Remember how simple some daily tasks became once technology became available? Such as our kids safely navigating their way home from school using their smartphones and when finances could be managed online without queuing up at a bank branch?
Well believe it or not, there is now a push to make our cities and regions more efficient and accessible through technology.
A new network made of data, computer hardware and the internet, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), is transforming our daily lives, but technologists believe we have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
Computing power is getting faster and cheaper every year which means it’s getting easier to connect just about anything to the internet.
From electricity meters to household fridges, regular objects are generating more data than we currently know what to do with, changing the way we go about our daily lives.
We’ve seen the impact of this technology already. You might own a smartwatch that reminds you to reach your daily step goal or if you are in Mackay and own a property your smart water meter will send you a message to alert you to a potential leak.
But what if we took that one step further by connecting our roof gutters or even our sewage system to the internet?
This is part of a new vision led by our region’s planners and engineers to create digitally connected regions where people can make better decisions by connecting all types of physical devices to the internet, a bit like having an app for everything.
Mackay’s smart water system is a world-class example of how digitally connected regions can have a real impact on people’s lives.
The first smart water system of its kind in Australia, Mackay residents can log on to myh2o to check their water consumption in real-time, saving them hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year in potential leaks and excessive usage.
Jason Devitt, a Director of Engineering and Commercial Infrastructure at Mackay Regional Council, believes digitally connected regions can solve more than just household expenses.
The smart water system helped reduce Mackay’s annual water use by 10 per cent, delaying a multi-million-dollar investment in a new water treatment plant just by giving people better information on their water usage.
“This technology revealed that giving residents the data they need to monitor their water usage can bring the town’s total water consumption down significantly.
“It also allows us to give more accurate water saving tips because we can measure water usage in real-time and compare households based on its size and the number of residents, rather than making a general comparison on households in the same suburb,” Mr Devitt said.
The Mackay Regional Council has now migrated this technology to the town’s sewage system to track water surcharges during heavy rainfall.
Previously, local authorities needed a community complaint to flag where the surcharge had occurred, often once damage to property or the environment had already occurred.
“We can now measure water levels and mud density in real-time to know exactly when an area has been hit by a water surcharge from the sewage system.
“We’re now working on ways to compare this data with the smart water system to predict the suburbs most at risk from floods which could change the way we approach emergency management,” Mr Devitt said.
Government agencies around the world, especially health departments, are exploring other ways to improve the living standards of its citizens using digital technologies.
Singapore just announced a partnership with Apple to incentivise smart watch users with financial rewards once they’ve recorded step goals, immunisations and other health activities.
While technologists continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, public officials and entrepreneurs from MIW will continue to work toward their vision of a digitally connected region.