New technologies critical for Australian cities

11 May 2010
The massive 'data deluge' from security cameras, mobile phones and sensors isn't all bad news, it could lead to safer, cleaner, and more efficient cities says University of Queensland Business School expert. In Australia, an explosion in data is now collected from sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, and mobile telephones and cameras to provide real-time information about how people and organisations behave. However, for the first time a range of new technologies has emerged which could be used to process this data to deal with the challenges facing cities such as transportation, pollution and crime, according to Professor Mark Dodgson. "Many of the problems confronting cities are increasingly complex, and their solutions can be found in a range of emerging technologies which use the massive increase in available data," said Professor Dodgson. "IBM, Lang O'Rouke, and others have begun to change the way technology is being used in cities, and have provided data analysis solutions to help plan for the future and make existing systems more usable," he said. "The decisions Australia's city authorities make today about technological infrastructure will influence the ways our cities grow or decline and have a profound impact, both positive and negative, on citizens' lives." The new technologies have the capacity to represent plans and options virtually and provide authorities with the opportunity to understand interconnected systems - an asset to Australia's mature cities which have grown organically, with new infrastructure overlaid on older vintages. In Sweden, IBM worked with 300 different organisations in Stockholm to develop and implement a 'smart traffic system'. Cameras and lasers have been used to identify and charge vehicles according to the time of day. The system has reportedly led to a nearly 25 per cent reduction in congestion and a fall in emissions by about 12 per cent. "It's essential for city authorities to understand the complexity of the issues they are facing because when each problem is treated in isolation it is economically inefficient and causes extended disruption to residents," said Professor Dodgson. "However, there is no simple solution, each city needs to be treated on its own terms, and not assume that what works in Stockholm or Amsterdam will work in Melbourne or Brisbane. "And it's not all good news either because there are many profound questions to be answered about how this technology can be used to balance security and safety with individual freedoms." About Mark Dodgson Professor Dodgson is Director of the Technology and Innovation Management Centre at UQ Business School, Australia. He has advised numerous companies and governments throughout Europe, Asia and North and South America and has researched and taught innovation in more than 50 countries. In 2007, he was awarded the Eureka Prize for Leadership in Business Innovation.