Where are we now?
Australia launched the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, under which the Australian government is set to fund 52 projects throughout the country, to the tune of AU$28.5 million in shared investment. It is significant to note that as much as 40 percent of this investment is going into projects located in regional areas.
Among the largest projects under the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program are Darwin, where AU$5 million is being ploughed into the Switching on Darwin initiative, while a similar amount is being invested in New South Wales in the Smart Move Newcastle: Intelligent Mobility, Energy, and Data Networks scheme. Tasmania and Western Australia are also in the mix, with Launceston City Council being awarded AU$1.58 million and Curtin University receiving a grant of AU$2.5 million for its Resilient Energy and Water Systems project in Fremantle respectively. The Smart Cities Collaboration in Perth project has been awarded almost AU$1.5 million as well, again underlining the importance of extending the smart cities program to the remotest parts of the country.
Different outcomes being targeted
One of the most admirable things about the Australian smart cities initiative is that multiple “reasons for” smart technologies are being included. Smart transport is the subject of investment at Macquarie University in Sydney for example, and the University of New South Wales is working on a Smart Community Infrastructure project, while the Council of the Municipality of Woollahra is researching and developing 3D Technology for Urban Planning.
The Central Coast Council is working on bringing a smart parking project to reality, and Rockhampton Regional Council is progressing a digital permits project that will make disability parking simpler. Numerous projects are underway that all leverage smart technologies to the benefit of Australian citizens all over the nation.
The citizen experience
What is at the heart of Australia’s smart city expansion throughout both already-developed regions and more rural, remote locations, is enhancing the “citizen experience”. Australia has recognized that citizen engagement and enhanced services and experience are vital to the success of its smart cities initiatives, and that for people who live there, the focus is not just about using digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and connected sensors but an improved experience and daily life.
Australia’s population continues to increase in rural areas, and many people are moving away from the traditionally popular – and populous – major cities. This means that more people are taking longer to commute to work, which results in busier public transport systems. The Australian Government’s Smart Cities Plan estimates that urban congestion costs more than $16.5 billion every year and is forecast to reach as much as $37.7 billion by 2030. With that in mind, enhanced connectivity and smart services make more sense than ever, and there is an incentive for national and local governments to offer better quality of living all over the country.
Technologies such as LoRaWan are playing a big part in extending services and connectivity to previously hard to connect locations, and the ‘30 minute city’ has become a concept: a place where no matter where they live, citizens can easily access the places they need to visit on a daily basis, and several Australian cities are already working towards this goal. Melbourne even hopes to make ’20 minute neighborhoods’. Digital tools and state of the art connectivity will be central to that.
What else in Australia can benefit?
One of Australia’s key industries is mining, and smart technologies are already playing a big part in helping that sector to become safer, more efficient and more productive. Orange is already working with firms that combine design and engineering techniques with the latest digital technologies to offer next generation solutions to smart cities that have already been proven in the mining sector, for example.
Smart technologies have been improving the mining industry for a while now, and on a global scale the market is set to boom: according to Transparency Market Research, the global smart mining market was valued at $US5.98 billion in 2014 but is expected to grow at around 15 percent per year to 2024, to reach a value of $US22.59 billion.
To deliver that, progressive providers are acknowledging that the pace of change is unprecedented: for example, as presented by Matt Bowler of GHD at a recent AUSMIM panel event, the definitions of value in the design and operation of physical infrastructure has evolved quickly. The 1800s saw us using steam power and mechanical production, the 1900s mass production and electricity, the 2000s saw the rise of electronics, information technology and automated production and today, we have the convergence of physical and IoT assets, hyper-connectivity, digital labor, everything ‘as-a-service’ and Big Data and analytics changing the game. All these solutions have contributed to making smart cities and services a reality and mining can drive smart city ideas forward.
The next steps
The Australian model is very much about taking smart city ideas and approaches and expanding them to address all kinds of different locations throughout the country. Essentially it is about taking digital technologies and going beyond “smart cities” to create “intelligent communities”. These will be exciting times.