Bexar County commissioners signed a pilot agreement on Tuesday that will bring six “smart city” devices and free Wi-Fi to downtown and the Southside this summer.
The agreement will expire on Dec. 31.
Massachusetts-based CIVIQ Smartscapes claims its CIVIQWayPoint Smartscape devices “transform whole blocks into seamless digital corridors,” according to the company’s website. The touch-screen structures monitor traffic, improve wayfinding, and allow users to make phone calls, charge their electronics via USB connection, and take advantage of free Wi-Fi signal, which reaches up to 150-250 ft. away from the device, depending on the amount of users.
The County’s entire free Wi-Fi blueprint currently only adds up to 50 sq. ft., Thomas Guevara, the County Manager’s chief of staff, told commissioners Tuesday. The CIVIQ kiosks will add six times more coverage.
“What we’re hoping to do with this project is to show what [increased, free internet access] can mean to a central city,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
The County purchased the six devices in October 2016 for $280,122. The structures should arrive by mid-March, but the County has already released a request for design and construction bids to install the kiosks that goes until April.
The kiosks will be placed outside of the Bexar County Courthouse, on the corners of Main Plaza and Dolorosa and South Flores Street and Dolorosa, outside the Bexar County parking garage on the corner of South Flores and West Nueva streets, outside the Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office, and at BiblioTech South on Pleasanton Road.
Each will be ADA compliant and feature the County crest and the Bibliotech logo. On the devices’ two, 55-inch LCD displays, users can use the interactive touch screens to access static content such as information on County exhibits, coming events, or about Bibliotech, Guevara said.
Users also can find wayfinding information provided by the County’s Geographic Information Services department. That data could include various geographic points of interest, including the Missions, County parks, libraries, and other facilities.
What’s more, Guevara said, is that the kiosks are interactive. Users can pull up a destination on the CIVIQ device, input their personal email or phone number, and the device will send the directions to the person’s mobile device.
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) suggested that the devices also provide the locations and information about the “high traffic” departments in the Bexar County Courthouse so residents can find them more easily.
Officials said they’re still hammering out exactly what information will be included on the kiosks, but they have high hopes for the devices: to help build a vibrant urban environment, highlight County resources and programs, and connect more residents and visitors to high-speed internet in the urban core.
“Hopefully the city [and] transit authorities … can build on this,” Wolff said. “We’ll be known as a city that’s providing free Wi-Fi access … and information to our home citizens.”