Driven by advancing technologies and infrastructure, smart cities have progressed passed a future concept and are now becoming a reality, with the Australian government currently initiating a new plan to “transform our cities and regional locations”.
The ‘Smart Cities Plan’ will include new mechanisms to monitor and control society with technology, including smart management of infrastructure functions, ground and air sensor devices, CCTV surveillance with facial recognition, ‘sustainable projects’ and more.
Many of the systems are already here, and over the next decade, regions across the country are set to interconnect to create a national smart grid controlled by advancing biometric technologies.
WHAT IS A ‘SMART CITY’?
By the year 2020, the number of devices connected in the Internet of Things (IoT) network is expected to double, and one major development that is already happening across the world to accommodate this increase is the ‘smart cities revolution’.
Using information and communication technologies, a ‘smart city’ aims at delivering personalised and intelligent services to residents, business, and importantly, authorities.
A smart city is officially defined under international standards as the:
“Effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens.”
A smart city uses the data from devices and IoT sensors, largely operated by AI systems, to improve people’s experience of city services, using ‘smart management’ of resources to alleviate problems like congestion, crime and pollution.
Common themes found in smart city designs include: CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities, LED ‘smart lights’ and sensors, pedestrian trackers, city movement monitoring systems, and ‘environmental analysis’ to understand air quality such as dust, pollution and temperature.
The technology to create this type of smart city is already available and in use around the world, including rubbish bins that compost themselves, street lights that dim when they’re not needed and brighten when pedestrians walk by, moment sensors and apps advising live data and much more.
An increasing number of countries are building cities from scratch using technological innovation to achieve more ‘sustainable urban development’, such as Forest City in Malaysia, Belmont Smart City in the United States and the Sino-Oman Industrial City as examples.
Australia hasn’t been left behind in this race either, and thanks to new initiatives being introduced by the federal government, the country is now putting in place infrastructure that will facilitate development of smart cities across the nation.
The Australian government has committed to a new “Smart Cities Plan”. The plan sets out the government’s vision for ‘productive and liveable cities’ that encourage ‘innovation and growth’.
The four-year program has been designed to improve the ‘livability’ of Australian cities and suburbs using technology and a relatively new concept – “open data”.
A key focus of smart cities is on harnessing this type of data. That is, encouraging organisations to put their data in the public domain for others to use.
The new plan represents a new framework for cities policy at the federal level, and it that will guide action across various portfolios to deliver sustainable outcomes for our cities, the people who live in them and all Australians:
The Smart Cities Plan sets out the Australian government’s vision for our cities, and it includes three pillars: Smart Investment, Smart Policy and Smart Technology.
The first round of the program saw half of the total $50 million funded for 52 smart city initiatives, allocated across all states and territories, supporting the delivery of innovative city projects that “improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of cities and towns across Australia”.
Second round of funding has also concluded, providing local government agencies and bodies a total of $22 million, with grants of $250,000 to $5 million to support projects that apply innovative technology-based solutions to urban challenges.
Since then, Australian telcos have been leading the introductions of the technologies across the country, including Optus at the Royal Botanical Gardens and Telstra’s assistance with plans in Launceston.
Global networking giants have also been pushing into Australian smart cities technology, including Huawei’s Intelligent Operation Centre, Cisco’s smart cities “alliance” with KPMG Australia and Nokia’s smart cities framework.
The government fully admits that the new initiative is part of Australia’s significant contribution toward achievement of Agenda 2030 ‘Sustainable Development Goal’ 11.
What’s the connection between smart cities and sustainability? A push for cleaner water, zero waste, smart transport, better engagement with communities and infrastructure control.
Couple with a sophisticated surveillance grid to monitor and control the created environment, a UN-driven desire to make Australian cities more ‘livable and prosperous’ is driving the integration of information technology into city management programs at this very moment.
The following list gives a brief overview of current smart city initiatives currently across Australia. A full list of projects can be found by clicking here.
