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Smart-City Solutions to Age-old Problems


This week, our founder and CEO Nick Austin shares his vision for smarter cities in Australia.

There’s a lot of talk in the business world about “Smart Cities”, but what does this really mean for the ordinary person?

Well, in a nutshell, a smart city is one that uses technology to improve its overall functionality, efficiency and performance. By using and analysing data in ways that we’ve never been able to before, people, businesses and governments can make better decisions around resourcing, that make living in cities more enjoyable, and also future-proofed.

A practical example of this is using traffic data collected on sensors to make better decisions about where to build new roads, but it also applies to other areas such as water, energy, waste and healthcare. I started Divvy when I developed a deep interest in the idea of smart cities. I always thought parking was such a pain, and thought there had to be a better way for us all to work together to solve that issue, by using technology.

So why does building “smart cities” matter in Australia? Aren’t we the “lucky country?”

Well, actually, you might be surprised to hear we’re well behind the rest of the world in our quest to make our cities better prepared for the future!

NSW is expanding at a super fast rate, with The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicting Sydney’s population to nearly double in size by 2050. We’re looking at a growth of around one million per decade. That’s 7.2 million people. Wider NSW will grow beyond 11 million.

We’re already seeing the impact today — a new airport proposed, the metropolitan boundaries of Sydney are spreading and the market for new homes hasn’t been this high in ten years. It’s becoming more important than ever for the state government to develop infrastructure in line with this population growth, but so far the signs aren’t great.

The NSW government recently announced it was keen to throw its hat into the ring to win contracts relating to the development of “smart cities” being planned in India. It would be great to see the same kind of enthusiasm for planning for an 11 million-strong NSW.

Population growth isn’t something that can be stopped, nor should it be, but both the community and the government need to start thinking about how to use our space and infrastructure in a way that is more efficient and cost-effective.

Some smart, private companies out there have recognised the need for this and are stepping in with innovative technology that lessens the burden on our city infrastructure. It’s a hugely positive sign that startups and the private sector are finding opportunities to contribute to what was traditionally a government responsibility.

On the same token, it’s heartwarming to witness the boom of the so-called “share economy”, or as some call it, “collaborative consumption”, where individuals are working together to better use the resources we already have — from tools, to cars, taxis, labour and parking. As a Divvy user, you’re one of those people.

Smart cities isn’t just about data, nor is it just something to be left to governments and big corporations. I strongly believe we all need to work together to find smart solutions if we’re going to meet the demands of a growing population and even faster growing infrastructure challenges.

What do you think about the idea of smart cities? How do you personally contribute to the movement?