by Lauren Butler, journalist, Infrastructure magazine

With new urban challenges constantly emerging, cities, suburbs and towns face the ongoing task of developing technology-based solutions to become more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective. The Australian Government’s $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program will provide investment for 80 such projects, as well as a Smart Cities Collaboration Platform that will facilitate a space for both funded and independent projects to share smart city solutions.

Spanning all states and territories, the projects in the program include things like automated vehicle and parking trials, disaster resilience initiatives, management of smart waste, water and automated traffic, social cohesion projects, and many more.

Here, we take a look at some of the major projects currently in progress in each state and territory, the challenges faced by each, and how the community will benefit from smart solutions both now and into the future.

New South Wales

Melrose Park: Smart Planning for Climate Responsive Neighbourhoods

A Federal Government Smart Cities grant of $571,000 provided close to half the funding for this $1.4 million project, which is being led by development company PAYCE in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

As part of the project, approximately 70 sensors will be placed throughout the 30 hectare Melrose Park development site and environmental data on temperature, humidity, air quality, noise and stormwater will be transmitted 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

This will provide insights into the area’s liveability ahead of what is expected to be a ten-year construction period.

One of the key parts of the project is UTS’ Technology for Urban Liveability Program (TULIP), which collates the climate data with 3D development plans through world-leading technologies, industry partners and researchers.

Through TULIP, UTS will deploy environmental sensors, collect and manage data, and work with partners to undertake advanced environmental modelling and 3D visualisations.

PAYCE Director, Dominic Sullivan, said that fundamentally, smart cities initiatives use data and technology to make places more liveable for the community.

“The key issue with design is not just the buildings themselves, but what is in between them, such as paths, public areas and landscaping.

Early data will be important for design in terms of spacing, landscaping and potentially the orientation of the buildings,” Mr Sullivan said.

“Data is going to become critical in how we design and deliver new urban environments.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Smart Water Management Project

Federal Government funding of $478,449 has gone towards installing data sensors to provide real-time information on flood risks during extreme weather events in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region.

According to CEO of Regional Development Australia Illawarra (RDA), Debra Murphy, the smart water project will bolster resilience in the region by equipping it with more effective emergency and environmental management systems and responses.

Management of stormwater is a key responsibility for local governments, and a major challenge in the planning of urban growth for the region’s expanding population.

Significant investment is required to manage waterways, and install and upgrade stormwater infrastructure.

The smart technologies being used in this project will develop data analytics to help improve water quality, flood mitigation and ensure community safety in flash floods and aid in understanding of where investment in infrastructure is necessary.

Queensland

Sustainable Urban Growth, Bells Creek

This project, which was granted $205,000 in Federal Government funding, monitored the impact of competition on threatened frogs in restored and newly-created habitats on a new residential development site in Bells Creek.

Species-specific recognisers that identify frog species’ calls within environmental recordings were developed to facilitate the processing of large quantities of acoustic data.

Using open data platforms, the project engaged local community groups and schools in frog conservation. The bioacoustic monitoring technique used is called Acoustic Spatial Capture-Recapture (ASCR).

It provides accurate within-pond species distributions and population size estimates. Researchers also used 360-degree photographs from within the wetlands, which can be viewed through a virtual reality lense.

Along with the acoustic data, this will provide vital information for the protection of existing species in the environment throughout urban expansion.

Digital Permits for Disability Parking, Rockhampton

The Federal Government has allocated $125,000 to develop a database parking verification system within the e-permit environment in Rockhampton, including for disability parking.

This project will see 375 parking sensors and digital parking wayfinding display units installed in the Rockhampton CBD.

This will see the design and implementation of graphical user interfaces for use on smart devices, making it possible for motorists to search for available parking using an app, increasing overall efficiency for those with disabilities.

Victoria

Clever and Creative Geelong

With $450,000 in Federal Government funding, the Clever and Creative Geelong Project will deliver LED lighting, environmental sensing, digital signage, public safety, smart parking and free WiFi to Geelong to boost industry growth in digital services.

In order to achieve a consolidated approach to technology infrastructure along the waterfront and make it less cluttered and more safe, some existing technology will be removed, such as CCTV and WiFi receivers hanging off poles.

These will be replaced by nodes to enable more technology to be housed, including environmental sensors and public address systems.

Footscray Smart City for Social Cohesion

Another $400,000 in Federal Government funding went to the Footscray Smart City for Social Cohesion Project, which is a collaborative initiative leveraging smart technology and open data to improve city activation, safety, economic activity, mobility and efficiency.

Smart technologies will aim to improve citizen experience in the area using smart mobility/traffic sensors and real-time information, smart environmental monitoring, a virtual reality platform, and smart spaces and places including those with WiFi, touch screens, smart lighting and leisure-based interactivity.

The project takes place as part of a collaboration with Victoria University (VU). VU’s College of Engineering and Science will use its information and digital technologies to enable data-driven decision-making.

Professor Richard Constantine, Vice-President of Resources and Precincts, said, “VU is excited to partner with Maribyrnong City Council for this smart city initiative, as we continue to progress Footscray as a smart university town.

