A Massachusetts company will begin installing kiosks with free WiFi near transit stops around Miami-Dade under an agreement approved by the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners this week. Free Wi-Fi will also be available on all public transit buses and trains, under terms of the deal.
CIVIQ Smartscapes, developer of “smart” communications infrastructure that is best known for turning old phone booths in New York City into high-tech communications stations, said Thursday that the first phase of the Miami-Dade will roll out over the next three months. CIVIQ will install and maintain up to 300 interactive digital “WayPoints,” which will include free public Wi-Fi, as well as more than 1,000 Wi-Fi devices in public transit vehicles and 51 additional Wi-Fi devices for transit stations, the company said.
Many urban areas around the world, including the Miami area, are aiming to become “Smart Cities” – highly connected municipalities where the Internet is free and access is universal – but some major cities in Europe and other parts of the world are leading the trend, often seen as an economic development driver for an area.
Hailing it as the first step in developing one of the nation’s first fully integrated smart city ecosystems, CIVIQ and county officials said the Miami-Dade project will provide free high-speed public Wi-Fi for easy access to communications networks, timely transportation schedules to improve citizen mobility and emergency alerts to enhance safety and security throughout the community.
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“These new devices and services are much more than a new way to access the internet,” said Alice N. Bravo, Miami-Dade director of transportation and public works, in a news release. “Greater connectivity in the transit system means increased efficiency, less downtime, and overall better experiences for our passengers.”
The installations and upkeep of the kiosks are being funded by CIVIQ – CIVIQ estimated in December it would be a $20 million project to start – and not by county taxpayers. The company makes money off digital advertising appearing on the kiosks, and Miami-Dade will get a revenue share from the project. In a commission meeting in December when the project was discussed, critics likened this to visual pollution and said it was a clear violation of the county’s sign ordinance.
The company said the partnership sets a new level of inter-connectivity between different Miami-Dade public services. County trains and buses will each contain mobile Wi-Fi networks that will allow the county to better track and manage its public transportation system, in addition to providing free Internet access to passengers.
“Miami-Dade is a great example of a municipality rethinking the real value of technology as an enabler to livable, sustainable communities. The mayor is taking a very direct approach that will truly engage residents and reach out to them directly,” said George Burciaga, managing director of global government development and innovation at CIVIQ Smartscapes.
CIVIQ is working on a smart city project in Chicago and is beginning to install solar panels on some of its kiosks in New York.