Wi-Fi means cleaner streets for Westminster

Westminster City Council is unwiring London's Soho district, allowing CCTV cameras to transmit data more efficiently

Westminster City Council will be unwiring the Soho district of London in an attempt to cut costs and cut crime, it was announced on Monday.

A pilot scheme running at the moment means CCTV cameras and noise monitoring equipment can be operated over a wireless network, allowing the system to be updated cheaply and quickly, as well as being flexible enough to spot and deal with unexpected areas of criminal activity.

The 'Wireless City' project also means council officers can access their network on the move or on-site around the city using their PDAs, avoiding the need to return to their offices to check reports or download files. The council also hopes that in the future, the wireless scheme could embrace the entire network of council services.

This is good news for the Westminster bean counters, but what about residents? According to the council, those who live in the area will also be able to get something out of the project.

Apart from potential savings making their way back to the residents in the form of tax cuts, the council is also planning to widen the scheme and create a linked-up network of hot spots right across Westminster.

According to a spokesman from Westminster City Council, one of the key benefits for those living in the West End will be that "things get sorted out quicker", with council services delivered in a more real-time way, as well as the wireless project helping the council and police to work together more efficiently.

Looking to the future of the wireless city, the spokesman said the project could see police being able to monitor a crime scene on handheld devices before making an arrest, Wi-Fi-connected parking meters where users could pay by credit card, and even using the network to ensure that rubbish is being collected on time and that streetlights are working correctly.

Several tech big names are onboard, including Cisco and Intel, and have supplied the technology for the council pilot, as well as acting as consultants in getting the scheme up and running.