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Monday, 10 February 2020 18:45

Three ways Melbourne can use interconnection to build a smarter future

By Guy Danskine, Managing Director, Equinix Australia

Skyline Melbourne

GUEST OPINION: Melbourne is ranked as Australia’s most advanced smart city and one of the world’s top ten most connected smart cities, according to a recent report by Oracle and ESI ThoughtLab. 1 It’s exceptional not just because it uses data or technology, as most cities do, but because it extracts value from data in ways that enhance livability, experience, sustainability and economic growth.

But building a community on the digital edge isn’t easy. That’s why so many other cities (and even many enterprises) struggle to do it. What sets Melbourne apart? The answer isn’t just trendy new tech. It’s the vital underpinnings — the infrastructure that supports new technology, as well as how leaders think about that infrastructure.

What’s exciting is that this sort of infrastructure facilitates immediate improvements but also equips Melbourne for even bolder innovation in the future. Let’s explore why interconnection is so important, along with impactful ways it could help Melbourne build a better future.

Interconnection: the glue that enables smart city solutions

The Oracle and ESI ThoughtLab report finds that one of the major reasons that cities like Melbourne succeed at leveraging technology and data is because public leaders have made proper IT infrastructure a priority.

Internet of things (IoT) technology, AI and social media generate massive volumes of data. For this data to be useful, organizations need real-time insights that make sense of the intricate web of interactions between people, places, things and clouds.

As an example, Yarra Trams compiles transport data from a range of sources, including trackable equipment, intelligent sensors and employee reports. Once in the cloud, operations teams use analytics to more effectively anticipate, prioritize and respond to maintenance issues, reducing public transport delays and headaches.

These sorts of information ecosystems – ones full of dispersed objects, humans and cloud technology, all depend on the secure exchange of data and the rapid synthesis of different information sources.

Often this requires infrastructure that enables the direct, secure exchanges of data between entities co-located in data centers. That’s because the most effective means for reducing latency (that is, the time delay during the transfer of data) generally comes down to minimizing the physical distance

between data sources and their destinations. Put simply, a smart city depends on increasingly fast, increasingly complex data flows, and that’s what interconnection facilitates. It’s the foundation on which smart city solutions rest.

To achieve this kind of interconnection, public leaders often have to navigate hybrid or outdated infrastructure and systems, all while answering the novel privacy questions and cybersecurity vulnerabilities that tend to accompany the introduction of new digital approaches.

1 ESI ThoughtLab. “Building a Hyperconnected City: A Global Research Initiative.”

It’s why an infrastructure-focused strategy tends to yield big pay-offs. By prioritizing a hyper-

connected infrastructure, leaders create fertile ground for scalable solutions and future innovation –

which might look like these three potential improvements.

Three ways Melbourne could use interconnection for a smarter future

Using 5G to expand IoT.

Smart cities have been putting IoT technology to work for years – for example, Melbourne’s BigBelly bins use sensors to monitor fill levels and optimise rubbish collection.

But we may see even more IoT networks and devices in Melbourne, especially as the city prepares to commence 5G licenses next month and coordinate an emerging technology testbed in Carlton. 2 This would allow a greater number of devices to use the network, paving the way for potential solutions like transport infrastructure that communicates real-time information to vehicles or objects that interact with wearables to help those with disabilities navigate the city more easily.

Using predictive analytics to mitigate – or even preempt – dangerous incidents.

Melbourne is already using data to guide its urban planning. One example is its pedestrian counting system, which uses automated sensors that help officials make data-informed decisions about urban planning.

As IoT networks expand and data points increase, this sort of information will probably fuel predictive analytics. In the US city Nashville, the fire department has used software to examine years of fire incidents and optimise emergency response times. 3 Predictive analytics might spur further shifts from reactive to proactive safety measures.

Connecting citizens for better health.

Melbourne has invested heavily in service delivery and community engagement, earmarking millions for areas like user experience on municipal websites and apps.4

Citizen engagement and connection can also massively impact public health. Melbourne is already looking at improvements like more advanced encryption for health communications, but telemedicine might eventually be the biggest winner. With interconnection enabling the transfer of high-quality health data, telemonitoring or electronic prescriptions could make healthcare more accessible and even generate data that helps public officials manage the spread of infectious diseases.

Working smarter isn’t just for cities, though. The importance of interconnection and prioritizing advanced digital infrastructures remains the same regardless of organizational purpose or goals – how are you preparing your digital foundation to support a smarter, more efficient and connected future?

Guy Danskine is Managing Director of Equinix Australia

2 City of Melbourne. Emerging technology testbeds.

3 Levine, Di Mauro-Nava. Data Drives Down Nashville’s Emergency Response Times.

4 Asha Barbaschow. Victoria earmarks AU$53m for digital service delivery and citizen engagement.

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