Smart places, the 2020 greatest hits

By Adam Beck | Program Lead, Future of Place

As 2021 marches on, the Smart Cities Council wonders what the year might bring in terms of leading smart places projects.

Just six months ago the Smart Cities Council Awards recognised three projects with acknowledgement under the program's 'Future of Place' category. These are summarised below.

As the 2021 Awards call for submissions gets closer (September 2021), we reflect on those who have set the benchmark on how technology and data can be an enabler for creating more sustainable, liveable and prosperous places for people.

Lake Macquarie City Council: Smart Beaches (Winner)

Lake Macquarie City Council developed the Smart Beaches initiative in partnership with Northern Beaches Council and the University of Technology Sydney and funded by the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. The primary aim of Smart Beaches was to use technology and data to support lifeguard risk assessment and management, allowing them to focus on their primary role of protecting public safety.

From the outset, Smart Beaches adopted a collaborative approach, involving 25 partners including government, coastal experts, technology providers, analysts, artists and entrepreneurs. A Community of Practice has been formed to share ongoing learnings and opportunities for collaboration between local and international beach managers. The solutions implemented at trial beaches will continue and expand to more beaches over time. The Smart Beaches project’s emphasis on collaboration has critically enabled government, industry and community stakeholders to be readily involved in the design of the project.

As a partnership between stakeholders from different backgrounds, it offered broader insights to develop a relevant and creative program which not only improves safety for their own community but is scaleable to communities around the world.

City of Canning: Wharf Street Basin (Highly Commended)

Located in the Canning City Centre, Wharf Street Basin, a stormwater basin, has been redeveloped into a new public Next Generation Community Park. The City of Canning and its funding partners in conjunction with Curtin University used landscape design and technology solutions to create a recreational space incorporating a new approach to stormwater management. The technology in the park measures water quality, weather conditions and power use in real time.

Data collected from sensors in the park is available online for the public, researchers and other local governments to view and use. An augmented reality app allows visitors to play games and learn about stormwater while using the park. Curtin University is using the project as a research topic to develop a report on stormwater management and its impact on urban regeneration. The findings will then inform the transformation of similar sites in Perth.

The project is a quantifiable example of a smaller LGA undertaking an ambitious program of repurposing pre-existing council infrastructure into a public space with outstanding results. Wharf Street Basin is now a public space engaging community members through interactive data and activities as well as progressing data collation for further research.

Christchurch City Council: EQRNet (Highly Commended)

Christchurch City Council in collaboration with Canterbury Seismic Instruments Ltd (CSI) developed EQRNET - a technology delivered 'as a service' that can measure earthquake shaking levels and individual buildings’ ground shaking data.

This facilitates the rapid assessment of a building and provides real-time evacuation guidance for managers, ensuring employees and citizens in Christchurch have a more liveable city where they feel safe to live and work. EQRNet is an essential infrastructure for cities with high degrees of seismic activity, as having this technology and data to connect different stakeholders in real-time enables organisations to make smart and fast decisions.

EQRNet also has a significant impact on the economy by preventing economic losses caused by earthquakes and in addition, creates a space for local companies to showcase their technological advancements globally.

The project began with trialling 10 sensors in 2017 and now there are more than 150 sensors installed across Christchurch. The Council has established an effective partnership with CSI and both parties are jointly responsible for creating an effective and affordable solution that can be replicated across New Zealand. The proactive leadership of Christchurch City Council in responding to the omnipresent threat of seismic activity to community safety and economic stability showcasing how investing in technological projects can radically improve the quality of life for the community and for the nation.

The Smart Cities Council 2021 awards will again include the 'Future of Place' category, seeking to recognise best practice projects that embrace technology and data enablers to accelerate place outcomes.

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