Smart cities from the street up*

Article image - Smart cities from the street up*

Picture the street outside your office in 10 years’ time. Driverless Ubers dart in and out of the traffic.

Delivery drones drop parcels on doorsteps. Dockless bikes clutter up every street corner. Sensors, cameras and WiFi connectors hang like gargoyles from buildings. Digital advertising flashes. Unfolding before you is complete chaos. Executive director of planning for Place Design Group, Chris Isles, said, “Technology is reshaping the way citizens move around our cities, but we haven’t changed the building blocks – our streets.”

Isles says our city streets are at the ‘frontline’ of advancements in a host of areas – from smart technology to urban agriculture – but few people at the policy level are thinking about how to ‘curate’ our streets.

“We are worried about the disruption, rather than the physicality it delivers.”

Take ride-sharing for example. Long taxi queues may be a thing of the past, but some councils in Australia are routinely fining Uber drivers for dropping off passengers in no-go zones.

The dockless bike phenomenon has been a ‘spectacular failure’ as dumped bikes litter the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, but the trend is pointing in one direction. Uber’s recent purchase of scooter-rental business LimeBikes shows how transport is evolving rapidly, Isles says.

Meanwhile, the next evolution of our phone networks, 5G, will see a ‘proliferation’ of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies – sensors, cameras and antennas – on every street.

How far is Australia behind the pack? Not far, Isles says.
San Francisco is just one city piloting shared mobility zones to enhance safety and efficiency. Portland has embraced dockless bikes with ease and Barcelona has a vacuum rubbish system that is the envy of the world.

“But no city is looking at the whole street. We have a huge opportunity to look at the disruption happening elsewhere and leverage the learnings to make our cities better.”

Smart Cities Week, Sydney: 29-31 October.

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*Copy supplied by Smart Cities Council