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Smart cities

Councils need to be smart about Smart Cities

Posted on February 13th, 2018 in Local State Government

The government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program is helping localities of all sizes in all parts of Australia to boost efficiency, save money and prepare for future growth.

This $50 million program supports the adoption of smart technologies in communities to enhance the quality of life. But not all tech is created equal, and local governments need to plan carefully to make the most of this opportunity.

What will Smart Cities look like?

The Smart Cities and Suburbs being built today are just the first phase in an ongoing modernisation program that will make Australia’s neighbourhoods and public spaces safer, more convenient and more desirable places to live and work.

At present, Smart City initiatives are centred around Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as sensors and touchscreens fitted to public utilities. As technology matures and becomes more affordable to local councils, expect to see self-driving public transport and drones performing delivery services and surveillance.

What are the benefits?

A well-designed Smart City project improves the liveability, productivity and sustainability of cities and towns. This is achieved by:

  • Helping the community – Smart initiatives can do more than just serve constituents; they can also make positive changes in their lives. Programs around the world have succeeded in lowering obesity rates by encouraging local residents to walk and use public transport rather than drive. Display screens can also keep people informed of local news and announcements.
  • Saving energy – Smart water, lighting and other electrical systems save energy by only activating when needed. As well as helping the environment, this also significantly reduces costs, with installations paying for themselves many times over.
  • Powering growth – With regional cities increasingly seeking to attract new residents, Smart Cities offer a competitive edge. Public services such as free Wi-Fi make a destination very attractive for residents, while businesses are drawn to smart infrastructure that lowers their operating costs.

What are the challenges?

Smart City programs have many attractive perks, but they also bring their own set of challenges that local governments need to identify in order to resolve. These can include:

  • Poor communication – The roll-out of Smart City initiatives needs to be well-coordinated between all departments and organisations involved. This avoids problems such as compatibility issues when different systems are used, which impair efficiency and increase costs for the long term.
  • Lack of focus – A customer-centric approach needs to be taken when assessing every smart system, to determine whether it offers real value to local residents, businesses or government and addresses specified needs.
  • Longevity – Smart Cities are built for the future, not just for today. Each system needs to be future-proof as much as possible, to ensure it has a high chance of remaining relevant in the years to come and that costly replacements won’t be required.

Local governments that address these concerns will enjoy the greatest return on smart systems for the long-term.

What other challenges are facing the industry?

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Australian Government. Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.