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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.

NICTA's future logistics living lab leader, Neil Temperley, adds that there's a human aspect to building a connected and integrated supply chain around dealing with concerns about confidentiality and commercial information.

"They all need to be educated and have a vested interest in sharing information with their partners, their team -- they are a team, but they may not realise it -- to work together to keep things flowing as efficiently as possible. You can't just take your own information and play in your own space."

Access to open data is another challenge. Budde says there is still reluctance by the Australian government to provide free access to data. This could be due to issues around data quality, for example, or it could be that there is a closed culture among some agencies.

The website has collected 3,514 data sets since it first launched in 2011. In comparison, the US website holds 105,257 data sets since its 2009 launch. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also pointed out that the government is playing catch up when it comes to making its data publicly available.

"We need a change of mind in government. You see already with the real-time transport applications that the benefits are enormous if you open up the data that governments have," Budde said.

Ensuring there will be strong broadband and wireless connectivity in future is also key to building a smart city. Budde says we have wireless connectivity "pretty well covered" in Australia, but "always more can be done".

"When you talk about the Internet of Things, you really talk about billions of sensors that suddenly have to be linked to the network and that then requires a whole new level of networking - street lamps, parking meters, and so on all need to be linked to the wireless network," he says. "Going forward, more and more investments are needed."

O'Brien says it is a challenge to support billions of sensors in a city, all feeding off the wireless Internet network. "We are living in the future but not that far in the future where it's no real cost to handle 20 billion data points a week, which is what our taxi cabs are sending out."



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