To the growing list of Israeli cities with free wifi networks for citizens and visitors add Ramat Hasharon, a city of 40,000 in central Israel. After several successful pilot days, the city plans to roll out the network over the next few months, covering 80% of the area of Ramat Hasharon.

What’s unique about this network is how it was born – not as a specific decision by the municipality to set up a wifi network, but as a byproduct of its “Safe City” project, designed to allow officials to quickly respond to catastrophes and emergencies, as well as ensure civil safety, through a network of cameras and sophisticated communications. And Ramat Hasharon’s Safe City program is garnering attention from places as far away as Taiwan, with a Taiwanese delegation visiting several weeks ago to check it out.

Municipalities around the world are setting up safe cities projects, both to ensure civil defense and enhance crime-fighting and a greater sense of security among residents – and in turn, enhancing real estate values. Far more than just stringing video cameras and transmitting images back to a control center, smart city projects use a wide variety of techniques to detect malefactors and to defend strategic assets, like electricity substations and water facilities.

In Ramat Hasharon, for example, city fathers have installed a zone perimeter security system from Israeli company Magal (the largest supplier of such systems in the world) which detects intruders and sets off alarms, with the ability to distinguish between “real” intruders and false alarms, like cats and dogs. In addition, the city has set up a fiber-optic communication system to ensure the fast transfer of video images from cameras that provide surveillance of most neighborhoods in Ramat Hasharon.

The system also includes a series of “panic buttons” in key spots, such as in kindergartens and day care centers. In the event of a threat, teachers can push the button to quickly summon help without having to look for a phone. All computer systems relating to security are backed up at all times, and an emergency “reserve” computer security system and network, which lays fallow during normal times, is ready to go immediately as a backup in case the main system goes down. And, of course, the city has set up its own wifi system, designed chiefly for use by police and rescue workers, but due to be expanded to provide connections to 80% of the city’s area.

To manage it all, Ramat Hasharon has set up a special security department, one of the few cities in Israel to do so, in order to manage all the data and deploy the equipment to deal with specific problems or threats.

Commenting on the Taiwanese visit, Ramat Hasharon director-general, Perach Melech said, “the policy of Mayor Itzik Rochberger to set up a municipal security system has improved the quality of life and sense of security for residents, as well as the capabilities of the city to respond to a crisis. The technological infrastructure also allows us to provide enhanced services for residents during crises and normal periods.”