The year 2017 will prove to be a technological turning point for our region. It was the year that Wollongong became a smart city.

Although the Digital Living Lab was only launched by the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong in May, by the year’s end it was already well on its way.

By November, the city was covered by five gateways – at the University, Mount Warrigal, Mount Keira, Port Kembla and Farmborough Heights – giving good connection to the LoRaWAN network.

In addition, a second network, employing Sigfox technology, was launched with a gateway on the University campus.

A SMART IoT Hub has been established as the nerve centre at the SMART Infrastructure Facility to serve as both a laboratory and community hub. It acts as a base for a range of projects as well providing a space for the community to come together and collaborate and share ideas.

These Internet of Things networks combine large numbers of low-energy sensors – such as water meters, parking sensors or air quality probes – to real time applications enabling the rise of smart cities.

The network – known as the Digital Living Lab – already has nine registered projects with more due to launch next year.

Applications are limited only by the imagination, and include:

SMART director Professor Pascal Perez says his aim is to popularise the Digital Living Lab, so that within a few years, almost everyone will be able to name at least one way in which their lives benefit.

“The Digital Living Lab is all about letting people know what’s happening,” he said.

“In two years’ time, if you ask anyone in the street, I hope they will be able to tell you what IoT is, and what it’s doing for them.

“Smart cities are often seen in terms of productivity, but I am more interested in liveability.

“I see this technology as offering ways for us all to find solutions to problems – whether that’s finding a parking place more easily, predicting when the next bus will arrive or allowing older people to live independently longer by remotely monitoring their activity.”

You can hear more about the Digital Living Lab and its projects in SMART’s new podcast series, SMART stories for smart people, available on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud now!