Following on from Antwerp, Ostend is now pushing the digital boat out with Citymesh to equip the seaside town’s main streets and squares with free Wi-Fi. Interest for Wi-Fi in (semi)public places has been on the rise since 2013. Increasing numbers of towns and municipalities are coming round to the idea that they should be providing free Wi-Fi as part of their services. Blankenberge and Sint-Niklaas have already made the move. Stekene, Beveren, Knokke and others will follow shortly.
The term ‘Smart City’ is one that appears with increasing frequency in the marketing strategies of cities, towns and local communities. In practical terms, ‘Smart City’ means that these authorities are willing to rely on sensors, intelligent systems and the analysis of big data to bring their residents and visitors all the benefits of the digital society. After all, we have become used to going online wherever we are, as well as working from home and being approached in ever more personalised ways.
A Smart City and, by extension, a Smart Society, are essential for economic growth, innovation and a better living environment. Technology may be important in all of this, of course –such as connecting infrastructural and other devices to a digital backbone– yet what people want above all else is ease and convenience. New initiatives are cropping up all over the place and the trick now is to connect them all in the right way. So, having a smart digital network is a vital component at the heart of a Smart Society.
Personalised Wi-Fi networks based on big data
Citymesh specialises in wireless. It operates in various niche areas and works on countless projects based on the ‘White Label Wi-Fi’ principle. As such, customers define their own branding and the rules by which the network operates. As a result, end-users do not usually come into contact with the Citymesh name.
Through WiFiLAB, a far-reaching back-end platform developed in-house, Citymesh offers its customers virtually unlimited capabilities. The company also incorporates Wi-Fi networks as much as possible as part of existing business processes. This promotes closer customer ties and supports the marketing strategy.
For example, Citymesh works directly with customers to define which Wi-Fi experience the end-user receives (Connect), what data needs to be collected, how that data is interpreted (Analyse) and how the user experience and profitability of the network need to be optimised (Engage).
Public and private join forces to create Wi-Fi networks
To build a Wi-Fi network in a town or municipality, it is often necessary to set up the required hardware in both public and private locations. The local authorities and police can also use the network for other purposes, such as controlling music boxes or camera surveillance.
The free Wi-Fi network in Ostend is based on a 1 GB Ethernet connection supplied by Eurofiber, running between the De Mast building in Ostend and LCL Diegem, the Citymesh datacenter. Ostend and Citymesh make clever use of Eurofiber’s excellent digital infrastructure and fiber optic network. This open network now extends to a length of 25,500 km and provides national coverage in Belgium and the Netherlands. The network supplies more than 12,000 locations and 550 business parks with top-quality fiber optic connections and is being extended further all the time.
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