BiNS does a nice review of Birmingham FIZ which is not a mis-spelling of “fizz” but stands for Free Information Zone (yup, took me a while there too). As you probably heard in various pronouncements including the phrase “digital city” over the last couple of years, Birmingham now has a wifi network across most of the city centre. To be precise:
The deal that’s been struck enables BT Openzone to install wireless basestations across the city (I believe in lamp posts) on the condition that access to council services and local information is provided for free. To get the rest of the internet you need to pay BT. Which, while not ideal, is… we’ll it’s just not ideal full stop. But it’s what we’ve got.
These local info services are provided through the new portal, birminghamfiz.com, which is formatted to work well in mobile internet devices like Treos and iPhones. The idea is that someone out and about in Birmingham who’s looking for a restaurant or wants to know what’s showing in the cinema can get the information quickly and easilly from anywhere in town. Similarly if you’re just waiting for a bus you can have a look at job vacancies and the like.
From the creative industries perspective it’s the listings that are the key thing here. In theory everyone with a mobile internet device now has a complete What’s On in their pocket. In the pub with your mate and decide you’d like to go to a gig? Surf on over to the FIZ. Sitting in a cafe chatting about the ballet? Search on the FIZ to see what the BRB are up to. You get the idea.
Of course having only just launched the info is a bit sketchy at the moment and some of the sites aren’t ideally formatted for tiny screens (for a full technical review see BiNS) but it’s early days and they’re looking for feedback. All the details are on this Digital Birmingham page and you can email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, you know your businesses and your customers better than they do. Educate them. Then hopefully in time we’ll have the wifi information service we deserve, just in time for when mobile internet devices become as common as mobile phones.