Auckland's smart city plan: a clever combination of consolidation and sharing

Sat, 2017-10-21 10:28 -- Doug Peeples

A master plan for smart city transformations and development is a major undertaking for any city, but Auckland had a particular challenge to deal with before it could make meaningful progress.

The Auckland Council expects to release its master plan by year end, along with what city ICT Manager Mark Denvir described as a "traditional ICT strategy." It's taken a lot of work to get to this point. In an IoT HUB article, Denvir explained that the Auckland Council was formed in 2010 by combining seven local councils. Consolidation has been a primary focus since then.

"We had seven of everything. All of my resources have been focussed on consolidating everything to build a solid base. Now we are starting to look at the future: big data, IoT, etc." He added that smart city initiatives had been led by the chief strategy and planning officer rather than IT. "We now have joint governance over smart city issues and going through that process we've discovered what smart people in the organisation are doing: there was some IoT, some analytics with third party engineering firms and I started to build a suite of use cases for IoT and analytics."

Scalability and sharing data
Denvir offered an example of what he and the council want to avoid in the future: the city's safe swim program monitors the water at Auckland beaches for pollution, but that data is unavailable for other uses — a problem the council is correcting.

"We are also trying to monitor storm water with sensors that will go through the storm water pipes and assess capacity. Then we could take in rain forecast information and get ahead of the curve on flood events. We could manage maintenance schedules and make sure we are putting our resources where they are needed," he added.

A primary goal for the council is to ensure that valuable data is available to the community, and easily shared and obtained. As Denvir pledged, "We will provide governance to make sure data is used and managed correctly. We want to make sure we can bring in our data and others can bring in theirs."

The council also has been working with a subsidiary of Council Global Lead Partner Hitachi on a better way to monitor temperatures in food refrigeration equipment at grocery stores. To comply with regulations, companies have been using outdated methods. "Often that's with pen and paper. If we are lucky, an Excel spread sheet," Denvir said, adding that Hitachi's recommendation to install sensors in the refrigeration equipment and employ data analytics has been an effective solution and quickly implemented.

Doug Peeples is a writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartcitiesanz on Twitter.