“At The Banks, we placed the access points actually on the properties, on the facade of those storefronts,” Meyer says. “That fiber was brought in and wired through the front of the building. But at Fountain Square, for example, where there are large concert events, we installed new poles and hosted them there.”
The communications company has also been working with the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority to establish additional large-scale Wi-Fi networks at public housing locations, partially funded with capital from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Meyer says.
Residents log in to the Wi-Fi through a portal, which the housing authority can use to share information with its constituents.
“We’re doing a lot of work in the digital equity space,” Meyer says. “In a high-rise with a central hallway and apartments on either side, we’d put in a high-powered Wi-Fi access point that would go down the hallway, so all of the public spaces are covered, and there’s coverage at least somewhere in every unit.”
Tech Efforts Support Employers and Future Employees
The city’s connectivity capabilities have also helped facilitate both skill and product development within the Cincinnati Innovation District, a research area overseen by the University of Cincinnati’s Office of Innovation. The district is funded in part by a $100 million infusion from the nonprofit JobsOhio economic development organization, according to UC Chief Innovation Officer David J. Adams.
“If we’re going to live in the digital world, individuals need to have the ability to connect to the internet,” Adams says. “We’re fortunate the altafiber leadership team has really been working with the city to help ensure individuals at all levels, from low-income to high-income, have physical connectivity within the city.”
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Companies and researchers working in the university’s 1819 Innovation Hub — a building within the Cincinnati Innovation District created to facilitate collaborative product design and testing — can take advantage of high-speed 5G internet access.
The hub is outfitted with a variety of tech tools participants can use, ranging from an Epson S60600 that produces large waterproof prints to a Fluke multimeter device that measures voltage, resistance and other properties.
Innovation Districts Draw Smart City Investment
Corporations such as Kroger have utilized lab space, Adams says, to rethink what a retail digital experience could look like in the next five to 10 years. They are tapping into student and researcher acumen to develop smart solutions that, for example, might harness intelligence built into refrigerators to automatically reorder milk when a container inside drops below the halfway point.
The Digital Futures Complex, which will offer more than 180,000 square feet of additional research space, is scheduled to open later this year in the district.
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The new complex will support the district’s goal of helping to attract, develop and retain STEM talent in the area, according to Adams. He notes that last year, Cleveland announced plans to create its own innovation district. And in Columbus, Ohio, tech provider Intel said in January that it will invest $20 billion to construct two new semiconductor plants.
“The Cincinnati Innovation District has become the model for the state of Ohio,” Adams says. “Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has indicated the innovation districts were a key selling point for Intel. That is a great example of working as a state to develop the talent necessary to build the new technologies that are going to be required as we keep moving forward.”