Council provides wireless internet

Dry cleaning, CCTV and traffic monitoring...

Dry cleaning, CCTV and traffic monitoring...

Engin Eshref is installing wireless CCTV cameras at his dry cleaning shop in Islington next week. "I'm a real technology lover," he says. "When we did the refurb I was going to invest in CCTV. But Islington council approached all the shopkeepers here.

"I paid for the hardware and Islington said they would pay for the service. The cameras are high resolution and I can log on anywhere. If I get a call at 3am I can zoom in and pin point something in real time, plus the images are stored externally."

Eshref has also ordered some high-tech tills for a delivery service he is soon to launch. Customers can go online and tell the dry cleaner when they want their goods delivered. The tills can send an SMS to a mobile or an email over the wireless service telling the customer a delivery is imminent.

He explains: "An account customer can order a pre–selected slot in time for delivery. If they are at home you can send them an email or SMS. The till manufacturers are still writing the software for this because it doesn't exist yet."

The Upper Street dry cleaning shop, Spots, has been in Eshref's family for 40 years and he believes the wireless service is improving the quality of life for people in the area.

"I cancelled my own [broadband] at home," he adds. "It's saved me £25 a month. There was one blip and they fixed it immediately. Because we refurbished the shop, I initially used it for surfing the net and finding new materials."

So why would a council bother to install a wireless network for the community? Richard Hill, director of customer focus for Islington Council, says the intention is to help disadvantaged communities by giving them "the opportunities of the internet".

He says: "It's a strange characteristic of Islington that 50 per cent [of people here] own very expensive properties and the other half qualifies us for the sixth most deprived neighbourhood in the country. We have some very challenging estates. And we're going to wireless one of them up."

Since the network went live in April, the council has been registering more than 500 connections to the internet per week. As well as council flat tower-block installations, Islington also plans to use the network for more CCTV and traffic monitoring.

Hill says: "We have no plans to charge for it. People have asked what's in it for the supplier. Every hotspot is good business for them. In the [US] they have battles between local city halls and suppliers."

Hill adds that highest take-up of the service had been with people in shops. "Most of the service is used by people in cafés. It tends to be where there are people in high densities.

"It attracts people from all around. You can sit in a café, bar or pub and if you have the gizmo, you can link into this free hook-up. An employee of Islington Council can sign into our office from Archway. People who don't have internet at home can experience it too."