19th March 2016
Researchers are considering whether Adelaide could become an Australian pilot for an integrated smart city, but civil libertarians warn there is a need to ensure personal privacy.
- Integrating technology could help ageing population stay in own homes longer
- Better transport flows might be another potential benefit.
- Privacy concerns raised about more data collection and access to that data
A leader of South Australia’s smart cities initiative, Professor Ali Babar, a professor of software engineering at Adelaide University, said the city seemed a perfect size to test many ways in which integrated use of technology could improve daily living.
“Adelaide is a mid-sized city which has excellent infrastructure, which compares well with the very big cities,” he told 891 ABC Adelaide.
“There is also the political will … and three universities with a huge knowledge base of disciplines.”
The South Australian Government, Adelaide City Council and tech firm Cisco have started the smart cities push, bringing in expertise from the capital city’s three major universities.
“We need to focus on improving the economy, liveability also mobility,” Professor Babar explained.
He said one area where integrated technology might improves lives was for an ageing population where people wanted to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
“Elderly people would be able to interact not only with the outside world with minimum support and supervision,” he said of sensors and other technology that could be deployed.
“If an accident happened there could be help available to them, a quick response.”
Wide-scale data collection a privacy issue
Tim Vines of Civil Liberties Australia conceded there could be many advantages from boosting automation and collating data on a wide scale, but said personal risks would accompany that.
“If you’re going to be embedding sensors in the environment, if you’re going to be linking those to data bases then we need to understand what information is being collected, who’s going to be storing it, how long it’s stored for and who it’s going to be available to,” he said.
“Basically once you have those sensors embedded around the community you lose that anonymity we enjoy every day when we just go out and about to do our ordinary business.”
Mr Vines said people who used the argument that law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear from greater data collection needed also to be mindful of data misuse, for example by someone who might have a sinister intent such as stalking an ex-partner.
Smart cities researcher Hank Haeusler of the University of New South Wales said integrated use of technologies we now took for granted on smart phones might help cities such as Adelaide run more efficiently.
He said public transport and other transport flows, for example, could be improved.
“Some aspects can definitely be controlled, public transport for example — using GPS can enable you to come to the bus stop right on time,” he said.
As for fears that an internet crash might bring a smart city to a standstill, he said: “It is a challenge but the same sort of failure could happen with power [outage] or through a traffic jam.”