Smart Cities Week is just two months away


By Lauren Davis
Wednesday, 22 August, 2018

Smart Cities Week is just two months away

Australia’s first ever Smart Cities Week will be held at the Hilton Sydney from 29–31 October 2018, where it will seek to showcase the world’s most dynamic smart cities market.

Smart Cities Week is a global convening of policymakers, practitioners, technologists, researchers and affiliated organisations facilitated by the Smart Cities Council across its key regions. Chris Isles, Executive Director of Planning for sponsor Place Design Group, described the event as “an anti-conference that is shaking up the norm, identifying opportunities and creating connections between those who are inspired by the future of the city”.

Isles will be presenting a masterclass at the event especially for local governments, focused on building smart cities from the street up. He noted, “Technology is reshaping the way citizens move around our cities, but we haven’t changed the building blocks — our streets.”

Isles says our city streets are at the “frontline” of advancements in a host of areas — from smart technology to urban agriculture – but few people at the policy level are thinking about how to “curate” our streets.

“Currently, no-one has oversight of the entire street. Council may be responsible for bitumen and footpaths, but then there is so much more going on in and under our streets, from electricity, water and sewerage to phone and broadband services — and that’s before we even get to emerging technology such as autonomous vehicles, digital advertising and the Internet of Things,” Isles said.

“To ensure our streets don’t become forgotten wastelands of technology we need to do a better job of curation.”

Such curation is the responsibility of local governments, Isles said — and the opportunities are exciting. Imagine councils and telecommunications companies transforming bus shelters into high-tech hubs, for instance, with councils gaining free Wi-Fi for residents and a percentage of revenue earned on digital advertising.

Chris Isles, Executive Director of Planning for Place Design Group.

Paul Francis, Smart Cities Lead for event sponsor KPMG, meanwhile said enhancing efficiencies through IoT offers “billions of dollars of potential” in Australia alone — but he warns local governments not to focus solely on the technology.

“Firstly, focus on gaining a better understanding of the problem space — the ‘why’ in the local context,” he said. “What challenges are we looking to solve, or opportunities are we seeking to capitalise upon? And then, of those, which might be accelerated, unlocked or better sustained through the deployment of emerging technologies such as IoT?”

Francis said local governments leading in the smart cities space are starting with operational efficiency, explaining, “By digitising the physical world through the use of IoT sensors and similar, councils can get data and therefore insights that help with things such as the efficient and effective utilisation of assets, power and resources.

“That’s why we’re seeing a lot of smart lighting, waste management and parking.”

Data insights can also enable economic development — powering start-ups or university research for example — or enhance citizen and stakeholder ‘experiences’. Examples include digital wayfinding, personalisation of services and citizen democracy.

Francis said he’d like to see IoT become “part of the DNA of councils when they are considering their strategic and operational plans”. Advances in technology should become “part of the standard day-to-day toolkit”, he said, and are set to influence processes, culture and organisational structures.

Another sponsor, Broadspectrum, said it has identified Smart Cities Week Australia as a strategic opportunity to build momentum in smart cities.

Broadspectrum is a subsidiary of urban and services infrastructure giant Ferrovial, which established the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Cities to pioneer innovative solutions and service delivery programs in cooperation with cities. Centre Director Mark Saunders said many cities around the world are already running “exciting tests, trials, pilots and proofs of concept” using IoT technologies, but the time has come to scale and replicate deployment.

Saunders pointed to Ferrovial’s work with Granada City Council and Cisco to enhance waste collection services. Sensors in waste bins provide real-time data that enables Ferrovial to optimise and prioritise waste collection routes; when overlaid with information relating to weather, traffic and special events, this data enables predictions to be made and routes to be redesigned for maximum efficiency.

But without the involvement of citizens, smart cities won’t take off, Saunders said — it would be futile to install smart bins if people tossed their rubbish on the street, for instance. With this in mind, Ferrovial’s Citizéntrica project, implemented in the district of Chamberí in Madrid, offers street cleaning and littering solutions by listening to the residents in a series of face-to-face interviews.

Saunders reiterated that city decision-makers should focus on outcomes, not technology. He warned city decision-makers “not to buy something because it is smart or special. Instead, buy it because it’s right for your city.

“Focus on the challenge that needs to be met — whether it’s climate change or congestion — rather than the technology. Leave the tech to the experts and start thinking about the outcomes.”

For more information on Smart Cities Week and to register, visit https://www.smartcitiesweek.com/2018-australia/welcome/.

Top image caption: According to Place Design Group, our future streets could look a little something like this.

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