City of Montgomery announces new ‘Smart City Living Lab’

City's new plan includes expanded free public Wi-Fi.
City's new plan includes expanded free public Wi-Fi.
Updated: Jan. 16, 2019 at 8:47 PM CST
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Better lighting, “smart” parking and more free Internet access are coming to Montgomery.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Better lighting, “smart” parking and more free Internet access are coming to Montgomery.

The city held a press conference with Montgomery County officials, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alabama Power Company to announce a partnership to create the Montgomery Smart Community alliance, a “public-private partnership focused on advancing smart city initiatives in the City of Montgomery.”

The alliance’s first initiative, which was also announced at that press conference, is a Smart City Living Lab. The “lab,” located in downtown Montgomery, will feature expanded free public Wi-Fi in specific areas downtown, smart parking solutions and and a new public safety plan. The city will use fiber optic technology provided by Alabama Power. The company said it’s already started construction projects to lay the pipes that will run the fiber downtown. There is currently a site at the intersection of Commerce Street and Tallapoosa Street.

In addition to increased connectivity, Alabama Power will replace 22,000 street lights downtown and in Montgomery neighborhoods that are serviced by the company with LED lights. The project is already underway, with a handful of streets already seeing the new lights, and is expected to be completed in the next 12 to 15 months.

“You’re going to get a better look,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. “Certainly the neighborhoods are going to look better. There’s going to more lighting, more safety and more security.”

Leslie Sanders, with Alabama Power, said the company is putting “a substantial” amount of money into the project, running up into the millions of dollars. She said community investments, like these, are one of the company’s priorities.

“The is a huge investment from the Alabama Power Company,” said Strange. “The payback, though, is tremendous. The cost for them is a fraction of what it is today in regular lighting, so the payback for them will come over time. For the city, we will reap about a $500,000 financial benefit over five years.”

Strange said the city will only foot the bill, about $50,000, for the expanded Wi-Fi access. Currently the city offers free public Wi-Fi at Riverwalk Stadium and in the Alley. Once the work is finished, downtown visitors and residents will be able to access free internet from the Capitol steps, all the way down Dexter Avenue, to the fountain and then all the way down Commerce Street to the Riverfront.

The map of where the expanded Wi-Fi services will be offered.
The map of where the expanded Wi-Fi services will be offered.

“It’s actually powered by and riding off of Alabama Power’s fiber optic infrastructure, so it is high-speed, high-data access,” Charisse Stokes, executive director for TechMGM, said.

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce said the expanded internet service is expected to be available in the spring, around March or April. There is not a definite date yet,

Strange said in the next 60 days the city will roll out an app for smart parking. The app will allow anyone who’s looking for parking to locate available spots, pay for parking and be notified when their time is up at their spot.

Strange also said the city is working to gain access to every camera in Montgomery, both private and public. He said in February he plans to announce the city’s public safety initiative that will be made possible by the fiber technology. According to Strange, the city will be able to use the cameras in addition to the cameras it already utilizes, and combine that technology with the high-speed information transfer capabilities of the fibers to better control and plan different public safety responses and infrastructure management around Montgomery.

“At the end of the day, you’re going to have smart parking and smart lighting,” said Strange. “You’re going to have cameras that are smart. That can be helpful with public safety. You’re going to be able to raise lights or lower lights. It’s going to be a better quality of living here.”

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