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Brilliant chance for Christchurch to become a smarter city

Brilliant chance for Christchurch to become a smarter city, UC wireless researcher says

November 22, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher says Christchurch has a brilliant opportunity of turning adversity into opportunity with the rebuild by becoming a smart city.

UC’s Dr Graeme Woodward has just returned as part of a New Zealand delegation from a tour of the smartest cities in Europe. He said Christchurch should become a living laboratory for smart city technology.

``As the city is being rebuilt, we can build in a lot of technology which would be uneconomical to retrofit into existing cities. This is a unique opportunity as buildings are being erected, roads are being dug up for new services, and major new public facilities (such as transit hubs) are being designed and constructed,’’ Dr Woodward said.

``A particularly important part of city sustainability is energy production. Trigeneration technology combines electricity generation, heating and cooling. The Christchurch City Council is already using trigeneration powered by biogas from landfill in limited buildings within the city centre.

``When digging up our streets we should invest in a thermal network (hot water reticulation), in addition to embracing more extensive use of sustainable energy sources.

``Similarly now is the time to invest in water recycling. Half of water consumption within the city of Sydney is for air-conditioning cooling towers. This does not require water of drinking quality standard.

``We should also look at other infrastructure such as micro wind generation, solar panels for power generation and efficient LED street lights. We can become a connected society with ubiquitous, high-speed, reliable wireless data connections throughout the central business district.

``We should plan for built-in resilience. Not just the building standards, but inclusion of sensors within the building fabric to monitor building health, report on seismic activity and to aid in emergency response, in case of future building collapse, to identify where potential survivors are located.’’

Woodward and the NZ delegation attended the World smart cities expo in Barcelona on a trip organised and funded by the ACCESS4EU:NZ European Commission project, with a goal of fostering greater collaboration between European and NZ researchers working in the area of smart cities.

He said there was an opportunity to use Christchurch as a test laboratory for future public safety wireless systems.

``We are entering a new generation of public safety communications with the adoption of broadband technologies. Christchurch is at the forefront of this revolution, with Tait Communications a world leader, and the University of Canterbury assisting them with the transition to broadband.

``Tait already has a trial public safety broadband network in the city, with facilities in the Port Hills and on their factory in Burnside. There is opportunity for greater participation across the sector – Tait as the leader, but with greater investment and participation from others.

``These measures all contribute to making Christchurch a living laboratory to where the brightest minds from around the world will be attracted to undertake research and to live. This will help with the rebuilding of Christchurch’s human and intellectual capital.’’

Woodward said the European Union was advanced in smart city research and trials. They have 20 pilot projects with Euro47 million funding, involving 30 smart cities across 18 member states. These projects include technology trials and public participation, such as electric car share scheme across Brussels; real-time information about traffic and public transport by automatic collection and analysis of information from mobile phones.

He said Sydney was also becoming smarter with an extensive master plan to achieve energy independence by 2030, as was showcased at the Smart City Expo opening plenary presented by international expert Allan Jones who has been employed by the city of Sydney to develop the plan. They were already exceeding early milestones.

Through the vision of their council management and the employment of one international expert, enormous change had been achieved. One person could make a huge difference and it was this sort of leadership which Christchurch needed, he said.


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