SMART projects have enjoyed unprecedented success in attracting funding for one of the University of Wollongong’s most prestigious programs.

Funding has been announced for five programs associated with SMART for the Global Challenges program, design to break down inter-disciplinary barriers.

Programs are chosen that will develop creative and community-engaged research.

They should help drive social, economic and cultural change in our region, with the potential to be translatable across the globe.

SMART director, Senior Professor Pascal Perez, is a researcher on one of the programs.

“SMART prides itself on producing research across disciplines, so our philosophy is a natural fit with the idea behind the Global Challenges program,” he said.

“The fact that we have succeeded in attracting funding for four projects speaks volumes for the way our researchers are able to use complex academic and theoretical constructs to solve problems in the real world, and to make our cities and our world smarter, and more liveable.

“I am excited to see how these projects will develop, and the benefits into the future for the inter-disciplinary relationships that they will foster.”

Professor Perez is involved in a project called Mind the age gap? – Revealing the truth about senior travel at peak times.

The project aims to explore the travel patterns of older Australians during peak hours, and the relationship to travel experiences, potentially leading to improved mental health and well-being for all public transport users.

The project will aim to improve the public transport system through designing tailored services for older people and incentives for seniors to switch travel times to non-peak hours.

Professor Perez will be joined by researchers from SMART, the Faculty of Business, and the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities.

Dr Fariba Ramezani will be part of a team lead by Associate Professor Faisal Hai, director of the Strategic Water Infrastructure Laboratory, in a project called Sun, Sand, Sea and Sustainability.

The researchers will look at the characteristics of South Coast tourism destinations, their potential growth, and the costs of that growth.

This aims to allow a more strategic management approach, tailored to individual destinations, and a balance between the needs of tourists, businesses and residents.

Dr Shanaka Herath will be looking at ways of supporting and growing a sustainable economy from existing and emerging marine uses in southern NSW.

Laying the Foundations for a southern NSW blue economy will build on a seed project that has already consulted internal and external stakeholders over 18 months.

He is also involved in a study to the response of Western Sydney residents to growing intensification, foreshadowing new roles and opportunities for local government.

Western City and the transformation of local government will interview residents about their changing suburbs, investigating issues such as overcrowding, social change and loss of amenity.

And although there are no SMART researchers working on Project AIRSHIP: automated blimp surveillance for conservation and human safety, the project run by Professor Andy Davis from the School of Biological Sciences, has SMART DNA running right through it.

The blimp project has combined with SharkMate, an app developed for the Digital Living Lab, to create Shark Eye.

This system uses a camera mounted on a blimp to send alerts direct to people wearing smart watches in the water.

Researchers used a Shark Management Strategy grant from the NSW Department of Primary Industries to develop an algorithm capable of recognising shark shapes in the water and to tell people nearby via an app.

It is believed to be the world’s first real-time personal shark alert system.