Hidden beneath a billowing blue sheet tied with a celebratory ribbon stood the first visual indication of Orillia’s entry into the wireless age.
“It’s a different society today,” Coun. Ralph Cipolla said moments after the unveiling of the digital kiosk that drew a crowd to the lakeside event.
Situated outside the Orillia Waterfront Centre, the touch-screen kiosk features twin 54-inch vertical LCD screens, one on either side of the unit.
One screen broadcasts events, community happenings and paid advertisements and the other provides a touch-screen that allows users to browse information about local events, activities and amenities such as hotels, restaurants and shopping, along with directions.
“It is basically a way for cities to connect with their citizens and for citizens to connect with the city,” Gary Semplonius, Bell senior vice-president, business, sales and marketing, told Simcoe.com.
The kiosk’s digital sign can also be employed to broadcast community messages and public safety alerts, he added.
“And because it’s interactive, it’s a great way to attract tourism as well,” Semplonius said.
The kiosk also serves as an access point for free Wi-Fi in the area and includes a USB charger for phones and tablets.
“The Orillia SMART Kiosk is the first of its kind in Ontario and only the second in Canada, and showcases that Orillia is stepping things up when it comes to innovation and technology,” Mayor Steve Clarke added.
The initiative is one component of a research partnership between the municipality and Bell that leverage’s Bell’s Smart City platform to help the city make better-informed decisions on municipal operations and infrastructure through data collection.
Other phases are expected to take shape over the next month, including a second kiosk outside the Orillia Opera House.
The free Wi-Fi network will be expanded to cover the downtown area along with the waterfront, from the port to the Rotary Aqua Theatre.
The kiosks and Wi-Fi applications will provide the city with anonymous data related to where visitors originate from and what it is they value while in Orillia.
According to Semplonius, the launch of the first SMART kiosk in Ontario represents a “significant milestone on Orillia’s path to becoming one of Canada’s leading smart cities.”
Cipolla, a member of the Smart Cities Working Group, said the project would usher Orillia “into the 21st century.”
Two other applications unrelated to the kiosks are in development in partnership with Bell and will be introduced later this year.
One will allow residents to monitor snowplow progress and the other will detect ground water infiltration into the city’s sewer system.
The partnership with Bell is a one-year pilot, with any future commitments subject to future council approval.
Bell has also agreed to provide fibre optic connectivity to the city’s residences and businesses, placing Orillia at the forefront of Canadian communities in the area of smart-city initiatives, said Dan Landry, manager of business retention and expansion and industrial development.
“This will factor greatly into how we market investment and business opportunities in Orillia moving forward,” Landry added.