Australia: The push for the creation of smart cities

A 'smart city' is the formation of a city that intelligently coordinates and integrates all technology and resources available to it to create a community that is integrated, habitable and sustainable. The smart cities drive is an ideal conduit to exploit the adoption of innovation within those cities.

COUNCILS CAN LEVERAGE THEIR OWN STRENGTHS

Historically, the Australian innovation space has seen a heavy focus on the technology and financial technology industries. Regions should not be confined by these industries, and should feel confident to differentiate themselves by capitalising on each region's unique economic strengths based on natural resources, agriculture and key infrastructure when it comes to start-up themes and industry types.

The benefits of a successful regional innovation ecosystem should not be undervalued. Some key drivers include:

  • enabling local entrepreneurs, business leaders and key industries to collaborate closely and with government to harness innovation;
  • raising awareness of and encourage innovation and the potential of start-ups in general;
  • retaining young, local talent who may otherwise be influenced to leave for capital cities or major centres for sustainable careers;
  • attracting talented people from intestate and overseas;
  • supporting and growing economic and social infrastructure;
  • strengthening existing industries; and
  • preparing regional Queenslanders for a range of new, meaningful job opportunities.

Local councils are perfectly disposed to capitalise on these drivers and potentially lead the way in fostering a thriving innovation ecosystem within their region.

What is a "Smart City"?

A smart city means many things to many different people.

According to Director, Sustainability, Richard Palmer from WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, the term 'Smart City' has emerged from the intersection of technology and the built environment.

"The term has come to encompass big data, transport systems, metering and utilities, the Internet of Things (IoT), stakeholder engagement, smart urban investment and emerging governance models," Richard says.

"The clear articulation of how a city or town will be 'smart' requires careful briefing and an alignment with established and emerging business opportunities along with the desirable functionality for the city, town or community.

"The pervasive ownership of smart phones and connected devices among residents, workers and visitors in our cities offers numerous avenues for integration, engagement and distribution between diverse data sources and consumers.

"One approach for policy-makers to get a handle on the concept is to identify aspects of the Smart City that can be delivered in discrete pieces and for which pragmatic solutions currently exist, while also offering future innovation potential."

The following elements provide one such framework for considering Smart Cities opportunities:

  • Smart Mobility | the suite of emerging alternatives to conventional car-based transit: connected and autonomous vehicles, smart parking management, active transport, innovative ticketing and incentive schemes.
  • Smart Grids | the utilities and building technology to deliver high performance, resource efficient energy, water, and materials management and to take advantage of emerging utility business models.
  • Smart Communities | the interface of a Smart City with its residents, workers and visitors; wayfinding, connectivity in public domain and stakeholder engagement.
  • Smart Platforms | the technology to enable the 'smart' aspects of the city: platforms, applications, databases and analytics.

"The way in which these elements can be developed to deliver short-term and future smart solutions for Australian cities depends on identifying the business, community and government drivers for embracing 'Smart'," Richard says.

"It is important for government to achieve some early wins through mature infrastructure. To enable future innovation by building flexible platforms that are open and accessible along with systems which are able to be integrated into a 'Smart' city in the future."

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