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Smart cities: using data to shape our urban environments

Rebecca Merrett | May 2, 2014
Organisations in Australia and overseas provide insights into how they are using information to build more intelligent cities.

Transport for NSW is also working on Automatic Crash Notification technology that lets a connected vehicle automatically call emergency services and inform staff of its location once it has crashed.

"In the US, there are a number of people who have been working at George Washington University and they have taken it one step further. They have also looked at sensor systems within the vehicle to determine how many passengers are in it. It's the kind of sensors that cause a light to flash when you are not wearing your seat belt. So [emergency services] can plan for the number of causalities that may be at the crash scene," Wall says.

"I have been to a number of night time crashes ... where vehicles have gone over cliffs and those sorts of things, and it's been very difficult to find where these people are. We have heard of people who have crashed not being found until the following morning, and they maybe would have survived if we got early notification of exactly where the crash happened."

Getting to the crash scene as quick as possible can also be assisted by connected vehicles. Wall says in the near future traffic systems will be able to detect an emergency vehicle coming towards an intersection and readjust the traffic flow to give the vehicle a green light. The emergency vehicle could also talk to other vehicles nearby to alert drivers to give way.

"When the emergency vehicle arrives on scene, then we have to look at things like where's the best place to cut through parts of the car to rescue a person trapped in a vehicle.

"If they had information at their fingertips, maybe through Google Glass and augmented reality, they would be able to look at the vehicle and know where potential hazards are, where they can't cut because there's a high voltage cable that runs in a particular compartment or there's an airbag that hasn't gone off that's at risk of going off," Wall says.

The NICTA team did an analysis on how fast they could get all people residing in Sydney safely evacuated during a flood. The team looked at which Sydney regions they would evacuate first, which modes of transport should be used first and where.

The analysis found that the current algorithms would not get 40 per cent of the population out in time, whereas the new model showed it can get everyone out safely. "And that it is still possible to do so even of the population increases by 40 per cent," says Economou.

Building smart utilities
Smart grids play a key part in running a smarter, efficient city. The Smart Grid, Smart City project trial, led by the Australian government and Ausgrid, recently finished, with the cost/benefit analysis currently being reviewed. Paul Budde, executive director of Smart Grid Australia, says 30 to 40 per cent of energy savings can be made across Australia using smart grid technology.


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