Regional Victoria, the Transformation of All Things and KPMG

We are now on the cusp of the Internet of Things revolution. It’s estimated there will be one  trillion things connected globally by 2035, which for Australia, translates into a potential A$116 billion in annual economic value. Much of this comes from the building and development of smart cities, smart power and utilities, and smart agriculture.

In regional Victoria, cities like Geelong are looking to the Internet of Things to potentially reinvent themselves, to emerge from the constraints of their manufacturing-dependant pasts. KPMG Australia has been working with Geelong to help realise a bright, new economic future.

Piers Hogarth-Scott is the National Leader for KPMG Australia’s IoT Practice, which aims to communicate the true business value of the IoT to clients. The challenge lies in managing these needs, amidst rapid exponential growth. The innovations coming out of this growth are beyond what we could have imagined as little as 10 years ago, and with the digital age firmly established, disruption is now the norm.

“We are largely beginning to experience the instrumentation of everything around us,” said Hogarth-Scott. “New infrastructure is highly intelligent, with sensors to connect the physical world with the digital world and provide capabilities that we haven’t had before.”

In Geelong, sensors are only part of the story. The city has had a long and rich industrial history and with the closure of the large manufacturers such as Ford and Alcoa, Geelong has had to make dramatic changes to ensure long-term sustainability and growth. It’s now positioning itself as a ‘second tech city’, leveraging off its existing infrastructure and industries and creating innovative solutions that reinvent its manufacturing base and further develop a service focused economy.

The City of Greater Geelong is currently working on a number of projects, with KPMG on board, as part of their submission for the Federal Government’s Smart Cities Plan. One of these is the smart connected street furniture project, placing digital based bollards around the CBD (and potentially outside of it in coastal placements). The bollards will have multi-modal connections and environmental sensors to control and provide lighting, Wi-Fi and city navigational solutions. Additionally, the city is looking at smart waste management strategies, along with transport solutions such as smart parking and car charging, which would be piloted at the waterfront precinct.

Manager for Digital and IoT at the City for Greater Geelong Andrew Downie says: “It’s not just about the service industry … collecting IoT data then informs our future infrastructure and service planning—it’s about unlocking what’s happening in the city.”

Smart innovations such as these not only improve service delivery, they have the potential to re-energise local manufacturing capacities too. The Smart Cities proposal specifies that 30 per cent of the bollard production should happen locally, whether this involves Geelong’s revolutionary carbon fibre technology, or the manufacture of other parts such as sensors.

“Smart city concepts are not just about smart parking and waste management,” says Piers Hogarth-Scott. “They are all tactical points, but what it’s actually about is the fundamental digital transformation of a city, making it more operational and transforming the citizen experience.”

Geelong’s commitment to ‘future proofing’ itself has in effect rebranded the region as an innovation capital. The Victorian Government’s start up entity LaunchVic recently awarded a grant of A$1.25 million to Geelong based start-up program, Runway. With twice yearly intakes and five start-ups funded and supported in each round, Runway aims to create 70 new companies and 500 new jobs over the next five years.

One of the essential drivers behind growing and developing Smart Cities is interoperability: the age of competition is over and collaboration is the new black. Hypercat, launched in Australia last September provides the international standard that secures interoperability between connected devices, data, cities and people.

“It requires emerging and established innovators and tech vendors to create solutions to deliver transformative things, the likes of which we haven’t been able to do in past.

“Interoperability is the core to economic impact. Hypercat allows a platform to facilitate cutting edge tech solutions to be applied to urban problems. This is the focus of Smart Cities and Suburbs programs”.

Expanding the capacity of regional or second cities through IoT innovations, doesn’t just strengthen provincial economies. Cities like Geelong can contribute in a much greater way to capacity building at a state level. By exploring new revenue streams and adapting new technologies and innovations to existing processes and infrastructure, regional disruption can fuel national economic growth.   

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