The results from the City of Perth’s $2.6 million smart cities trials are in. What has the City learnt? We check in with Daniel High, Acting Director of Economic Development and Activation, to find out.
In 2017, the City secured a matched funding grant of $1.3 million through the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program which kick-started four projects: Smart Precinct, Smart Irrigation, Smart Sustainability and Data Hub.
The Smart Precinct trial installed CCTV-based sensors and analytics to measure vehicle and pedestrian activity around the new Matagarup Bridge and Optus Stadium.
The Smart Irrigation project replaced inefficient systems with sensors and more than 100 smart controllers that automatically adjust watering to match the weather.
The Smart Sustainability project complements this environmental monitoring with a series of water and air quality sensors close to schools and universities that help the community engage with smart cities technology.
Finally, the Data Hub is an open data portal helping citizens to make informed decisions about their businesses and stimulate innovation in Perth’s growing start-up and technology sectors.
Why is the City playing with all this technology?
“For us, it’s around efficiency and cost savings, but also about how we create shared value,” Daniel explains. So how can other local governments capture that shared value?
1. See data as an asset
The City has employed a full-time data and information manager to oversee the cleansing and aggregation of data. While there has been a lot of “blood, sweat and tears,” during the process, Daniel says the investment is paying off “and we are getting more savvy about how we work with data”.
2. Build long-term relationships with vendors
Interested vendors were invited to a special workshop during which time Daniel’s team explained “exactly how we saw our relationship working”. This eliminated companies with a “transactional approach” and identified those prepared to work with the City “on what is a long journey”.
3. Don’t get lost in the strategy
While a smart cities strategy is fundamental, it is only the starting point. “You can spend a lot of time on the strategy and not do enough to build an evidence base or knowledge about what works”. Daniel says his team’s four in-depth trials have uncovered deep learnings, a clear business case for future projects and “a really robust framework for what we do next”.
4. Create step-change in your organisation
Smart cities projects can be challenging for large, traditional organisations like local governments, Daniel says. Providing “step-change solutions” can help bring people on board “because they can see the benefits”.
5. Engage with the community
The City of Perth is actively engaging with 10 high schools, two universities and dozens of community groups, and participants in the Citizen Science Project are being encouraged to harness data to better innovate and collaborate. “We’ve treated smart cities like a footpath,” Daniel says. The smart cities network serves the local government’s purposes, “but anyone can walk on the footpath”.
6. Look to leverage learnings
Each of the City’s four pilot projects were carefully selected because they could add value to other local governments, Daniel explains. By taking an “open source” approach, the City is sharing its knowledge with its neighbours. This was pivotal in gaining early grants funding.
“There are a thousand things a city can do in the smart cities space,” Daniel adds. The secret to successful smart cities projects is to “think about the shared value for the community”.
Daniel High will join other dynamic speakers, visionary local government leaders and trail blazing technologists at Smart Cities Week from 30 October to 1 November in Sydney. Reserve your ticket today.