City of Sydney Insights: Visualising a ‘Smart City’

Insights from City of Sydney's Smart City Lead at CityDisrupt, Sydney.

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Smart cities are emerging all around the world, with the likes of London, Singapore, and Tokyo leading the way.

But what makes them smart?

Kate Deacon, Smart City Lead at the City of Sydney, believes that contrary to popular belief, a successful smart city should revolve around its citizens, not technology.

During her presentation at CityDisrupt, Sydney in September, she said:

“A smart city really isn’t about technology at all. Cities are first and foremost, for people and a smart city plan needs to start with the people.”

In order for it to be successful, the government’s focus needs to be on the liveability of the city instead of just promoting the fanciest upgrades or most expensive transport solutions.

“Liveability really is at the heart of what a future successful city looks like. It’s not really one that has ubiquitous technology; it’s one that harnesses that technology to deliver benefits for the community.”

Deacon stressed the need for future infrastructure to be flexible and prepare for multiple possibilities. In drawing a comparison to from the 1980s where Deacon showcased the significant drop in population with 25% of offices vacant, urban planners thought it would be unlikely that there would be an increase of work.

At that time, the local government of City of Sydney had a population of 50,000; but has now quadrupled in more or less the same amount of space. Deacons believes with building the infrastructure of the future, it’s vital to keep in mind how far Sydney has come.

According to Deacon, the most pressing challenge for Sydney is population growth, expectations in 2051 that Sydney’s population will project 2.56 million or 91% of NSW’s population held solely in the coastal city.

As the population grows, this also means that there is a greater demand for quality infrastructure.

Therefore, institutions like education and health need to be able to provide a better quality for a wider range of people. Reinforcing the need to upgrade current processes and infrastructure to cater for the foreseeable future.

Deacon believes there are two key factors to success.

The first is collaboration between different agencies, from local government and state government to working with academic institutions as well.

Deacon provides the example of placing wi-fi around Sydney. The local government doesn’t have access to provide wi-fi in areas like the Sydney Opera House, so it doesn’t do much good if a tourist steps out of the boundary and loses internet access.

These type of situations mean that it’s essential that all organisations work together to assist citizens and create a seamless experience throughout the city.

The second, is that smart cities need to foster innovation from within the department to build the infrastructure of tomorrow and create Sydney as a leader in smart cities.