Australia - Smart Infrastructure - Smart Cities
Social and economic pressure on cities to become smarter
Smart cities are going to be amazing community hubs which will be more sustainable, efficient and supportive of citizens. The concept of smart communities is based on intelligent infrastructure such as broadband (FttH) and smart grids, so that connected and sustainable communities can be developed. State-of-the-art telecommunications are also vital to a citys economic health and well-being.
Around the world there are already examples of some smart cities emerging and many countries have developed plans for smart infrastructure. However, before these smart communities can be built properly, trans-sector policies and strategies need to be carefully considered and developed.
Smart cities can’t be built from the current silo structure that dominates our thinking; but require a holistic approach which includes environmental issues such as self sufficient energy buildings, energy exchanges for renewable energy and e-cars, delivery of e-health, e-education, e-government services as well as digital media and internet services.
Half of the world’s population are already city-dwellers, and the trend towards increased urbanization is accelerating rapidly. The future of the majority of the world’s citizens is undeniably urban – 70% will live in cities by 2050 - but how exactly that city of tomorrow will look, and how smart living is implemented and experienced remains largely uncertain.
For numerous reasons the electricity industry is one of the last industries to undergo a major transformation in order to enter the digital economy. An emphasis on keeping electricity prices as low as possible led to severe under-investment in the grid to cope with issues such as energy efficiency, the integration of renewable energy sources and consumer tools aimed at managing home energy use more efficiently.
This began to change with a change in government in 2007. New policies forced the industry to become more focused on the issues and also led to the formation of the industry alliance, Smart Grid Australia. They were instrumental in putting smart grids on the government’s agenda. This led to the Smart Grid/Smart City project. Catch-up investment has lead to price hikes in electricity, which in turn have created political upheaval. Despite all of this there is still no cohesive holistic government policy that takes all the many different elements into account in its industry policies. The government Power of Choice report is a good start with the possibility for new rules for energy networks and the use of smart technologies.
Over the last few years it has become clear that there are many elements to this transformation and the term ‘smarter energy’ is more appropriate to describe this. From here the concept will further merge into smart buildings, smart cities, and indeed smart countries.
National Broadband Network
Several things became clear during the privatisation process of Telstra in the 00s. Broadband quality was below the international benchmark; end-user and wholesale prices were above that mark; and there was no economically viable business case for high-speed broadband infrastructure for regional and rural Australia.
At that time both sides of government were in favour of government intervention in order to rectify this situation. Telstra, however, was determined to maintain its monopoly and in the end the government had to step in. This led to the structural separation of the company. At the same time - in 2009 - because of the GFC, the government decided to change its broadband infrastructure plan from a regional to a national one. They also linked that to the development of the digital economy and launched supporting policies in e-commerce, e-health, e-education and smart grid, all aimed at utilising the NBN for those purposes.
Between 2009 and 2012, NBN Co designed the architecture and completed the various plans. Legislation and contracts were completed in 2012 and shortly after the rollout started based on a 3 year rollout plan that will see annual extensions.
Since the arrival of the new government more money has been set aside for the NBN, but also some changes to the current plan are foreshadowed.
Smart Transport, Smart Cars
Smart transport systems or intelligent transport systems encompass a range of wireless and wired communications-based information technologies that can be integrated into transportation infrastructure and vehicles.
Current intelligent transport systems technologies use dedicated short-range communications to transfer data over short distances between in-vehicle mobile radio units and roadside units, ie fixed point-to-point services. Arrangements to facilitate the use of intelligent transport systems have been developed internationally in the 5850-5925MHz band (the 5.9GHz band). However, ACMA still classified this as a medium priority for finalisation. Still waiting on international standards has made progress rather slow.
Smart infrastructure is also looked at in the context of the National Broadband Network, the aim of which is to provide the basic telecommunication infrastructure for a range of sectors, including transport. Special access is provided in the NBN Bill for utilities. With carbon emission policies in place, smart transport systems may be able to reduce the carbon footprint and energy use across many of the transport industries, while also lowering GHG emissions. The government at that time also announced its Managed Motorways project.
International evidence indicates that a new generation of electric vehicles, known as smart cars will start entering the market in coming years. They could be marketed like smartphones, aimed to become the have-to-have cars. Currently the infrastructure to facilitate this development is not in place. There are no charging stations, but also the electricity grid is incapable of handling any volume of smart cars. More coordinated smart infrastructure policies are required in order to make this happening.
M2M and The Internet of Things
With the NBN and LTE based mobile networks now well and truly underway it is important to look at what will be the real value of this new infrastructure.
The infrastructure that is now being built offers a range of features such as ubiquitousness, affordability, low latency, high speed and high capacity. It will link millions of devices, such as sensors, that will enable us to manage our environment, traffic, infrastructures, and our society as a whole much more efficiently and effectively.
This ‘Internet of Things’ – other names used include: M2M, Pervasive Internet and Industrial Internet - is going to be a real game-changer. It will transform every single sector of society and the economy and it will be out of this environment that new businesses – and indeed new industries – will be born. This is one of the reasons so many overseas ICT companies are increasing their presence in Australia. The LTE will take a leadership role in the development of M2M but the NBN is also an ideal test-bed for such developments. A great deal of attention is being paid to cloud computing and the NBN can be viewed as one gigantic cloud.
The number of connected M2M devices will grow to somewhere between 25 million and 50 million by 2020. 2014 is earmarked as the year of the Internet of Things.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year
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