The project will contribute towards research and learning, and improve Footscray’s services and citizen experience.”

Northern Territory

The Place for People, City of Palmerston

$1 million in Federal Government funding will go to The Place for People project in the City of Palmerston, which is looking at potential smart city solutions that could be incorporated into a trial program to look at urban challenges and ways to improve liveability in the municipality.

Using smart technology such as updated CCTV, video analytics and smart lighting, the project intends to reduce crime rates and antisocial behaviour, and to continue building its CPTED (existing crime prevention through environmental design).

Australian Capital Territory

Digitised Choice-Based Letting for the ACT Public Housing Portfolio

$668,000 in Federal Government funding went towards the Digitised Choice-Based Letting for the ACT Public Housing Portfolio. This project aimed to design, develop and implement a digital platform (MVP) to capture:

  • A digital service channel capable of supporting public housing allocation, swaps and transfers
  • Capacity for seamless integration with the digitised housing application process (under development)
  • Client-choice, improved service accessibility and responsiveness, and increased awareness of available service options

Tasmania

Greater Launceston Transformation –Creating our Digital Future

$1.58 million of Federal Government funding went towards the Greater Launceston Transformation Project, which is a collaborative project that uses new data, tools and technology to address regional challenges of economic growth, education attainment and social inclusion.

This is done through smart analytics, new 3D digital twin technology, a community co-designed innovation framework and hub, alongside other digital solutions.

Western Australia

Wharf Street Basin-A Next Generation Community Park

$1 million in Federal Government funding went towards the redevelopment of the Wharf Street detention basin, turning an area that is currently inaccessible to the park into a clean and safe public environment.

The redevelopment will see the location transform into a smart park using increased amenity and smart technology to provide recreation and education opportunities within a piece of drainage infrastructure.

This also had positive impacts on natural systems by opening up land that was previously inaccessible.

According to City of Canning Mayor, Paul Ng, the partnership between all organisations is significant both financially and in demonstrating an innovative approach to embracing liveability, sustainability and productivity, while delivering value to the wider community.

“As a city, we’re proud to be part of a project that is an example of collaboration between government agencies and innovative organisations where technology is fused with design to create an accessible, pleasing suburban space that is multi-purpose.”

South Australia

Smart Tourist Town, Kapunda

$159,000 in Federal Government funding went towards the revival of Australia’s oldest mining town, Kapunda, South Australia. The funding was invested in technology such as CCTV, WiFi, bin sensors, electric car charging systems, renewable energy generation and LED public lighting.

These improvements not only benefit residents of the town, but will also improve marketing and promotion of the town and provide evidence for future investment.

With the project now complete, Kapunda has seen an increase in the use of public spaces, growing physical activity and strong links between all parts of the town, providing a safe and appealing place for people to meet and connect, particularly with the introduction of free WiFi.

There are however, ongoing modifications to the smart technology settings in this project as more data is collected.

More projects

The $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program incorporates several other projects alongside these, with some projects in progress, some completed and others still in a conceptual phase.

Projects in progress

  • Australia’s First Heritage City becomes an Australian Future City
  • Automated Traffic Management, Fraser Coast
  • Ballarat is Open
  • ChillOUT: Smart Social Spaces Creating Connected Green Places
  • Closing the Loop on Waste
  • Community-Focused Smart Technologies to Enhance Flood Resilience
  • Flooded Roads Smart Warning System (FRSWS)
  • Gawler: Connected Community
  • Granville Smart Precinct Pilot Project
  • Googong Smart Community: Smart Suburb Blueprint
  • Integrated Smart Parking System: Emerging and Shared Approaches
  • i-Sense Oakleigh: The Smart Connected Precinct
  • Latrobe Valley Sensor Network
  • Liveable Neighbourhoods in Lake Macquarie and Sydney City
  • Local Government Facilities as a Grid Paralleled Mode Micro-Grid
  • Mornington Peninsula Smart Parking and Amenities for High Demand Areas
  • Oaklands Smart Precinct
  • Reducing Urban Glow: Supporting Sea Turtle Survival Using Open Data
  • Reducing Urban Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Smart Active Transport: Urban Heat Maps for Bendigo
  • The Smart Beaches Project
  • Smart Solar Trees: An Integrated Park Management System
  • Smart Technologies – Reinventing Neighbourhoods
  • South Grampians Shire Council – A Smart Connected Rural Community
  • Smart Monitoring and Monitoring Management Yellagonga Wetlands
  • Smart Parking, North Lakes
  • Smart Sports Field Planning, Monitoring and Management
  • Smart Technologies at the Beach – Coogee Beach
  • Smart Transport and Precinct Planning, Atherstone
  • Smart Transport, Macquarie Park
  • Smart Urban Irrigation Project
  • Smart Water Meters
  • Northern Melbourne Smart Cities Network, Enabling Data to Drive Change
  • Smart Ways to Reduce Waste, Alice Springs
  • V2i Realtime – A Platform to Disrupt Property Development Approvals
  • Western Parkland City Sensor Network

To view the list of completed projects and projects in the concept phase under the Australian Government’s $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, please visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/cities/smart-cities/collaboration-platform.

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