Leveraging disruptive tech developments to take urban services to the Max!
“Smart cities” is a term that has come into vogue. What is a “smart city”?
According to the Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand (SCCANZ) there are three core capabilities defining a “smart city”:
“First, a smart city collects information about itself through sensors, other devices and existing systems. Next, it communicates that data using wired or wireless networks. Third, it ‘crunches’ (analyses) that data to understand what’s happening now, and what’s likely to happen next.” (Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand, Submission 62, p. 11).
The real question becomes: “Why aren’t all cities ‘smart’?”
Today’s innovative technologies permit real-time analysis of activities within urban environments to facilitate rapid decision-making, tailoring service delivery to actual needs (rather than projected or reported demand). The result is increased service quality at reduced costs. Put another way, smart city is about better resource utilisation for better delivery of better services.
How does a “smart city” collect this information about itself?
The first prerequisite is super-fast, reliable Internet access. Without that foundation the concept of smart city would fall apart, simply because we are talking about vast quantities of information being collected, conveyed and processed, with the result being automated conclusions followed by efficient distribution to all relevant service points. These quantities represent an exponential jump from our present levels of data flow, to the Fifth Generation (“5G”) mobile data technology. 5G networks have download speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (10Gbit/s) compared to typical 4G network speeds of up to one gigabit per second for slow/stationary devices (1Gbit/s). As a result, while 4G systems support up to 100,000 devices per square kilometre, 5G networks can handle up to 1,000,000 devices in the same area! This huge jump in capacity is transforming the Internet from being a means of connecting people , to becoming a system connecting people with things, and things with other things (“Internet of Things” – IoT).
The next requirement is a set of protocols that enable the various devices to share the information. Because billions of “things” will need the same “language” to be able to talk to each other.
The City of Melbourne began the first Australian local government 5G/IoT trials in March 2019. As part of the program in July 2020 Lord Mayor Sally Capp unveiled experiments with sensor systems on one of the city’s iconic trams and at Argyle Square in the inner northern suburb of Carlton. The pilot scheme provides an idea of what services will be encompassed in a “smart city”.
Describing the municipality as a “data driven organisation”, Sally Capp said the project would help administrators understand how things like heat and humidity impacted on pedestrians, passengers, and tram staff. The network of micro sensors will monitor many council functions and city environment, such as rubbish bin fill levels, pedestrian numbers, temperature and humidity in the proximity of different tree species, air quality, rainfall and wind speed to name a few.
The City of Melbourne trials show that future protocols will need to cater for data sharing between both public and private sectors. This means that there are governance issues that need to be addressed to define rules covering the relationships between various types of stakeholder and their different needs.
Next Phase of Smart Cities
The initial push for the adoption of “smart” technology has been adopted by many cities. A 2019 study by accounting firm KPMG suggests that projects like the City of Melbourne pilot demonstrate that we are already in the second phase where municipalities drive the development of Tech solutions to improve service delivery and residents’ quality of life. The study predicts that the next phase in the evolution of “smart cities” will feature “citizen co-creation” models focussing on addressing local issues to unlock local potential.
“Smart city” capability is a key feature of C2 Capital greenfield developments. Rockbank North Town Centre is one of the iconic sites. The valuable site was designated as the only future “Activity Centre” north of the Western Freeway and west of the projected Outer Western Ring Road in the locality’s Precinct Structure Plan (PSP). This town centre will be a small scale smart city containing retail, employment, education, entertainment, health, and recreation facilities to service the estimated 90,000 future residents in the area. Using “smart city” technologies they can look forward to receiving high service quality at low cost because of optimal resource utilisation!