Novelist pushes utility pole for wireless waves in Vancouver

Spokesperson distances city hall from 'this very specific technology'

Douglas Coupland has an idea for what he hopes will be Vancouvers next generation of utility poles.

While attending the New Cities Summit in Paris May 14, the renowned Vancouver novelist and conceptual artist introduced his latest brainchild, a prototype hybrid of public Wi-Fi, electric vehicle charger, LED lamp post and friendly neighbourhood digital bulletin board.

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Called the V-Pole (the V is for Vancouver), the colourful, roughly 20-foot- tall modular utility pole resembles a combination of Lego and something the video game character SuperMario might perch upon. Coupland claims hooking up V-Poles to underground optical wiring would be not only cheaper and more energy-efficient than current utility structures found around the city, but also easier on the eyes.

The wireless data game has changed, he said in a prepared statement. Data transmission is no longer something scary you dont want in your back yard.

Coupland, 50, first became interested in creating open source wireless a year ago while doing research for a book. He eventually came across something called lightRadio, a tiny reduced-wattage device built by New Jerseys Bell Labs, that could fit atop the poles and replace the need for massive boxes filled with wires and other electrical equipment. In three years there will be 30 times more wireless data traffic than there is now, said Coupland. Unless we act quickly, our streets could be as cluttered as a kitchen junk drawer. No one wants that... This is an inevitable technology and a massive entrepreneurial opportunity,

Mayor Gregor Robertson was on hand for Couplands presentation, and its possible the new technology could eventually play a part in the mayors much-publicized dream of turning Vancouver into the worlds greenest city by 2020.

Enabling new generation communications, data and zero emission transportation is a key goal for Vancouver, said Robertson, the keynote speaker at the inaugural convention on global urbanization.

City communications director Wendy Stewart said plans to install V-Poles in Vancouver arent on the radar.

It is certainly an infrastructure that we have to look forward to in the city because it is an emerging need but, in terms of this very specific technology, it is just Douglas Coupland, said Stewart. The city has a consultation that is currently taking place with our park board officials, and they are working with Telus to look at how we might integrate electric vehicle charging and cellphone antennas. That is the process that is underway. He is saying Hey look, we should look at how to do this, which is a little bit different in what we have currently on the table, but hes come forward with a concept that is very interesting.

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Twitter: @flematic

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