that includes a large group of stakeholders and partners. And while this may appear to be news, those involved have been working hard for some time to move a progressive Town Council initiative from the drawing board to the streets. The Town of Sidney’s Vision 2020’s strategic priority under “Economic Health and Vitality” includes the exploration of wireless community strategies for the downtown.

As many will agree, ‘timing is everything’.  MDT Technical Services, a Delta based company, has worked with the Town of Sidney in the past to prioritize cellular advancement in the Town Hall, and having previously provided wireless for closed-circuit television (CCTV) for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, arrived with an impressive track record.  With the upcoming MISA (Municipal Information Systems Association) 2011 Fall Conference about to take place in Sidney, and the council’s technology mandate, it made good business sense to combine both projects.  The Town’s Information System’s department approached MDT with a concept similar to the one used at the 2010 Olympics which uses a threefold approach – build it for the event, get the maximum benefit during the event, and leave it in place for the city to continue to use and enjoy. The opportunity to launch this wireless effort during the MISA Conference and the long term benefits for the Town’s residents and visitors made this a win-win solution.

Making It Happen
A project of this magnitude requires an experienced and specialized team. MDT Technical Services, along with two reputable industry partners, Motorola Solutions and Avigilon are each playing a vital role in bringing the wireless project to Sidney.  MDT is a wireless communications company consisting of highly skilled wireless technicians with expertise in implementing and servicing a wide range of wireless, mobile data and voice equipment across North America.  Their team works in close partnership with Motorola Solutions in the sale, service, and implementation of Motorola Solutions products.  Motorola Solutions is known worldwide and is focused on advancing the way the world connects, leading the next wave of innovations that enable people, enterprises and governments to be more connected and more mobile.  And, Avigilon (a Vancouver based company) designs, manufactures, and markets award-winning hi tech solutions for thousands of customer sites in more than 60 countries worldwide.
How It Works
These three industry leaders along with the Information Systems team at the Town of Sidney, and the Public Works Department have installed and configured an 802.11n downtown wireless corridor with ubiquitous signal strength and live webcams. The design consists of Motorola 7181 Wireless Access Points (the Motorola 7181 provides the latest in 802.11n technology and delivers unmatched improvements in the reliability, capacity, and range of 802.11 for Wi-Fi) with wireless mesh network access covering the area stretching along Sidney’s main street, Beacon Avenue from the water’s edge to the Pat Bay Highway.
Connected to this network and mounted on town lamp standards, originating from the roof of the Fire Hall, will be the ‘Beacon Cam Array’ (BCA) consisting of strategically placed high definition cameras from Avigilon.  Serving as tourist cameras and using direct line of sight to the four WAPs (Wireless Access Points) from the wharf at the end of Beacon Avenue down to the Mary Winspear Centre, at the edge of the highway, views will be seen of the Highway, the 5th street intersection, 2nd street intersection, and Beacon waterfront park. For Sidney’s residents and visitors alike, it means free downtown managed wireless broadband internet and webcam viewing from the ocean to the highway. 

In order to connect to the network, all users will need is a WiFi enabled device such as a laptop, iPad, Blackberry, iPhone or most Smartphones.  Once the Sidney WiFi network is located on the device, users simply open an Internet browser, connect to the disclaimer page, read and accept that disclaimer, and they are connected to the network. Residents and visitors alike can sit back and enjoy the benefits of wireless communication, either at a favourite downtown spot, or while strolling along the waterfront.  And, boaters will for the first time ever, in Sidney, be able to take advantage of a Marine Wi-Fi hot spot. 

The Positive Outcome

The scope and benefits of this type of collaborative wireless initiative are numerous and far reaching. Just consider these positive municipal outcomes:

  • Represents an additional municipal service for Sidney’s residents
  • Improves quality of life for residents & visitors alike – surf the web, check your email, or tweet about the great town of Sidney
  • Enhances Sidney’s profile inviting an increase in visitors
  • Increases traffic, patronage and revenue for the downtown business community
  • Creates a new infrastructure which improves communication and allows for outdoor wireless use of Social Networking sites for business and pleasure
  • Allows for Public Information Displays and visually provides current weather conditions
  • Promotes local events, wirelessly, such as the Summer Market and Summer Sounds Concerts
  • Looks to future opportunities that may include extending wireless apps to Municipal Workers, valuable Tourism/Visitor based surveys, along with additional wireless network expansion.   

With a progressive approach and its eye on the future, the Town of Sidney is proud to be a leader in bringing this new and exciting technology by way of the first 802.11n Municipal Wi-Fi hotspot to the Town’s residents and all who spend time there.  And, for anyone who wasn’t sure that Sidney was on the map; take another look, more closely this time – it is not only on it, it represents the newest hot spot on that map!