Bezeq Telecom aims to help Israel reap benefits of "smart cities"

MODI’IN, Israel, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Bezeq Israel Telecom is investing millions of dollars to help develop cities where internet technology controls street lights and trash collection and monitors parking and air pollution, as it seeks to be more than a telecoms firm.

Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecoms group, said on Tuesday it has started a pilot programme in Modi’in, a growing city of about 100,000 people midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The firm is joining join other global telecoms companies like Telefonica, Vodafone, T-Mobile and AT&T in venturing into smart cities using their own internet technology infrastructure.

So far, hundreds of sensors have been deployed in Modi’in - mainly in a large park - along with cameras and free internet to give city officials the ability to monitor parking, noise, safety and the quality and amount of water in a man-made lake.

Bezeq, which is working with a number of Israeli start-ups, says “smart cities” can save money by becoming more efficient and ultimately funnel those savings into health, education and other areas.

“We are looking at being more than a simple telco company,” said Stella Handler, the company’s chief executive, adding Bezeq does not expect to see an immediate return on its investment.

“I see revenues coming 10 years from now,” she said.

Bezeq and Modi’in are now evaluating what the city’s needs are since each smart city would be different. More sensors would be deployed there and eventually in other cities in Israel.

With 70 percent of the world’s population living in cities, smart cities will offer more and better services for citizens, Bezeq said. (Editing by Alexander Smith)