New Kingston to become a ‘smart city’
By next year, New Kingston, the premier business district in Jamaica's capital, is to be transformed into a 'smart city', which means persons who live and work in the area will find themselves plugged into technology grids for the seamless delivery of services.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr Andrew Wheatley said this week that New Kingston is to be a test case for a broader rollout down the line.
"The smart city initiative will start right here in New Kingston. What it is all about is that it affords us greater security - greater efficiency. It will put us on par with the rest of the world. In fact, I am pretty sure that we will become the first smart city in the region," Wheatley said at an event in New Kingston to launch the Huawei/Intcomex distribution partnership on Tuesday.
"We will ensure that from a public safety perspective, you will be covered. To park on the road, you can use your phone to pay for a ticket. Internet wi-fi connectivity will be available so that you are always connected, meaning you can do your business while at a lunch meeting. You can, therefore, manage your affairs in the office and at home just because of the level of connectivity," Wheatley said.
Technically, New Kingston is a segment of the wider city of Kingston. Additionally, it would be the second area of Jamaica tapped for such a project - the first being the city of Montego Bay two years ago. However, indications are that the New Kingston project has overtaken the Montego Bay initiative.
Still, not all of the components of the New Kingston project are in place. Wheatley said planning is under way but that the project should rollout by mid- to late 2017.
Speaking with the Financial Gleaner, he said the project would cover street lights, smart cafÈs, parking facilities, general communications, and security, and that it would impinge on all aspects of persons' lives.
Asked for clarification on the security aspect, Wheatley said only that it would be all-encompassing.
"I don't want to give away all the secrets yet, but it will ensure that we have a very secure city - not only a smart city, but also a secure city - so we are using technology to enhance security. That is something that anyone who has an idea of how the technology operates out there will have an appreciation of what we mean when we say that - and that's a critical component," he said.
He added that it would be comparable to what obtains in places like London or New York. Those cities are known to have cameras monitoring residents all the time.
Wheatley said Jamaica Public Service Company would be a critical partner among a number of other entities. He said, going forward, the project would be executed at no cost to the Jamaican Government as the project would leverage infrastructure already available.
JPS acknowledged that it was part of the initiative and has a primary role. Director of Corporate Communications Winsome Callum said while the planning is taking place, the energy company is already rolling out street lights that will eventually have special features.
"More than 200 LED street lights have been installed in the New Kingston area in the last two weeks as part of the first phase of introducing a smart street lighting system in New Kingston. Over the next two months, smart modules will be installed to facilitate remote management, automatic dimming, etc," Callum said via email.
She said smart meters as well as a public safety/traffic-management system in collaboration with the NWA will be part of the pilot. She confirmed that full rollout of the pilot is slated for the middle of 2017.
Regarding the Montego Bay pilot, Callum was non-committal about a timeline, saying, "It is not likely to be for 2017". However, she affirmed that Jamaica's first 'smart house' would definitely be opened in Montego Bay in a matter of weeks, before Christmas.
For the New Kingston project, Wheatley appears to be banking on the fibre optic cable networks laid throughout the city, specifically those owned by the telecoms through which they deliver their mobile services, and the network laid by the National Works Agency for the management of traffic lights.
Regarding the provision of free Internet access, the technology minister said the rollout has already started with the switching on of free wi-fi at Devon House and that other free access points would be established throughout New Kingston.
Wheatley said that because the smart city initiative is a partnership among a number of entities, most of the costs would fall outside of the Government.
"It will not cost the Government anything - apart from what we've invested in the infrastructure that has been there for many years. We're simply energising that infrastructure and fully utilising it," he said.