The Australian government has already provided 52 projects across the nation with $28.5 million in shared funding, with a second round of applications currently being accepted.
New surveillance technology that will be able to recognise your face, tell your gender and track your movements is being introduced in Perth as part of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.
The technology, now in use at Perth airport, will be tested by the City of Perth as part of a new $1 million smart cities trial in the region.
According to reports, the first “smart” video surveillance cameras will be switched on in East Perth, and will be able to recognise your face, tell your gender and track your movements.
The city’s trial will be limited to near the Matagarup Bridge leading to Optus Stadium, and if successful, will be rolled out across the city’s vast network of 485 CCTV cameras.
The technology will allow “city authorities to be alerted if someone enters a restricted area”, and it will also “count pedestrian foot traffic” and “monitor motor vehicle traffic”.
Currently, systems have been inspired by Transperth’s $7.4 million central monitoring room, which was officially opened in 2011, including 1363 CCTV cameras monitoring more than 130 million ‘annual boardings’ 24-hours a day.
The City of Perth has confirmed this week the cutting-edge technology had been installed, but is awaiting commissioning.
The #SmartDarwin project will implement city-scale smart infrastructure in Darwin, including smart lighting, parking and wifi, integrated through an open IoT platform.
Smart technology will control the infrastructure’s open data to ‘combat social and safety challenges’, driven by the “Switching on Darwin” initiative.
According to the official website, the $10M project will deliver smart technology to ‘encourage innovative solutions’ and ‘enhance community life’.
Current programs of the technologies include “138 CCTV cameras in the CBD”, “microclimate monitoring systems” and “a smart city platform” for all citizens of Darwin.
A number of additional CCTV cameras are being installed along The Esplanade, in Mitchell, Smith and Cavenagh Streets, as well as at key intersections in the CBD.
Currently, the NT government says the new technology does not include facial recognition capabilities, however the government has modelled the system based on similar technologies used in China, according to reports.
The “Melbourne as a smart city” project has already seen the establishment of open data platforms that have almost 100 unique data sets that are available for anyone to access and use.
Through an open data platform, you can view real time city data at any time.
Current programs of the technologies include “emerging technology testbeds”, “open innovation competition” and “free public wi-fi systems”.
One of the most striking elements of Melbourne’s new smart city features is what they describe as a ‘pedestrian counting system’ to track ‘anonymous’ numbers of individual movements.
Furthermore, the City of Melbourne has played an important role in collaborating with government agencies, telecommunications providers, local businesses, startups, researchers and industry partners to ensure the rollout of 5G and IoT to the community in 2020.
The city is has also installed a network of 50 sensor-equipped rubbish bins that report to garbage truck operators when they are at 70 percent capacity, and a SmartGuide parking system in the city helps in detecting occupancy status of parking spaces.
The Sunshine Coast Council has adopted the Smart City Framework and Smart City Implementation Program (SCIP), partnering with Cisco and Telstra to develop a Smart City Framework for the Maroochydore City Centre Priority Development Area (PDA) and the region.
Smart City technologies currently at work in the region can be found in the new Smart Centre.
According to the official website, a three-year rolling program of smart city solutions is outlined to be installed at key locations across the region.
The Smart City Framework balances quality of life, economic growth and environmental sustainability, through the implementation of key technologies associated with businesses, pollution management, as well as key improvements to the transport, health and education sectors.
Some of the programs to be implemented include smart parking, power, water, waste management, transport, health, education, signage, citizens services, city Wi-Fi and lighting.
The Newcastle Smart City Program consists of a group of digital projects aimed at delivering smart services to residents across the region.
According to the official website, the main pillars of the smart initiative include: the Hunter Innovation Project, which lays the infrastructure, and the Innovation Ecosystem, which connects the networks and instrumental areas of specialisation.
This will be coupled with the Newcastle Smart City Strategy, which is a strategic planning document.
Current programs of the technologies include “driverless vehicles”, “electronic vehicle charging stations” and “sustainable tracking sensors”.
