The emergence of smart cities promises to have a transformative impact upon the way Australian city-dwellers work and commute on a daily basis, as well as the types of urban environments that they can access and inhabit.
In addition to dramatically increasing the efficiency and convenience of urban environments, Brett Casson, infrastructure development manager at Autodesk, expects the lifestyle changes that smart cities will bring to also have far-reaching implications for infrastructure development and municipal planning.
“I think we’re only just seeing the start of the way the consumer wants the Internet of Things integrated into smart cities,” said Casson. “There will be an integrated network of everything as a result of access to all of these new technologies.”
Casson expects to see radical changes in the working lives of Australian urbanites as a result of enhanced connectivity and the ensuing emergence of the smart city.
“There will be changes in the way that the community works with this idea of the nomadic workplace, where you’ll only need to come into the office at certain hours or times of the day,” he said.
“Cloud technologies will be part of this solution, conferring access to everything you would normally have in an office environment. Having access to these things in a mobile sense will have to change the way that we work.”
According to Casson, these changes are already apparent amongst the incoming generation of younger Australian adults, many of whom have already embraced the itinerant lifestyle permitted by the ubiquity of rapid Internet connections in cities around the world.
“I just got back from a research trip from Bali, where I met two young Australians who run successful businesses but have never had a physical workplace,” he said. “They have a Macbook, a tablet and a computer, they have access to an Internet connection, and that’s how they run their business, and they run it very successfully.
“I think the younger generation – Generation Z who are born connected, will be the first generation that will not accept commuting times of two hours in the car to get into an urbanized environment or office environment. They’re much more deeply connected than the previous generation.”
These changes in the work and lifestyle preferences of the next generation of Australian could ease much of the increasing strain on urban infrastructure systems, particularly in light of the ongoing population growth required by modern industrialized economies.
“We’re going to see massive population growth and increased urbanization over the next twenty years, and this will place huge demands on critical transportation infrastructure," Casson said.
“We will have to radically change the way that we integrate with the city as a whole - the way that people movements and transportation happen, and the only way we’re going to achieve is via smart information, smarter infrastructure and by changing the way that we work and the dynamic of the workplace.”
Casson also expects the emergence of smart cities to increase the significance of smaller or more remote urban centres by making it possible for people living in such communities to pursue forms of economic activity that were previously confined to major metropolitan areas.
“We’re going to see the rise of satellite cities and the rural areas, all of which will become far better connected as a result of the NBN and faster Internet speeds,” he said. “There will be increased efficiencies and productivity because rural parts of Australia are connected, and this will drive innovation in those areas. “
The rising significance of second-tier cities will in turn spur greater demand for the physical connections provided by real world infrastructure, as well as require attendant changes in the mindset of regional planners and the regulatory environment for infrastructure development.
“Planning laws will need to change, and planning regulations will have to keep up with industry,” Casson said.
“Ironically, one of the things that we will need is better connectivity in terms of transportation between cities. We will need a better network of transportation that isn’t vehicular for cities such as Wagga Wagga or Wollongong, the way there’s already a lot of work going on to make Parramatta Sydney’s second city, and achieve a shift away from the traditional CBD.
“We will need better physical connections between cities as well as a wireless ones.”