Street communications system promises a connected future

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September 5, 2003 Imagine living in a totally connected city where EVERY person has a high-speed broadband connection and an urban surveillance system provides police and emergency services with wide and immediate coverage. That's the reality of Mervyn Dobbins' NEXiPoster, the winner of the "Best Idea Product Development Stage" category at this Yellowpages Business Ideas Grants 2003, and it has far reaching ramifications.

NEXiPoster, is part of a system called cityNEX, a new age communication system which automatically provides the city and everyone in it with broadband access and provides public information such as bus timetables and commercial advertising via the large format electronic "NEXiposter" billboards in real-time.

Each NEXipole provides high-speed broadband internet access (3Mb) to everyone within a 5km radius and potential applications for the system seem limitless - for example, a newspaper can be downloaded it in seconds so there's no need to buy a hard copy and such is the speed of the connection that it could provide DVD on demand and make the local video store obsolete.

The poles draw power from solar panels and are so robust that it would require more firepower than a Magnum to dent the armoured shell.

The system operates in much the same way as the Internet, but gives users the choice of switching between local and international communication services.

This split system enables the city WLAN network to be used free of charge by the community to communicate with each other and access neighbourhood chat rooms, bulletin boards and community forums (without porn, spam and hackers), while also allowing users to access the internet (with speeds from 3 up to 11Mb) for a small monthly fee expected to be around $50 a month.

The wireless signal is totally encrypted and can't be hacked according to Mervyn Dobbins, with the encryption technology classified by the Australian defence forces as a strategic technology.

While cityNEX is the wireless broadband network for civilian communications, a second network called Dogie carries security, police, emergency service and military communications, images and data.

The security aspects of the system could also have far-reaching consequences and the capabilities of the tracking and image management system are formidable. Based on as many cameras as the city chooses to install as its eyes, the system can track vehicle movements, crime activity, scan trees to ensure pruning takes place on time and even measure the length of grass in parks or detect potholes and issue electronic instructions on the problem to the council immediately.

Recognition capabilities extend to number plate recognition and speed camera functionality, the ability to count pedestrians, identifying vehicles by size, colour and shape or counting the amount of people in the vehicle or identify. The image recognition software can also detect certain behaviour patterns associated with some crimes like "bag-snatching" and can record images (including drivers and passengers faces when in vehicles) for evidence or evaluation.

Another benefit would be that in the event of a stolen car being reported, police could immediately post an alert on NEXiposter's in the local area. This screen real estate would also be open to advertisers large and small (you could rent the space short term to advertise your garage sale at a cost of around $10 to buy a street for 30 seconds) when not being used for public purposes and Australia's outdoor advertising revenue (approximately $90 million a year) would fund the entire national system.

The system has the potential to enable one police officer to keep watch over up to 16 neighbourhoods and the benefits to crime prevention resources are obvious.

Dobbins also points out that the system is out in the open and not used covertly, so any "Big Brother" privacy concerns should not be an issue.

cityNEX pilot sites have been deployed in seven different countries - Indonesia,Saudi Arabia, South Africa, USA, UK, Czecholsovakia, Germany, Sri Lanka and the Phillipines - and a trial is to take place in the City of Stirling, Western Australia.

Follow the links below to learn more and stay tuned to as we follow the development of this incredibly significant technology.

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