SMART Infrastructure Facility nominated in two categories at the Smart Cities Council Awards, winners announced this Thursday.

A finalist for The Future of Place Award, the Illawarra-Shoalhaven Smart Water Management project uses smart technology solutions to ensure community safety in flash flood events.

Over the past 50 years the Illawarra-Shoalhaven has experienced 33 floods classified as serious to extreme due to the challenging and unique local topography.

This project has placed 50 sensors across the local government areas to understand how better to manage stormwater and floods, and applies smart solutions to detect culvert blockages; manage estuaries more effectively to reduce flooding; monitor water quality; and optimise the maintenance of gross pollutant traps.

It is a regional collaboration between local government, tertiary and secondary education institutes and industry, and while the first stage is ending after 18 months, lead researcher Dr Johan Barthelemy hopes to secure funding for a second stage.

“The first stage was collecting data with sensors,” he said. “The second stage will move to the operational phase and make use of the data and make it sustainable.

“It will keep working even after the University of Wollongong hands over the project to the various councils.

“We want to make sure that our time is well spent and want to see the positive impact on the community.”

One of the highlights for Dr Barthelemy was introducing high school students to the Internet of Things (IoT) and collecting data with sensors.

“We are always talking about smart cities, but if we want to have smart cities, we have to have smart people,” he said.

“It was so nice to teach students how to build IoT devices and to show them that it’s not black magic.

“It’s not that complicated if they are willing to learn. They went beyond what we were expecting from them.”

Also a finalist is the COVID19 Pedestrian Index Research project for The Impact Award. 

SMART partnered with Meshed IoT to examine the impact of the global pandemic on local economies and community vitality, across 24 Australian cities and regions.

The project was based on real time data collected from nearly 100 locations, sourced from counting devices that recognise mobile Wi-Fi signals.

Researchers used baseline data from a pre-COVID time to compare how pedestrian activity had changed after mandatory social distancing and quarantining policies were imposed across the country.

SMART’s Director, Senior Professor Pascal Perez, said using technology to gather data helps make cities smarter.

“Pedestrian activity is the pulse of a city, so when that is taken away, you start to experience a downturn in both the economy and social health of an area,” he said.

“Pedestrian data can also underpin investment decisions, which contribute to vibrant and safe places, creating community vitality.”

Senior Professor Pascal hopes businesses can use the research to plan for their recovery back to full operation.

This project also recently won the Social Good Award at the IoT Alliance Australia Industry Awards.