Newcastle’s infrastructure will be the Australian benchmark for integrated urban systems at a city scale, available to peers for replication nationally and internationally:
The project will deliver a “city-scale transport, energy and digital infrastructure network”, including laser-enabled roadside poles, solar and battery powered electric vehicle charge points, smart bus stops and smart parking.
Ipswich will be a testing ground for intelligent transportation innovation, with the launch of Australia’s largest cooperative intelligent transport system program: the Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative.
Council is partnering with remote piloted system technology proponents, entrepreneurs and developers who can use the ‘Smart City Data Platform’ to consider relevant challenges and co-design dynamic business solutions.
According to the official website, this will include a road testing trial and large-scale deployment of cooperative and automated technologies.
Ipswich will also be using a remote piloted system to monitor our natural environment and improve the way we survey the region.
The aim of the new smart technologies is to go beyond delivering digital technology to create a “connected community full of ideas”.
The ‘Adelaide Smart City’ initiative has recently been announced as an ecosystem of open and citizen-driven innovation and sharing, and will develop to “one of the world’s smartest cities“.
The council has been installing advanced digital technology into city functions, services and infrastructure, to improve the functionality and integration of the entire city and economy.
According to the official website, a network of sensors are being installed around the CBD to support ‘Smart City Projects’, such as smart city lighting, smart parking, smart environmental monitoring, smart waste bins, and a smart city studio, for innovators to build products and services.
Technology will help better manage things like energy consumption, carbon emissions and the movement of people, enabling government to ‘create experiences’ for residents and visitors alike.
Adelaide has been marked the first ‘Lighthouse City’ in Australia and the Asia Pacific region, with the latest TelePresence video conferencing technology in the Adelaide Smart City Studio for participants anywhere in the city or the world.
PATH THAT FOLLOWS
Ultimately, these fragmented projects will develop and connect together to make up the smart city vision, and we are already seeing small examples of this come to light.
One example includes the University of New South Wales (UNSW) making new partnerships to investigate the potential of smart cities and energy storage systems.
The group will achieve this by leading Australia’s first fully integrated smart city trial in partnership with Providence Asset Group (PAG) and Tamworth City Council.
The trial will be the first based on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and include applications across transport, energy, health, telecommunications and other community services.
The community will include traffic lights that communicate with autonomous vehicles, smart roads that collect rain water and aged care facilities that transmit information about residents to hospitals:
Each piece of the puzzle will eventually link the entire east coast of Australia and further beyond, with an AI-controlled smart grid that will be monitored by authorities.
Many experts have expressed concerns over the privacy and freedom intrusions new smart city technologies will propose, including references to the misuse of power currently seen in China.
In China, smart tech is tackling everything from resource management, environmental issues and traffic congestion, to welfare systems and the lack of social trust.
Connected, next-generation vending machines, smart lockers in high-rise/multi-tenant buildings, Wi-Fi trackers, surveillance cameras and QR-code transactions, characterise China’s ‘smart cities’.
The origins of China’s smart cities project can be traced back to the mid-1990s, when the urban ‘Eighth Gold Plan’ was launched, and a nationwide informational infrastructure developed.
In 2011, smart city initiatives were officially set out in China’s 12th Five Year Plan, a guideline for China’s economic development.
In 2018, China had about 500 smart city pilots, outnumbering all other countries combined.
These smart city initiatives have been instrumental in the development of China’s draconian social credit system, which has instituted a digital dictatorship that has led to restrictions on movements and behaviours in Chinese society.
We have expressed concerns that China’s ‘Social Credit System’ may soon reach Australia.
Certainly, after investigating the Australian government’s ‘smart city’ initiative, it is evident that advanced technologies needed to introduce a similar model domestically – CCTV with facial recognition, movement sensors, 5G – are being established.
Australians must contact their local governments and councils immediately to voice concerns about these plans to ‘transform’ the country into the coming ‘Era of Sustainability’.
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