Ian Hatton, Chief Innovation and Economy Officer, City of Gold Coast
Just about every city in the world is wrestling with what it means to be ‘Smart’. Something most people do not realise about the Gold Coast is that 95 percent of the people who enjoy the spectacular beaches, or the thrill of the theme parks, or simply enjoy a coffee watching the Pacific Ocean do not live here. The city has a population of just over 600,000 and welcomes approximately 12 million visitors per year! That is a lot of demand for our services and requires tens of thousands of people to work in hospitality and related industries.
In 2016, when the Council of the City of Gold Coast (the City) was considering what it means to be a Smart City, we decided quickly we did not want to be what has become commonly known as a living lab. Many cities around the world have adopted this approach, experimenting with various devices and clever bits of software to develop new service offerings for their communities. Instead, we have focused on delivering value to our residents and an enhanced experience to our 12 million visitors.
At the centre of this approach, and what we believe makes a Smart City, is the collection, transmission, and use of data. Our Smart City journey commenced in July 2016 with the establishment of the Digital City Program. The initial focus of the Digital City Program was to utilize the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games as a driver for three areas of investigation.
Firstly, to establish and understand the true cost and value of the Internet of Things (IoT); second, how to deliver enhanced telecommunications services; and third, to build a non-proprietary data and systems integration capability in the Cloud to support the use of big data and automation. For example, the City consumes millions of dollars of telecommunications services each year. With over 80 operations centres, one of the largest telco costs is for the wide area network (WAN). To increase capacity and reduce costs, we commenced building our own optic fibre network in January 2017.
The first stage of the City-owned optic fibre network was completed prior to the 2018 Games, and was used to deliver the telecommunications uplinks for the BBC, Channel 7’s Morning Show, and hundreds of other media outlets throughout the event. It also supports the largest publically owned free public Wi-Fi network in Australia, which has proved to be a phenomenal games legacy with over one million users in the past 12 months.
We believe that each IoT device can deliver small incremental enhancements
This network is now being expanded and will provide the layer 3 WAN services to over 40 of our operational venues at 100 times the speed of the current network, while realising over one million dollars per year in bankable savings by the end of the current financial year. The first commercial deals have been executed on the fibre network and third party carriers are now delivering super-fast internet services to commercial and residential customers.
We believe that each IoT device can deliver small incremental enhancements. However, each device has a capital cost, which, when combined with network costs and software licencing, can often outweigh the benefits on offer. We have conducted extensive IoT proofs of concept (PoC) and field trials, utilising hundreds of devices across multiple service areas, and have successfully redesigned hardware, software, and network configurations to deliver the business benefits at an appropriate cost. In one field trial, for example, we found that 60 percent of bins in public areas (beaches, parks, and foreshore) are being emptied when less than 30 percent full. At the same time, there were overflows in high profile tourism areas. We are now well advanced in the development of the business case to expand the sensors across thousands of bins in these areas, with an expectation of improved cleanliness in public areas through enhanced route management for vehicles, and early warning of high levels of use, without incurring any additional costs.
To support our future IoT ambitions—we forecast that over 200,000 devices will be utilised by the City within a decade— we have built Australia’s largest and most diverse LoRaWAN network, covering, 98 percent of the city’s geographic area; it is able to support approximately 600,000 devices. The deployment of this network has reduced the cost of transmitting data from devices to the end-user by approximately 75 percent.
We have worked closely with vendors to develop LoRa-compliant smart water meters that can send data from locations that previously were not cost-effectively possible. The success of this work has resulted in us deploying 5,000 meters in the current financial year, with another 170,000 to come, which are expected to help reduce water consumption across the city whilst supporting the realisation of efficiencies in the water network operations. The cloud integration capability is now in production—utilising AWS serverless computing—and is being used across a range of operational areas, including the integration of various systems for issuing and enforcing parking charges.
Our AWS cloud environment is also enabling the development of what we are calling the Economy, Events, and Tourism Insights (EETI) project. This is the first true big data project for the City, and utilises a range of data sets to better understand visitation to the city for holidays and events, and includes beaches, sports stadia, live music, and transport interchanges. This will reform future development of tourism experiences, transport upgrades, events management, and public safety.
The Gold Coast’s approach to becoming a Smart City is founded upon the collection, cost-effective Movement, and comprehensive analysis of data. Through this approach, we believe we can deliver very efficient and customer-focused services, whilst growing our economy and being the place where people want to locate and operate their businesses. We recognise the value of the 12 million visitors to our city, and our approach to being ‘Smart’ is focused on working with partners to identify, analyse, and deliver to them the best possible experiences.