Wi-Fi network opens town up to a future of security opportunities

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Friday, October 1, 2004

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. - What is being billed as the first entire city to go Wi-Fi is up and running - offering up new security options as the program’s geographic reach expands.

Ottowa Wireless, a privately funded wireless service provider, developed the network in its lab two years ago. In August 2003, the company’s technology was okayed for a test run by Grand Haven, a small seaport town on the Great Lakes, and after a 30-person test program in early 2004, went live on March 10.

But the entire process to get the entire locale on and running on wireless access took until the end of July. Now, Grand Haven has roughly 94 percent - a percentage Ottowa Wireless says is higer than other areas with similar networks - of coverage via the new Wi-Fi network. The company is in currently in talks to expand it across the entire county.

“You can go anywhere with a laptop, anywhere in the city and hook it up web access,” said Tyler van Houwelingen, founder and chief executive officer of Ottowa Wireless.

But the service brings more to the table besides Internet access and van Houwelingen said it can be directed to basically every segment of the market, including security options. With the help of IP-cameras, the town can implement video monitoring capabilities in almost any area.

“You can really put video cameras anywhere for a variety of security reasons,” he said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Police have looked at the network as a way of hooking up security cameras in cruisers - to be able to feed photos of suspects over the network, as well as grab information off a designated web site.

The town has also considered installing the cameras along the local pier and drawbridge as a surveillance measure.

But van Houwelingen stated that even though the company is capable of installing the network cameras on their own - they currently use Panasonic network cameras - they are not focused on that sector now. Instead, they may look to partner with experts in the security industry in the future to further develop the security aspect of the network.

“Probably the best way to have this developed is to partner with a security company,” van Houwelingen said, “that is an expert in the field.”

Commercial applications are not the only security applications van Houwelingen envisions.

“Some of the uses we think it can be it can be used on is the residential end,” he said noting that it would be an application for monitoring a babysitter in a home or for school buses to make sure children are accounted for.

As the technology is further developed, he said the uses can be infinite.