South East QLD may become Australia's first 'smart region'

Applying smart technologies to the region could create 30,000 jobs and add $10 billion to its economy, according to Cisco.

South East Queensland may become Australia’s first ‘smart region’ after tech giant Cisco earmarked the location for further development in its recent Smart Region Report.

Smart regions are those using digital technology and real-time data to improve public services irrespective of political, economic or geographic boundaries.

The report explored the application of smart technologies to South East Queensland, which has the potential to add 30,000 jobs and $10 billion to its economy, while improving the lives of residents across work, life and business.

A survey conducted by Cisco of more than 1000 residents in the region found “considerable appetite” for the smart technologies, in particular to create more efficient public transport, more resilient roads and infrastructure, and improved management of disasters.

Intelligent lighting, automated water and power metering were noted as smart solutions that could be implemented as a more sustainable and efficient service that could free up funds to be reinvested for the benefit of the community.

“In the last 10 years, the South East Queensland region’s population growth has been consistent, with a cumulative increase of almost 25%,” the report reads.

“In the next decade, South East Queensland is projected to grow even further, requiring a potential large investment in infrastructure by state, federal and local governments to support this growth.”

Cisco noted that in addition to natural growth, South East Queensland could utilise intelligent systems and data gathering techniques to better prepare for major events regularly held in the region, such as the upcoming 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

“The growth that comes with these major events will test South East Queensland’s infrastructure, which is already strained by population growth,” it notes.

“For councils it is about investing in technology that will create efficiencies and reduce waste, for business it is about opportunities to broaden the economy, and for the public it is about using technology to improve their lifestyle.”

Some examples of technologies used around the world include smart waste management systems that use sensors to alert council when bins are full, which have shown reductions in cost by 20%. Smart lighting that turns street lights on and off by sensing street traffic can create savings of 57% and reduce Co2 output by 3.5 tonnes.

Meanwhile, smart power or smart grid initiatives trialled in the Hunter region, NSW, demonstrated a potential $28 billion in economic benefits by matching energy supply with demand through the use of broadband powerline technology to transmit consumption and supply data.

Public transport was identified as a key area for improvement, with residents citing affordability, reliability and frequency of public transport systems as issues that could benefit from more access to information.

The report found 75% of South East Queenslanders believe real-time information was important to their lives, including benefits such as a reduction in commuter frustration, improvement in commuter planning and allowing commuters to respond to incidents by choosing alternative travel options.

As a sub-tropical region subject to a number of extreme weather events, including numerous floods in the last decade, 82% of respondents also felt real-time data would provide an improved understanding of developments and changes across stormwater systems and allow for greater preparation for withstanding floods or evacuation.

“A shared vision for a smarter region will change the way we live and the attractiveness of the entire South East for generations,” the report reads.

“The existing shared infrastructure of the region demonstrates how an integrated approach can not only produce real, on the ground solutions to shared problems across a large geographical area, but also how business and government can achieve economies of scale in delivering better roads, transport, utilities and other services to consumers.”