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Why Australia needs to invest in smart cities

Rob Bryant
March 22, 2021

Growing urbanisation is driving demand for more infrastructure. With 68 percent of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, adding more than 2.5 billion people, it’s crucial for governments to address the growing urban sprawl.

As governments are put under increased pressure to generate higher return on investment (ROI) on infrastructure projects, smart infrastructure and Internet of Things (IoT) present a lucrative opportunity for greater capitalisation of public assets. According to IDC, the APAC region will soon make up 11.8 percent of global spending on smart cities.

Through asset monitoring via smart sensors, communities can see improved network traffic, energy, air quality, mobility and public infrastructure assets among many other benefits. The technology can be added to existing infrastructure to boost ROI on previous investments and also implemented into new developments to guarantee long-term ROI, improve resource allocation and generate new revenue streams.

But the successful realisation of smart city projects depends heavily on a successful construction process with multiple factors needing to be considered and managed at one time.

As one of the slowest industries to adopt technology, one of the major challenges for the construction sector in building a smart city is the general lack of knowledge around connected data and what it can do. But connected data is key to driving the success of a smart city.

The construction of the WestConnex smart highway in NSW for instance demonstrates how connected data becomes just as critical as the physical aspect of a build. Using a digital twin – a data-backed replica of a project – project owners can see how the asset is constructed and what they need to consider as they plan and budget maintenance works too.

Smart sensor systems allow for real-time data collection resulting in faster response times to what is occurring on the road. These systems include managing the rate which vehicles enter the motorway at particular points and varying speed limits based on real-time traffic monitoring.

By leveraging real-time data collected from IoT devices, decision-makers can review and make changes with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to solve large scale, complex problems. For example, city managers can monitor traffic flow, track noise levels, and even air quality to make data-backed adjustments.

Successful smart cities

Leading the way in smart city design is Singapore, ranked number one by the IMD World Competitiveness Centre. The country’s Smart Nation initiative was launched in 2014 with an aim to create a city powered by digital innovation and technology responsive to citizen’s needs.

Singapore’s utilities management system for instance has the ability to monitor overall household energy and water consumption. Individuals can access real-time usage patterns while receiving tips and set targets to reduce energy and water usage, appliances may also be switched on or off remotely.

Another city taking the smart route is Chennai, India. Driving innovation in traffic management, Chennai is home to one of the largest parking management systems in the country. It uses camera-based systems that have the ability to identify empty parking spots on the road. Citizens can use an app to reserve their parking spot in advance which, subsequently reduces traffic congestion.

But planning, funding, and gaining approval for a smart city project can be a timely process, with short-term mindsets often blocking smart city investments. Yet developers can speed this up by utilising existing smart technology such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) which uses IoT services to provide a visual representation of an entire project. This can take into account multiple factors such as costs, schedules and manufacturers, thus, by leveraging available real-time data and connected technologies, project managers can make informed decisions to increase collaboration between stakeholders and maximise capital.

By investing in smart cities, governments can keep up with the needs of a rapidly growing population. Through leveraging connected data, project managers can reduce the risk of siloed departments and budget overruns. Existing smart cities are already demonstrating their ability to learn and evolve alongside citizens by collecting real-time feedback and embracing smart technology to generate long-term economic and social value.

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Rob Bryant
Rob Bryant is the Executive Vice President of APAC for InEight, a global leader in integrated project controls software across infrastructure, public sector, energy and power, oil, gas and chemical, mining, and commercial. InEight has powered more than $400 billion in projects globally, including more than $100 billion worth of Australia-based projects.
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