Smart technology driving innovation and enhancing community life

March 8, 2021

6 min read

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About Switching on Darwin 

Switching on Darwin is a local government initiative from the City of Darwin. It aims to improve safety, sustainability, innovation and efficiencies through cutting edge technology. The $10 million project has been funded through the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, the Northern Territory Government, and City of Darwin investments. The program is designed to use smart city technologies to improve city operations and enhance community life. 

“Historically, council actions have been based on reports, with little analytical insight. The key aim of this program is to use live data, gathered through a range of smart technologies, to make strategic decisions that will promote growth for the city.”

“Switching on Darwin is a record-breaking project for smart cities developments in Australia. It has taken the traditional IT function of a council and turned it into an innovation enabler, helping us transform the way people live, work and interact with their city.” 

Joshua Sattler, General Manager, Innovation, Growth and Development at City of Darwin.

The challenge: connecting data and technology for better outcomes

After the City of Darwin won grants to integrate smart technology into the city’s planning and infrastructure, the council announced a series of requests for proposals, inviting organisations to submit tenders. After responding to each individual request, Telstra identified an opportunity to provide a complete solution, provided through one supplier that would meet all of the City’s objectives.

“A smart city is a program that will continue over many years. We started by planning a range of individual projects that would contribute to Darwin’s long-term vision to improve our public spaces, including outlining the specific technology we needed to implement as part of the funding we had secured. Initially we thought that we would need a range of technology partners to implement our overall strategy,” said Joshua

“We were looking for an IoT partner who is in this for the long haul. This was a big journey we decided to undertake with no real end point, so integrity in a partner was crucial. We needed a partner that we could trust, had investment in this industry, and that we could trust to deliver a project of this complexity.”

“After responding to each of our proposals, Telstra designed one large-scale solution to help us to meet all of our objectives. With only one vendor, we could simplify the implementation process.”

Joshua Sattler, General Manager, Innovation, Growth and Development at City of Darwin.

The resulting proposal became Australia’s first smart city deployment that is focussed on creating a suite of capabilities, rather than focussing on individual project outcomes, that will have an ongoing community impact.  

The City of Darwin acted on behalf of a variety of government stakeholders in this project. Ensuring all timelines are met in order to retain funding, as well as being flexible enough to adjust scope during the project due to budget changes, were key challenges for the council. 

“As is the nature of these projects, our funding can be affected for a variety of reasons, so we were very keen to work with a vendor that could be flexible, but could guarantee delivery,” said Joshua 

The solution: creating a technology ecosystem, designed to grow

Taking a holistic view over this project, Telstra worked with a range of partnering businesses to design and deliver the infrastructure for Darwin’s smart city platform. The infrastructure was designed to:

  • Improve the safety of the city, particularly at night, through CCTV and video analytics in 130 locations and 910 smart streetlights including 200 poles in bi-centennial park increasing community safety and enabling statistical analysis.
  • Increase greening and cooling capabilities in a tropical climate, through microclimate monitoring systems implementing 24 environmental sensors. Each sensor measures a range of environmental factors including humidity levels, wind speed and direction, rainfall, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, temperature, noise and dust levels.
  • Provide wider access to free public internet, allowing the local community and visitors more digital engagement opportunities within the city CBD by implementing 38 Free WIFI Access Points.
  • Generate a better understanding of parking use for future construction implementing 250 in-ground smart parking sensors and 10 SmartSpot Gateways that provide a gateway between sensors and devices to securely connect with internet cloud hosted application services.
  • Utilise data for a better understanding of pedestrian and vehicle movement to help shape the city’s future through a publicly accessible open data Smart City Platform that ingests and visualises data to support a culture of collaboration, innovation and problem solving. The dashboard provides an extensive range of datasets unique to Darwin. Current clients include the Northern Territory Government (NTG), Charles Darwin University (CDU) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). 
 “Importantly for us, Telstra looked to Darwin’s local business community as partners in this project. They recognised Darwin’s business credibility, and sourced partnerships within our city in order to deliver. Not only are we improving the city’s technology capabilities through this project, we’re also stimulating our own economy.”

Joshua Sattler, General Manager, Innovation, Growth and Development at City of Darwin.
 

Benefits: laying the foundations for Australia’s most digitally integrated city

“The result is probably the most integrated smart city deployment we have seen in Australia. From the open platform, which aggregates and analyses the city data, and monitors the smart devices in use, through to our CCTV smart lighting which is reinvigorating Darwin’s night time economy by improving safety, we have opened up huge potential within the city.”

Joshua Sattler, General Manager, Innovation, Growth and Development at City of Darwin.

Telstra and the suite of local partners are worked to meet all of the project deadlines, to deliver a compatible and unified solution with the following benefits:

  • Better-connected community: Wi-Fi is a significant enabler of digital connectivity and public space activation encouraging people to spend time in the city leading to increased engagement with local businesses, usage of green spaces and further tourism opportunities.
  • Data enabled council: Helping the council understand how people are using spaces and make better decisions based on data. For example, during COVID-19 restrictions, the council used data to see which areas people were accessing most enabling the council to make better decisions for mobile food vendor locations and making it easier for local businesses to stay open.  
  • Safer community: CCTV infrastructure supports the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services (NTPFES) with camera coverage within the CBD. The cameras assist NTPFES in protecting the community through deterrence and detection. Location insights derived from mobile phone data can be used at festivals or events to manage crowds and analyse people movement patterns.
  • Data-driven planning: Video analytics using Briefcam software that provide insights with recognition of objects, vehicles and motion are also used for planning purposes. 
“We’re working with a range of foundational technology, which means that there is huge potential for us to continue to grow Darwin’s capabilities as a smart city and pursue other key objectives in the future. For example, we are hoping to use this data to improve our retail opportunities and take advantage of our location as a tourism destination.”  

“This is just the beginning for enabling smart technology in Darwin and there is no limit to what we can achieve. In the near future we aim to explore emerging opportunities including water and wastewater monitoring, leak detection, device proximity detection. We also want to make IoT enabled devices more accessible and faster deployed by securely connecting new IoT devices to Telstra’s LTE-M and NB-IoT network.”

Joshua Sattler, General Manager, Innovation, Growth and Development at City of Darwin.