On place, technology isn't the answer, it's the enabler!



By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place


Contrary to common belief, smart cities is not a concept where technology is considered the answer. It never was, and never will be. But an enabler, yes indeed!


An enabler for better customer experience. An enabler for more targeted spending of tax payers money. An enabler to reduce congestion. An enabler to crunch harmful greenhouse gas emissions. An enabler to bring access to opportunity for our most vulnerable.


When we view technology and data as an enabler, the opportunity it brings is far reaching.


And yes, technology and data enhances place making and citizen experience.


Exhibit A: City of Marion (South Australia), Oaklands Precinct Upgrade.


The core goals:

  • Enhanced streetscapes

  • Better pedestrian and cyclist movement

  • Improved visitor experience


The investments in public place:

  • New playground facilities - climbing net, swings, combination play unit with slide

  • Interactive play equipment using digital engagement elements

  • New 3 on 3 basketball and netball facilities

  • Shelters powered by solar power, with integrated device charging stations

  • Nature play elements throughout

  • BBQ's that automatically inform Council of maintenance requirements and frequency of use

  • Lighting throughout that is low energy consumption and have automatic dimming sensors

  • New pedestrian connections to cultural and sporting facilities within the precinct

  • An irrigation system that senses the local climatic conditions and automatically turns on and off at the most optimal times.

  • Extensive landscaping, tree planting and turf coverage

  • Walking and cycling pathways

  • Bike storage and public toilets

  • Wayfinding signage that is dynamic, interactive and answers your questions

  • Car parking that communicates availability to users in in real time, and allows Council to understand patterns of use

  • Public art

  • Public WiFi that enable users to work outdoors

  • A local IoT network enabling additional sensors to be deployed in the future

  • A data platform that becomes the 'senses' of the place - taking the guess work out of maintenance and enhancement opportunities.

The City of Marion has, as one can see, strategically used technology and data as an enabler for better place experience, general precinct amenity and more deeply aligned their action with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


A projects that somewhat delivers the optimum blend of the most analogue, and the most digital.


The Oaklands Precinct Upgrade has now become Marion's blueprint for the future of place. A blueprint that enhances place with strategic digitally-enabled infrastructure, providing data on what's actually happening in order to deliver the best citizen experience.


The Oaklands Precinct Upgrade was a finalist in the 2020 Smart Cities Awards.

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