Free Wi-Fi access, smart kiosks coming to Downtown St. Catharines
The City of St. Catharines is partnering with Bell Canada on a pilot project to install touch-screen smart kiosks offering free Wi-Fi access, free charging stations, 9-1-1 emergency call buttons, interactive wayfinding signage, St. Catharines information and more in Downtown St. Catharines.
City Council authorized an agreement last week allowing the smart kiosks to be installed in public areas downtown. The first smart kiosk is expected to be installed and online by the end of May in the area of the St. Catharines Public Library courtyard, across from City Hall. Two others will follow at Montebello Park in the area of the rose garden and in the King Street area of Market Square.
“Our partnership with Bell is another step St. Catharines is taking to become the most dynamic, innovative, sustainable and livable city in North America,” said Mayor Walter Sendzik. “St. Catharines will be among the first cities in Canada to make a smart kiosk available to its residents. Innovations like this put the ‘smart city’ buzzword into action by creating opportunities for the City and our residents.”
“Bell is proud to partner with the City of St. Catharines to ensure residents and visitors to the downtown core have easy access both to the latest in mobile connectivity and to all that the city has to offer,” said Bell Senior Vice President Gary Semplonius. “With our industry-leading capital investments in new network technologies, Bell is committed to ensuring our country remains a leader in digital communications at the global level, and that innovative Canadian centres like St. Catharines are able to take full advantage of the broadband opportunity.”
The smart kiosks will be about 3.21 metres high, a little taller than the standard height for a basketball net, about one metre wide and less than half-a-metre in depth. The kiosks will feature two 55-inch (140 cm) LED touch screens, two USB charging ports, and a Call 9-1-1 button. Housed in a secure, weather-proof aluminum structure, the kiosks will be accessible, will have braille written on buttons, and won’t obstruct pedestrian flow on City sidewalks. Downtown visitors can access Wi-Fi within about 70 metres of the kiosks.
“Smart cities use cutting-edge technology to help improve the daily lives of its residents,” said Karthik Venkataraman, the City’s senior manager of Information Technology. “These connected and interactive kiosks will put St. Catharines on the Smart Cities map and they are just the beginning. We can upgrade the kiosks and services available as we learn more about how the community uses them through the pilot project.”
Smart kiosks are intended to be self-sustaining and provide a new advertising revenue tool for the municipality. City staff will monitor the success of the program throughout the pilot project.
“We are always looking at new technologies that will improve City services and enhance customer service,” said Chief Administrative Office Shelley Chemnitz. “This investment is the beginning of an exciting new partnership that establishes free Wi-Fi access downtown and enhances customer service with another way to get information to people where they are looking for it.
“The smart kiosk project hits three of our action items and touches some others that are outlined in the St. Catharines Strategic Plan. This is a great step forward for our city.
The kiosks are expected to be installed later this Spring – check out the photos as I was able to get a sneak peek of the kiosks.