Smart city collaboration in central Victoria

Fri, 2018-07-06 00:00 -- Chris Rowlands

"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."- H.E. Luccock

Find me the best whistler in the world and this quote still stacks up. No one can whistle Beethoven’s ninth symphony. They might nail the notes of the first violinist, but that isn’t a symphony and I’m definitely not going to pay to see it.

I want to talk about collaboration. It’s fast turning into a buzzword associated with TED talks and those business books you bought in 2015 but didn’t get to reading yet (I know I’m not the only one…).

The word collaboration didn’t emerge until around 1830. It stems from the latin word collaborare meaning to “work with” from com meaning “with” and laborare “work”.

I’ve recently been a part of establishing a great collaborare in Bendigo, a relatively small regional city. Bendigo is home to around 100,000 people and has some fantastic smaller neighbouring communities.

This collaboration between the City of Greater Bendigo, La Trobe University and Coliban Water is building a community Internet of Things (IoT) network. The network will be completed and working later in 2018, with the capability to cover virtually the entire city and handle close to 400,000 sensors.

Pretty impressive given 12 months ago, most people in the team didn’t know much about IoT, let alone setting up a community wide network.

Humans have always been resourceful, innovative and collaborative but sometimes that is easily missed when people and organisations are not attached to the place they call home.

There is something about Bendigo that has made this project (and many others) incredibly fun and easy to run with. It might be the people, it might be their values or it might just be the fact that they love the place they live and are willing to pitch in. It’s hard to say for sure – but whatever it is it’s working.

Astronomers have a term that they use to describe the location of planets that hold the potential for liquid water (and therefore, life) to exist on their surface - the Goldilocks Zone, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

I like to say Bendigo falls in the Goldilocks Zone for collaboration. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s just right.

It’s not so big we lose sight of one another and what we’re doing for the city, but it’s not so small that we don’t have enough expertise, weight, ambition or capacity to work together on something great.

An IoT network is just a small step toward better community outcomes through data in a smarter Bendigo. Creating these outcomes through the Smart City approach is not the task of one business, one level of government or one non-profit. It shouldn’t be a competitive, secretive or exclusive race to the top of an imaginary podium.

It is a collaborative effort among people, organisations, businesses, communities, states, cities and countries. It’s about reaching out to the right whistlers to join the orchestra and nail that symphony.


This article was written by Chris Rowlands, Strategic Planner at the City of Greater Bendigo specialising in Transport and Smart Cities projects and a member of the Smart Cities Council Emerging Innovators. The views expressed therein are entirely his own.