A mobile future for a smart Australia

Australia has a population based largely in cities scattered throughout the country, and moving forward we will need smart thinking and solutions to improve mobility for citizens. What is the country doing about it, asks Kevin Griffen.

Kevin Griffen

Public sector smart mobility schemes can transform urban transportation throughout the APAC region. Australia has recognised the importance of these initiatives and is taking action through the use of technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics tools.

With people growing older and living longer, there is a need to provide mobility services appropriate to them. Reducing accidents on the roads is always a key target for governments too, and at the heart of smart mobility projects. There are other supplemental benefits and reasons to overhaul existing mobility services for citizens.

What is Australia doing about it?

A significant move was made by the Australian government in late 2018, when it established the Office of Future Transport Technologies. This office is designed to help prepare the country for the imminent arrival of automated vehicles and other transport innovations, and the initial stage has seen it funded with AU$9.7 million investment.

The office will have a focus on automated vehicle technologies, but also on other transport and mobility technologies that can make life better for all Australians. General transport and road safety improvements are its core goals, and sensibly so, as it has been estimated that the cost of road accidents in Australia reaches as much as AU$27 billion each year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack has said that “Australian governments and industry need to collaborate effectively to develop the right policy, regulation and infrastructure, to adapt to future technology use. Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government.”

The Australian future transport market was valued at AU$211 million in 2016 but the industry has been forecast to generate over AU$16 billion in revenue by 2025.

Meeting growing demand with smart mobility

Transforming something as well-established as transport and mobility takes some innovative thinking to overcome the challenges: over the next 30 years Australia’s population will grow to around 36 million people, about equivalent to adding a city around the size of Canberra to the country every year over the next 3 decades. Three-quarters of this growth will supplement the biggest cities, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, meaning, in the case of Sydney for example, an additional 2.5 million daily journeys on the city’s road networks. Congestion is a big cost centre to productivity and to the economy in Australia, since it reduces access to jobs and skilled labor. Research has estimated that it could potentially cost Australia as much as AU$53 billion by 2031 if nothing is done about it.

Further to that, there will be around a million additional daily journeys on Sydney’s public transport network. So, government has identified the need to increase capacity on public transport networks and get more out of existing infrastructure. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is one potential way forward and is being explored by the Australian government.

Mobility as a Service?

MaaS is still a relatively fledgling idea, but it proposes an on-demand, digital-powered model that could transform mobility in Australian cities. The sharing economy has been a central element of the digital transformation of Australia, and MaaS is evident in the rise of companies offering ride-sharing services for cars, bikes, buses and even peer-to-peer (P2P) rides. Australia’s 16 car sharing providers have been estimated to generate around AU$70 million in annual revenue at last count and the industry is growing at around 30 percent per year.

Other digital solutions for smart mobility

Artificial intelligence (AI) has a part to play in transforming mobility, with AI already present in intelligent public transport management systems, smart junction management and next-generation video monitoring and analytics tools.

Intelligent public transport management systems use automated trains and buses in order to maximise the number of passengers and reduce journey times, with travellers able to pay for the services using their smartphones. Smart junction management uses sensors to gauge traffic levels and adjusts light patterns accordingly, and also focus on saving drivers and public transport users significant amounts of travel time. Smart junctions also make life safer for pedestrians.

Next-generation video monitoring and analytics systems can be used to quickly and automatically understand massive volumes of data and generate insights, for example in detecting potential problems in real time and initiate appropriate counter-measures or emergency services. The net impact can be a huge positive impact on overall safety.

Real world examples already in play

In Ipswich, Australia, the Smart City Program in place already includes smart parking and transport, smart lighting and energy management, autonomous lawn mowing and automation. The scheme is based on an open data plan that makes data accessible to the public via online portals, meaning anyone and everyone is able to participate and co-create solutions for the benefit of everyone.

Great strides are also being made in Internet of Things (IoT) projects: in Australia, the number of companies using IoT tools and solutions grew from 12 per cent in 2013 to 29 percent in 2017, with transport and logistics the leading industry for IoT usage. Technology is taking hold in Australia’s mobility sector.

Innovation will power Australia’s urban transportation systems into the future, and digital technology-based solutions are central to that mission. The smart mobility market in the APAC region is set to grow significantly, and tools like AI, analytics and IoT will be at the heart of intelligent public transport management systems, smart junction management and many other offerings that will likely become standard in the near future. Safety, efficiency, citizen experience and sustainability will be the watchwords of smart mobility in Australia, which will be powered by digital technology.

Kevin Griffen is Managing Director Australasia for Orange Business Services

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