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Thursday, December 1, 2022
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Dallas Plans to Become a ‘Smart City’

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Smart city concept | Image by Vasin Lee

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City officials want to turn Dallas into a “Smart City” by making free wireless internet connection available everywhere. The plans were reviewed before a City Council Transportation and Infrastructure Committee briefing on Monday, as reported by NBC 5 News.

“This is so exciting,” said Councilmember Jaynie Schultz. “And I think it’s the beginning in many ways of a really huge amount of data and important changes for our city.”

The closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the problem of communities with less internet.

“Southeast Dallas is one of the areas that has some of the largest percentages of households with children that lack internet access,” City Councilman Jaime Resendez said.

According to Dottie Smith, President of Dallas nonprofit The Commit Partnership and co-chair of the Internet for All coalition, in 2020, nearly 75,000 Dallas County families lacked reliable broadband, making virtual learning difficult.

Now, City Council members’ objective is to bridge this gap between internet services in South Dallas.

Red Cloud, a Pleasant Grove neighborhood off Bruton Road in Southeast Dallas, is now one of the sites offering free WiFi.

The plan is to install new streetlights in the area that are topped with WiFi devices.

Beyond expanding internet access, Dallas City Council intends for these streetlights to aid in the fight against crime in South Dallas. Not only will the new fixtures provide lighting, but their built-in WiFi devices will feature cameras with microphones for gunshot detection.

Due to privacy concerns, the City has decided not to place the camera-equipped devices on the residential streets on Bruton Road.

“We worried about privacy issues about putting cameras down the block,” said Assistant City Manager Robert Perez. “So, at the intersection is where the AI (artificial intelligence) enabled cameras would be deployed, as well as at the intersections of Masters and St. Augustine.”

Red Cloud’s WiFi will come through a fiber-optic cable from Dallas Fire Station 5 on St. Augustine, which will serve as a connection hub.

Dallas is considering a fiber-optic network that would connect fire stations and other public buildings as hubs.

According to City officials, $1 million is available to fund the equipment and make Red Cloud’s WiFi system operational by September 2022.

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