The smart cities landscape – where does the Smart Cities Council fit in and what impact does it have?

Following my recent appointment as Chair of Australia’s first national Smart Cities Awards program (for Smart Cities Council Australian and New Zealand SCCANZ), I was interviewed about the role of a smart city council and awards programs and how they are / will impact the smart cities conversation. Here is the interview. 

Q: Smart cities council of Australia and New Zealand (SCCANZ)– where does this council fit into the smart cities landscape and what impact is it having?  

A: Led by Adam Beck (since July 2016), Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand has been working towards making cities more liveable, workable, and sustainable … and it is having significant impact. SCCANZ is now known and it’s understood as a significant player in the smart cities space.

‘Advocacy and action, capacity building and knowledge sharing’ are the key ways SCCANZ hopes to achieve their goals and there is no doubt that Adam knows how to do what he is doing, and he is doing it very well, especially through his prolific involvement in relevant panels, which is spreading the word about this entity.

The fact it is part if the global smart cities movement also helps significantly, this Australian New Zealand offshoot is part of that global group and members have access to all the global resources (research, e-books etc), which is significant.

The only thing that is lacking right now is the Australian New Zealand angle on what smart cities might mean, and that’s where entities, such as Swinburne Smart Cities Institute, which play in this space can play a part. With the right minds coming together we will begin to flesh out what the Swinburne Smart Cities Institute can add to the conversation and the stock of knowledge, and feed that back into SCCANZ. Bodies such as Swinburne Smart Cities Institute will endeavour to answer what it is we want / think smart cities should mean. I think it’s becoming clearer that it’s about being able to align technology – of which much is known – with urban and city planning, city governance and approaches to urban resilience, urban transport challenges. It’s a very fertile area and the challenge for bodies like Swinburne Smart Cities Institute will be to work out where to focus and how to package the activity in order to continue to attract funding (like the funding from Semens) to enable PhD and Masters students carrying out research in related areas .. and to deliver back meaningful information into SCCANZ activities, such as the development of their code for smart communities.

Q: The code for smart communities (which SCCANZ is developing) is a global project for the Smart Cities Council, but is starts in the Australia/New Zealand region, before they take it internationally.  The draft code will be taken to Washington in October at smart cities international conference that brings together government and industry smart cities leaders. What are your thoughts on the code, it’s development and its potential impact for cities and communities across the world?

A: Put very simply, the code is setting out to be a guideline on how best to do things, and on the reverse make suggestions of things that aren’t such a good idea to do. There is interest in there being an Australian Standard for smart cities and the SCCANZ code is ultimately part way towards being a Standard. Standards Australia has previously produced guidelines on electric vehicles, battery technology and so on… compendiums of knowledge which stop short of being Standards because the knowledge isn’t advanced enough or tested enough for the outcome to be a Standard. I see a similar path for SCCANZ code, which will be an extremely valuable asset in the smart cities conversation.  It will be a guideline that will go into a reference set in the smart cities library. It will build on similar global work such as the British Standards Institute’s work of a similar nature. And key in the progression of this code is the fact the right minds are in the room speaking with each other. At a recent SCCANZ workshop, there were representatives from the British standards institute and standards Australia, from government, private sector, community, Smart cities companies, urban development practitioners and government policy makers …  true co-creation which means the wheel isn’t being reinvented, but rather built on and gaining informed momentum to establish a common language.

Q: You’ve recently been appointed as Chair of the Australia’s first national Smart Cities Awards program ... what role do you see that these awards will play in the smart cities conversation?

A: The intention of these awards will be to showcase work that’s done well, to encourage people to think about how they might showcase their work so it can be communicated more broadly. Awards programs are vital in assisting with the communication to industry and even more broadly to the community. These awards will help to articulate what activities are occurring, how they’ve been done, what they are aiming to achieve and what ‘good’ looks like.

There is a lot of smart cities activity going on around the country, so we shouldn’t have trouble in interesting people in submitting their projects. The development of the awards program categories, nominations process, and so on is yet to be worked through … I am confident they will recognise and reward leadership and share best practice. It’s exciting to be part of this program which will help to positively shape the smart cities of tomorrow.