Smart tech to reduce drownings

Article image - Smart tech to  reduce drownings Senior Lake Macquarie City Council Lifeguard Lucas Samways guards swimmers at Redhead Beach

A new world-first beach safety initiative will use cutting-edge technology in a bid to curb the growing number of deaths by drowning along the New South Wales (NSW) coast.

Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, said the Smart Beaches Project would see new technology installed along the shores of trial beaches in Sydney and Lake Macquarie, providing immediate condition reports to lifeguards and surf lifesavers.

“Sensors will be combined with a mix of other smart infrastructure to monitor wave and swell movements and provide earlier detection of dangerous conditions.”

The project had received $910,000 through Round 2 of the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.

NSW Senator, Arthur Sinodinos, said, “There is no silver bullet when it comes to eliminating the tragedy of coastal deaths by drowning – there are simply too many factors involved.

“However, technology can provide real safety benefits and Smart Beaches will explore that potential.”

Lake Macquarie City Mayor, Kay Fraser, said Redhead Beach and Blacksmiths Beach had been selected as the city’s two pilot locations.

“Already this summer we have seen a disturbing number of drowning deaths along Australia’s coast.”

Northern Beaches Mayor, Michael Regan, said the collection and recording of beach usage information was a time-consuming and imprecise task for professional lifeguards but Smart Beaches would provide accurate information to help them focus on protecting public safety.

“Almost 11 million people visited the patrolled beaches of Lake Macquarie and Northern Beaches Councils in the 2017-2018 season, prompting more than 1600 rescues and leaving more than 7200 people requiring first aid.”

Surf Life Saving NSW, the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association and the Australian Coastal Councils Association are among more than a dozen other project partners.

University of Technology Sydney Associate Dean, External Engagement, Professor Myriam Amielh said Smart Beaches technology would be developed and trialled over the next 12 months, with plans to roll it out by mid-2020.

“Development of this technology is in its early stages, but it has the potential to become an invaluable tool in ongoing efforts to improve beach safety and usability.”

The Smart Beaches Project has been jointly funded by the Australian Government, Lake Macquarie City Council, Northern Beaches Council and University of Technology Sydney.