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Monday, 25 June 2012

Why your community needs more than superfast

As I am still trying to assimilate all I saw, heard and discussed in USA, plus the many thoughts that have come from the Digital Agenda Assembly this last week in Brussels, I have decided to write about practical uses of a decent connection. As ever, this has been prompted by something fairly unrelated - the local weekly newspaper for this area. So, here is my free fall through the weekly paper with a true broadband spin.
This blog post can be read at

Front page - death of a local man in an accident. Reminds me about a story I read in the US press about funeral homes and undertakers now offering a streaming service so remote mourners can attend and take part in the funeral e.g. with a reading from a family member in Australia. It would need to be a very robust connection, unlike much of the flaky DSL and asymmetric options currently on offer in the UK.
Visit by Olympic torch - recently I tweeted about tourist boards needing to produce wifi maps for visitors now access to the Net whilst on holiday or travelling for meetings etc is so important. Not only mapping wifi but there should be more tourist webcams so people can take part in such events fom afar. These could also double up as the CCTV and security systems for town centres and tourist honeypots. Ooh, dual purpose, hence good value, is that allowed?!
Carer steals from elderly lady. This is easy. Camera mounted on lapel of carer that sends video and audio stream to all those involved with the care of the individual. For instance, this could go to any doctor or consultant, the care company, relatives who want to check on the wellbeing of the patient, and so on. Medical advice, or even basic treament, could be given directly into the home via the carer who can beam in the consultant using the video device. The logical expansion to this is the telehealth app I saw in development in partnership with the Mayo Clinic but more on that another day.
Rush hour chaos - traffic cams would be so simple to set up for public log in as well as monitoring the state of the roads by Highways Agency, police etc. Why are the cameras currently monitoring roads unavailable to the general public?
Local sports centre loses money and must develop joint working initiatives with neighbouring councils. The Nuenen example should crop up here where their sports centre is fibred straight into the local doctors as well as certain departments in the hospital. So, for instance, the cardiology department receives all heart data from patients who have been advised to exercise for prevention as well as cure, and video cameras allow the physiotherapists to check in on and remotely instruct patients who are exercising in addition to receiving physio in hospital.
City councillors expenses turnaround to prevent councillors who are University students (the mind boggles) being able to claim expenses for travelling from outside the district to attend meetings, particularly during the summer hols. Um, video conferencing?
Bus timetables having to be re-introduced because of complaints at the withdrawal of the paper version. In an attempt to save money, the Council have angered bus users, particularly older people, by saying send a text, ring this premium rate number or log on to find bus times. Interestingly, according to the article a bus timetable costs £2500 per bus stop if 4000 timetables costs the council £100k. If I were a ratepayer I would query whether these are gold plated timetables, or ask whether £2500 could be better spent on newer technology than plastic and paper. Imagine if you ran fibre to each of these 4000 bus stops (as part of your county-wide network obviously) and then it would be a simple matter to put a webcam and a touch screen to provide info, as well as a ticker like the Dutch bus stops which tell you when the next bus is due so you can go for a coffee at the nearby cafe, or walk to the next stop. A bus stop would also seem to be a very handy place to stick a wifi access point and antenna to create a substantial proportion of a wireless cloud at the same time.
£4M to be spent on a temporary medical unit to house beds and an assessment unit to decide if patients need to be admitted. This solution will be in place for 1-2 years and the unit is merely being rented so is not an asset owned by the health service. One of the reasons for this new unit is to overcome a problem caused by the distance between facilities within the hospital which means diagnostis can take a long time. High quality video links plus connected devices eg stethoscopes, heart monitors, etc etc were all part of one of the telehealth apps I saw in the USA so this is now all possible, with more and more devices becoming connectable precisely to permit this type of time and cost saving in larger hospitals and remote areas.
Housing association advert for the elderly - full list of benefits, no mention of broadband. Looking at the website, the alarm/secuirty system is a primitive one using that ancient device called a telephone. Add fibre into the property and suddenly your elderly accommodation will set itself apart from the rest with the services it can offer - health, safety, security, communication options, leisure choices etc.
Ah, news from the villages. Plenty of scope here to use fibre. Churches should be streaming christenings, funerals, services etc etc. Illustrated talks, open gardens, sports matches, kitchen garden talks, village fairs (including welly wanging!), civic parades, WI meetings, orchestras, choirs, fundraising events, quizzes, gun clubs, pothole watch, jumble sales, etc - all could benefit with an intake of fibre connectivity and online activity.
Then we have a story about a new design and print company, but no mention of 3D printing which is going to revolutionise living and working in rural areas. Not only in increased efficiencies and productivity but also in economic and environmental terms when travel is reduced to find that spare part for an ailing tractor, for example. The blueprints required for many engineering parts will need to be high definition and will need to be downloaded and uploaded, so symmetry will be essential for 3D printing's full advantages to be explored. However, even emailing a large file to a print and design company can be a nightmare for many, even in this day and age. Easier to get in the car.....
There's more as well that could do with a touch of true broadband, but I'm sure you get the picture. Many of our communities, particularly rural ones, are facing tough times, and lack of connectivity is definitely high on the list of priorities to be sorted out. However, unless we start to realise just how many places in our lives the level of connectivity heralded by at least two zeros ie 100+MBps symmetrical will affect, we are going to continue setting the bar far too low. And we will be left behind, our communities will continue running on 1 pot instead of 4, and we will continue to exclude far too many from contributing to community life and hence the social and economic well being of this country will continue to suffer.


chris said...

Heck this article could apply to almost anywhere in the country, and I guess most countries...

Somerset said...

Motorway JamCams are available but would you want your council CCTV available to all?

These applications don't have to have fibre, just a suitable speed connection.

Cybersavvy UK said...

Umm, yes, I do want county council CCTV opened up to all. After all, it is publicly available data anyway because it is out in the streets! The councils cannot afford to monitor them so crowd source that part of it. And as to not needing fibre....the whole point is that if you have just procured a county wide network, it should connect everything and be on net ie data costs minimal, no connection of the boring standard copper type required - unless you want to run EPS8 or 9s between every camera at stupid cost, or to pay BT etc money you don't need to for access to dark fibre for your cctv.

And if you have a decent fibre network you can run decent HDTV streams from your cameras instead of that grainy rubbish we see on Crimewatch.

Somerset said...

Surely just connecting a VM or FTTC line will connect at least 50% of cameras now with HD quality.

Interesting discussion for the first council who proposes access to all to see who they are zooming in on!

Cybersavvy UK said...

Symmetry, price and rural would be the three keywords you may need to consider.