01/11/2017 16:41 EST | Updated 01/12/2018 00:12 EST

The internet is coming to Kitchener streetlights

Kitchener city officials have created a new technology plan called Digital Kitchener that will transform the city, and could one day see you get an alert if your water softener is running.

The Digital Kitchener strategy is looking at ways to introduce better and newer technology into city services, and revolves around four themes – connected, innovative, on-demand and inclusive.

"We've got a lot of things that are lined up already in 2017 that are going to be pretty exciting," said Dan Murray, the city's Director of Technology, Innovation and Services, in an interview with The Morning Edition's Craig Norris on Wednesday.

"One of those is the implementation of the LED street lighting that is going to include a narrowband network. This won't be immediately visible to residents, but it will allow us to control the streetlights and be able to make additional electrical savings by the conversation to LED," he said.

A narrowband network provides internet connectivity in a different frequency range than broadband internet.

Kitchener is replacing the existing high-pressure sodium streetlights with LED lights this year. The narrowband network will help the city control the lighting, which it says will reduce electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

"That network will then end up being the foundation that we'll use for a lot of other Internet of Things technology improvements that can range from smart parking to automated meter reading," said Murray. "We'll be able to do things like reduce traffic congestion as people are searching for parking, we'd be able to do things like provide alerts if somebody's water softener or toilet is running and they might incur a large utility bill."

The Internet of Things refers to appliances and objects that are connected to the internet, like thermostats or smart light bulbs.

Murray said the Digital Kitchener strategy came out of a desire to look at how technology affects the community, not just city hall, and take a closer look at how the Internet of Things could be integrated into city services.

"It was a good time for us to get out and talk to a lot of the folks in the technology community, gather their ideas and speak to our politicians and city staff and gather up these ideas and really get a vision for how we should move forward," he said. 

"We're also looking to develop a minimum public access standard for internet, which we think would be one of the first of its kind in Canada," he said.