First Smart Cities funding announced

Darwin to get ‘switched on’

The Australian Government has made its first grants under its Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

The grants are to Darwin to ‘switch on’ the city, and to a number of smaller projects in Perth. The program, announced in March 2017 has earmarked $50 million for projects across Australia, with 40 percent of the total to be located in regional areas.

Darwin is the big winner from the first round of grants, with $5 million awarded to the City of Darwin and the Northern Territory Government, who will each contribute $2.5 million to the $10 million project.

The money will pay for the installation of CCTV cameras at entrances to the city and on Daly Street and Bennett Street in the CBD. Street lighting will be upgraded to LED lighting and on ‘smart’ columns with the capacity to adjust lighting to reduce street crime.

In Bicentennial Park along the Darwin foreshore, smart lighting will include sound monitoring to detect people in distress and potentially notify policy and emergency services.

No mention was made in the announcement of the fact that the ‘street crime’ and ‘people in distress’ are mostly homeless or indigenous people. The NT Government has recently announced a program to address ‘anti-social itinerant behaviour’ on Darwin’s streets.

Homeless (‘itinerant’) Aborigines (‘indigenous people’) hanging around the streets, often drunk and engaging in petty street crime, is a major problem in Darwin. In September a video of a shop owner using a hose to move one in the centre of town caused a minor storm.

Darwin’s free city Wi-fi network will also be expanded in key tourist and shopping areas. Smart parking sensors will indicate available parking, intended to reduce congestion and emissions.

Perth has also been awarded $6 million in technology grants under the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. It supplements $9 million from the LGAs in which the projects are located, bringing the total value of the announcements to $15 million:

  • City of Fremantle: renewable energy generation and storage, rainwater storage and distribution, and an electric vehicle shared ownership trial ($8.26 million).
  • City of Perth: communications precinct around the new Perth Stadium (to be called Optus Stadium after a recent ten year $50 million naming rights deal) and an irrigation trial in public parks ($2.63 million).
  • City of Joondalup: monitoring system to better manage the Yellagonga Wetlands ($2.05 million).
  • University of Western Australia and the City of Wanneroo: real-time rail patronage data to improve development of rail station precincts along the Metronet extension ($1 million).
  • City of Gosnells: real-time data on thermal performance of newly built homes, to encourage the uptake of energy efficiency measures for new housing developments ($265,000).
  • RAC WA with the City of South Perth: trial of driverless electric shuttles to reduce congestion ($980,000).

There will be 52 projects around Australia in the $28.5 million allocated under the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, with other projects to be announced soon. The second round of funding will open in the first half of 2018.

The Australian Smart Communities Association (ASCA) welcomed the announcements and said they “indicate a growing realisation in government circles that smart technologies will positively transform our communities.

“We look forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure that Australia is a global leader in the deployment of smart technologies,” said newly appointed ASCA CEO Laurie Patton.

“While there’s already a good deal of energy at local government level we’ll need Canberra and the states and territories on board if we are to become world class, so we applaud the Federal Government on this project.

“ASCA is committed to fostering informed debate and greater collaboration across all sectors involved in this exciting area of social policy.”

Originally established as the Broadband Alliance, ASCA started as a collaborative coalition of local government, Regional Development Associations and Regional Organisations of Councils. It describes itself as the ‘peak industry association in Australia supporting the rapidly developing digital, sharing and interconnected communities’.

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