Calgary has paved the way for ongoing innovation by introducing a municipally owned city-wide wireless network designed to support IoT devices. The large-scale network is the first of its kind in Canada.
City officials recognized that smart devices (also known as “IoT” for the Internet of things — think Fitbits, Nest thermometers, and Alexa-enabled speakers) are going to have a huge impact on Calgary. In fact, multiple municipal departments were already trying to implement IoT sensors for projects, but were running into roadblocks.
Rather than solving for the individual project needs, city officials took a step back. In order to use these sensors and launch IoT-powered projects, they realized, the city needed to build a vast wireless network covering most of Calgary. It had to be strong enough to support at least 60,000 sensors and transmit data over multiple kilometres.
Calgary opted to use LoRaWAN (long-range low power wireless area network) technology, which is open and non-proprietary. Because the city has been investing in its communication infrastructure since 2000, it was able to use existing radio towers and fiber networks, allowing the LoRaWAN to be built without a lot of additional investment.
The city-owned network launched in fall 2017, covering most of the city, including downtown and South and East Calgary, where some city facilities are. The network’s reach allows organizations to use low-power, low-cost IoT sensors (some have batteries that last up to 10 years), making it much easier to install and use the devices.
Now that it’s up and running, Calgary’s network has allowed the city to launch subsequent initiatives, such as:
-Measuring water and soil conditions more effectively
-Monitoring air quality across the city
Having access to real-time information has also decreased the amount of manual reporting and maintenance work required by city staff, lowering costs and streamlining processes.
Calgary’s LoRaWAN network was built collaboratively — the city, researchers and students from the University of Calgary, and local businesses, such as TEKTELIC Communications, a Calgary-based LoRaWAN equipment manufacturer, all contributed. City officials also looked to Semtech, which produces low-power LoRa technology and devices, for guidance. In December 2019, Calgary brought on eleven-x to manage the network and IoT technology.
Now that it’s launched, Calgayr’s LoRaWAN network is not just available to city-run sensors — local businesses can use it too.
Strategic approach for future innovations
By first focusing on the infrastructure needed to build an IoT-powered city, Calgary is taking a smart bigger-picture approach to innovation.
The city also expects the availability of such a network to attract local businesses and entrepreneurs to Calgary (which already enjoys high livability scores).