The Time For Australia’s Smart Cities is Now

It's time for Australia to kick-start the revolution towards smarter cities and become a leader in the discussion.

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Smart cities are appearing at a rapid pace all around the world, driving innovation at a regional level and forcing governments and technology to move fast in order to keep up.

There’s never been a better time for Australia to revolutionise its cities and lead the way for the rest of the world. This view is shared by Adam Beck, the Executive Director of the Smart Cities Council Australia and New Zealand, who opened the latest instalment of City Disrupt, Melbourne.

Adam Beck emphasised how important this year would be for smart cities.
Adam Beck emphasised how important this year would be for smart cities.

“2017 is a real watershed year for this industry,” he said, noting that smart cities, IoT and digital transformation will all be taking big steps forward in the coming months.

However, the march towards an intelligent infrastructure won’t happen overnight. Governments need to not only co-operate on a local and federal level, but legislation needs to be introduced to oversee the implementation of smart cities.

“Building marketplaces and movements is a long burn – it’s not a quick win,” Beck noted.

Technology obviously plays a core function in smart cities, but Beck states that innovative ideas and big visions have to come first. The technology can only help those who have a clear groundwork laid out of what they want to achieve and how to achieve it.

“Tech is at the core of the smart cities movement, but it is the enabler. There’s a bigger outcome and a bigger goal.”

Australia is situated at a unique junction in the smart cities movement, ironically because we are behind Europe and the USA in the number of smart cities we have. The lack of innovation up to this point, however, is actually a positive that we can use in our favour.

Louisville's smart cities agenda includes using IFTTT to monitor air quality.
Louisville’s smart cities agenda includes using IFTTT to monitor air quality.

“In Australia, we are better situated than anyone else at the moment because we’ve got 10 years worth of lessons learnt from others going before us advancing a national smart cities plan,” Beck said.

One of the cities that Australia could learn from is Louisville, located in the US state of Kentucky. The city of over 750,000 residents recently implemented If This, Then That (IFTTT), an online service that allows you to automate various processes around internet-connected devices, services and apps.

Beck explained that the city of Louisville connected its air quality devices onto IFTTT, with citizens now able to sign up to be notified when the air quality exceeds a certain level. He proposed an idea elaborating on how IFTTT could enable that move to be taken even further through the Internet of Things by connecting smart light bulbs to homes.

“If the air quality was to exceed a preset limit, then the smart light bulb on your sideboard goes from green to red. That has then picked up that there is an air quality exceedance, and in cities that are dealing with worse air quality and high rates of asthma, we start to see the fundamental power of the internet of things.”

Crucially, Beck emphasised that understanding the key to smart cities lies in actually analysing how it is that cities are built to begin with.

“Understanding how we fundamentally build cities is the start to a smart cities marketplace.

“The world is not waiting – this is happening. It’s either innovate or die.”