Melbourne ready for an ITS future – ITS World Congress

As a world leader in hi-tech innovative transport solutions and renowned for its capacity to stage large-scale business events, Melbourne, Australia, is the ideal location for the 2016 World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems.

Victoria’s state capital was recently rated the world’s most liveable city for an unprecedented sixth year in a row and is expected to overtake Sydney as the nation’s largest city within a few decades, with a population of over nine million forecast by 2056.

New challenges

With much of the city’s urban growth set to continue around its outer fringes, Melbourne’s success presents a suite of new challenges.

Currently, there are 13 million trips per day on Melbourne’s public transport system, and this is forecast to grow to 23 million over the next 35 years. Over the same period, Victoria’s freight volume is expected to quadruple.

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) technologies and the efficiency, sustainability and safety dividends they promise will be key to managing Melbourne’s growth and connecting its growing population to the key employment precincts of its central business district.

Victoria is emerging as a world leader in ITS, says David Scott, account director at Wave Digital. The Melbourne-based mobile app development agency specialises in delivering complex solutions for large corporate and government agencies, and was responsible for developing Victoria’s award-winning suite of VicTraffic apps.

The apps provide Victoria’s road users with real-time information on travel times, road closures, roadworks, traffic camera locations, webcam feeds and more.

“We looked overseas for benchmarking of similar type apps and products but found very little,’’ says Scott.

Road to growth

VicRoads, the body responsible for managing Victoria’s arterial road network, are recognised internationally for their innovative use of ITS technology says Scott, who will be presenting a paper to the Congress on the architecture and technical challenges behind the development of the VicTraffic app suite.

Melbourne was amongst the first cities in the world to introduce multi-lane free-flow tolling and has a world-leading managed motorway network. It also has the largest continually operating tram network in the world and a tramTRACKER®app that provides real-time timetable information.

The city’s business sector has a wealth of expertise in innovative transport technology solutions, from traffic software and communications to route planning and scheduling, supply chain management, telecommunications infrastructure and smart car technology.

“For a company such as ours, Melbourne is a fantastic place to be based,’’ says Scott.

“There is a great support network from government and educational institutions, and the tech and start-up ecosystem is really good. Melbourne is a world leader in that regard.’’

Networks for the future

Technology such as the VicTraffic apps for road users cannot operate without good networks to support them – networks such as those provided by CommTel Network Solutions. CommTel is a Melbourne company that specialises in building telecom networks for non-telecom companies, including the transport sector.

“We build the networks that make things happen,’’ says Paul Mascitti, CommTel’s director of sales and business development. “We operate in mission-critical, time-sensitive, safety-conscious environments, especially for the rail industry.’’

The company services major national passenger and heavy haulage systems, and clients include rail operators AurizonBHP and Rio Tinto.

“Victoria is home to advanced capabilities in manufacturing, supply chain management and transport technology solutions, providing the ideal environment for CommTel”, says Mascitti.

“Through our Melbourne-based sister company Avara we also manufacture specialised equipment for rail systems around the world”.

“The ecosystem we are building from Melbourne is a network of global vendors – we import and export with many countries.’’

Mascitti says CommTel is attending ITS both to get visibility of the latest trends in the sector and an opportunity to understand what is happening over their networks so they can better optimise their products to meet clients’ needs.

Driven to succeed

Another company which has found Melbourne to be a manufacturer-friendly environment is startup Tomcar. The company produces the toughest all-terrain vehicle of its type in the world, designed and built to be parachuted out of a plane and survive.

“We started manufacturing in Melbourne in 2012,’’ says CEO and co-founder David Brim.

“Our core market is military special forces around the world, but our main markets by size and volume are now agriculture and mining.’’

Currently developing the first electric car to be fully produced in Australia, Tomcar is dreaming big – and succeeding.

“We are using a locally built electric power train,’’ says Brim. “It has been developed especially for us to handle corrosive environments found in mines.’’

Being based in Melbourne has helped put Tomcar on track for success.

“Australia’s manufacturing industry is based in Melbourne,’’ says Brim. “There is an incredible supply chain here – 80 per cent of our componentry is made in Australia, and 90 per cent of that is from Victoria.

“We see a great opportunity for government supporting more start-ups like Tomcar and creating a thriving industry here. Australia can produce vehicles successfully with niche manufacturers like us.’

Workers on the move

State Government of Victoria support has been instrumental in helping Melbourne app developer Gridstone progress over the last six years from a raw startup to a mature company on a rapid growth trajectory.

The company focuses on organisational mobility in industries including transport, logistics and warehousing and is expanding fast, with headcount growing from 28 to 52 in the past year.

“We conducted in-depth research around the challenges of the modern, mobile workforce to develop our products,’’ says Julian Cross, Gridstone’s senior business consultant.

“We have many transport and logistics companies using our apps. We are also Apple partners and Telstra partners.’’

Gridstone has not seen the need to outsource or offshore any development, finding all the human resources they need in Melbourne despite their swift growth.

“We’ve had so much encouragement and support from the Victorian government,’’ says Cross.

“We’re proud to be part of their stand at ITS and to showcase and share our success story. The Congress will also be a great opportunity for businesses to meet new partners and customers.’’