Leveraging data to make informed decisions

Australia’s high level of urbanisation of 77 per cent greatly exceeds the global average, making it a fertile ground for smart city projects. The Australian Government released a Smart Cities Plan in 2016 and offered $50M in grants to support the plan. Yet many challenges remain, writes Léon Langlais.

Léon Langlais

A recent UniSA study found that more than half of surveyed households didn’t understand what a smart city is and how it could benefit them.

When making technological investments, some Australian states and local area governments and agencies struggle to move public safety and smart city initiatives forward. 

The challenges stem from a few common trends: the need for transparency, department silos and data overload. How can Australia’s large cities and municipalities continue to advance urban life and protect their communities?

We need to become smarter to improve public safety, gain community trust, and leverage data to make informed decisions.

From an operational perspective, there needs to be visibility so authorities and operators can see what is happening and quickly react to situations where public safety is at risk or access to services is compromised.

Foundations of an effective smart cities strategy

Successful smart city projects are not technology projects. They are multi-disciplinary programs of work that engage with citizen representatives, law enforcement, transport teams, emergency services, traffic departments and city planners, as well as technology experts. 

Those experts identify the goals for the smart city program. For example, a key issue that might be identified is public safety in a specific area. Or it might be pedestrian traffic congestion following events. It may be the cost of lighting areas that are not frequented at night. As well as thinking about immediate issues, it’s important to look ahead and forecast opportunities.

What might be needed if the number of trains to a station is doubled? What if the population living in a central business district doubles? Or if the number of office workers changes drastically? While it might be tempting to jump straight to solution mode to remedy a specific problem, it’s important to start by understanding the broad spectrum of issues that the program will address.

Think about platforms and principles, not solutions

Solving any problem is a three step process. It starts by gathering data about the problem, then analysing and processing that data and finally making a decision. Once the decision is made, the process restarts to ensure the decision was correct and to look for ways to refine and improve. 

In a smart city, that data can come from myriad sources. There may be light and air quality sensors, traffic and safety cameras, traffic monitoring systems, weather data and major event schedules. Those different data sources brought together into a single platform and integrated to drive better planning and decision-making.

That platform must be created with privacy and security as a core element. It is important that stakeholders retain complete control over the data that is collected, handled, and shared. It’s also important to inform the public about how your city collects and uses data.

Once all that data is centralised in a secure platform, it needs to be made usable for decision making. Given the volume of data, the velocity at which it is collected and the variety of different sources, the platform needs to be backed with powerful analytics.

Collaborate and break silos

The value of information that is collected, stored and analysed multiplies when it is shared and enables collaboration. Sharing data enables stakeholders to gain deeper insights into each other’s operations and identify opportunities to serve your community better together. It will provide opportunities for more meaningful engagement between city managers, businesses and citizens.

A data-driven view of a city enables decisions to be made based on facts rather than instincts. It enables cities to make decisions using data they are, most likely, already collecting but have not integrated into a central platform. It enables stakeholders to see trends that are developing and prepare for the future proactively.

*Léon Langlais is Chief Product Officer APAC, at Genetec

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at editorial@governmentnews.com.au.  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required