Darwin, SE Queensland to join smart city fold

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Monday, 04 March, 2019

Darwin, SE Queensland to join smart city fold

The federal government’s City Deal initiatives are spreading across the land, with Darwin and South East Queensland the latest to join the smart communities revolution.

The smart city revolution is being expanded to more Australian cities, with Darwin set to deploy a number of new and expanded technologies as part of a City Deal agreement with Canberra, and negotiations underway for another City Deal in South East Queensland.

Starting at the top of the country, the federal and Northern Territory governments and the City of Darwin have announced the $10 million Switching on Darwin strategy, which involves the rollout of smart technologies across the city by May 2019.

Half of the project’s $10 million budget will be provided by the federal government, with the territory government and the city itself splitting the remaining $5 million expenditure equally.

The investment will include the deployment of technologies such as sensors for monitoring vehicle and pedestrian movement, CCTV upgrades, an extended city Wi-Fi network and a new micro-climate monitoring system.

As part of the project, Telstra has been appointed to deliver a suite of smart technologies in the city centre such as LED smart lighting, smart parking, Wi-Fi, CCTV and video analytics. The company has already commenced the installation of smart sensor LED lighting at Bicentennial Park.

The project is aimed at promoting sustainability, delivering more efficient council services and helping curb antisocial behaviour.

More than 900 new LED lights will be installed within the City of Darwin’s boundaries. Each light will can be individually dimmed or brightened remotely, either programmatically or on an ad hoc basis.

The lights will sense changes to light levels and brighten or dim as required, and will have the potential to be adjusted at the request of police to help deter crime or brighten the area for an event. As well as the smart street lighting functionality, the upgrade is expected to reduce energy consumption per light by around half by switching from 80-watt conventional bulbs to 45-watt LEDs.

The project will also include an expansion of the city’s free Wi-Fi network to other high-traffic areas, provided by Telstra Air, as well as more CCTV surveillance cameras that will stream live video to NT Police’s monitoring area.

Besides increasing public safety, data from the cameras will be used to monitor vehicle and pedestrian movement data for improved city planning.

Likewise, a network of 24 sensors will be deployed around the city to monitor factors including humidity, rain levels and other weather data, CO2, dust and and air pollution levels, and noise levels. Data from the sensors will be used for improved planning and service delivery. The data will also be made available at no charge to organisations on request, with key data published on the City of Darwin website.

The Switching on Darwin strategy forms part of the $200 million Darwin City Deal between the federal, territory and local governments.

The City Deal will also involve initiatives including constructing a new education and civic precinct that will have as its centrepiece a new city campus for Charles Darwin University, and using thermal imaging and drone aerial monitoring to map the city’s hottest areas so that heat mitigation technologies can be deployed.

The initiative is also a key component of the City of Darwin’s #SmartDarwin Strategy, through which the council is seeking to transform Darwin into a digital and data-enabled city.

The strategy envisions the adoption of a wide range of new technologies over the next three years. During the first phase ending this year, this will include video analytics for captured CCTV video, the deployment of an open data platform, automatic water and gas leak detection, and the use of device proximity and location insight technologies for improved urban planning.

More long-term initiatives will include the deployment of a smart digital kiosk providing council information and interaction, a mobile app for providing location-based council information and feeding back analytic data to the city, and the adoption of power consumption and public inventory monitoring technologies.

The strategy also includes a number of smart transport initiatives. These involve the introduction of automated optimisation of traffic flows based on demand, the use of GPS to track and report public transport positioning in real time and the deployment of vehicle fleet communications to enable tracking, usage monitoring and theft protection of publicly owned vehicles.

Finally, the strategy calls for the council to monitor emerging trends in order to identify areas for future technology-based transformation. Potential examples listed in the strategy include the use of drones to autonomously deliver goods, act as first responders during emergencies, survey development areas and assist in providing maintenance services on public assets.

Other potential areas of interest include the deployment of autonomous vehicles, the provision of augmented reality headsets that will provide location-based information for tourists and council workers, and the use of cameras and sensors to monitor road quality to enable preventive maintenance.

South East Queensland

Meanwhile, the federal government is working with the Queensland Government and South East Queensland local councils to develop a city deal for this region as well.

In February, the Queensland Government and the Council of Mayors SEQ published a proposal designed to act as a blueprint for the proposed city deal. The TransformingSEQ report identifies 35 opportunities that could be considered in negotiations for a city deal.

These include six “transformational” opportunities, which cover areas including establishing innovation precincts to develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Another transformational opportunity involves leveraging the $35 million Sunshine Coast International Broadband Submarine Cable. The new subsea internet cable is being deployed by the Sunshine Coast Council and RTI Connectivity, and has been designed to deliver Australia’s fastest connection to Asia and second fastest to the US when it comes online in 2020.

The proposal involves leveraging this new infrastructure to deliver a digital trade hub aimed at establishing the region as a key centre for the data protection, blockchain and cybersecurity segments, while encouraging further investment in R&D for future technologies.

Other proposed digital initiatives include establishing a region-wide sensor network and accompanying data analytics platform to enable real-time decision-making, pursuing opportunities to transform South East Queensland as a leading region for the adoption of 5G mobile technology, and making efforts to reduce red tape to foster the development of SMEs in the region.

The report also recommends developing a South East Queensland Digital Twin, which would act as a dynamic 3D representation of the region based on currently disparate spatial data. The Digital Twin would enable both government and industry to better plan, manage and integrate infrastructure projects and spatial activities.

Finally, the report proposes that the City Deal could provide an impetus for all levels of government to create a more agile regulatory environment that encourages innovation, and suggests the development of a prospectus for a plan to transform the region into a testbed for digital technologies and applications including drones and robotics.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/jamesteohart

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