by CIO New Zealand

Auckland Council takes top prize in IDC’s Smart Cities Awards

Jul 05, 2018
Artificial IntelligenceBig DataCareers

The Safeswim programme of Auckland Council is the winner in the Smart Water Category of the Smart Cities Asia Pacific Awards by IDC.

Auckland Councilbeat out competition from South Korea, Australia and Hong Kong to take the top honours in this category. The awards ceremony was held in Singapore.

From February to November 201, Auckland Council and Watercare worked with Surf Life Saving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to upgrade the ‘Safeswim’ programme.

Safeswim now provides a fully-integrated web and digital signage platform to provide advice for beach users, allowing them to ‘check before they swim’ and make informed decisions about when and where to swim.

“Safe Swim is an excellent example of how Auckland Council, along with its partners, has innovated to deliver a world-class data analytics platform that has been able to engage and inform Aucklanders as to the condition of water quality across our beautiful beaches,” says Matt Montgomery, head of innovation at the council.

Montgomery says the council will launch the Smart City Programme in September, and will aim to deliver outcomes like these across a wide range of topics “to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.”

“What stood out about the Safeswim project was the high level of collaboration between the different organisations and the increased accuracy it delivers,” says IDC market analyst Jefferson King.

“The positive outcomes of the project itself are clear, helping locals make better informed decisions regarding swimming safety.”

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The positive outcomes of the project itself are clear, helping locals make better informed decisions regarding swimming safetyJefferson King, IDC

King says in recent years, New Zealand has been experiencing tremendous population growth in its urban centres, putting strain on infrastructure such as roading and housing.

“To help cope with these growing pains, cities need to use resources more efficiently and that’s what Smart Cities are all about. Auckland Council is doing just that, with a range of innovative projects that leverage technology to provide positive social outcomes.”

Analytics at the forefront

The system combines real-time data on the performance of the wastewater and stormwater networks with predictive models, to generate forecasts of water quality at 92 swimming sites around the Auckland region.

The water quality predictions include a range of factors such as rain intensity, duration and location, as well as tide, sunlight, wind speed and wind direction.

The water quality information is complemented with advice from Surf Life Saving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service on other safety hazards, such as dangerous wind and wave conditions, rip currents and the presence of hazardous marine life.

The website is the primary communication channel for Safeswim, supplemented with on-location signage. Safeswim predictions now have a 67 to 86 per cent accuracy when identifying swimming conditions mdash; a major improvement over earlier programmes, reports IDC.

The Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA) were created to identify, benchmark and publicly vote on the best projects each year across 12 functional smart city strategic domains. It is an intensive six-month process that tracks and evaluates hundreds of smart city initiatives in the Asia Pacific region.

The award categories are: Administration; Civic Engagement; Digital Equity and Accessibility; Education; Public Health and Social Services; Public Safety; Smart Buildings; Smart Water; Sustainable Infrastructure; Transportation; Tourism, Arts, Libraries, Culture and Open Spaces; and Urban Planning and Land Use.

All finalists compete via IDC benchmarking, public voting, and judging from an international advisory council. In 2018, 50 per cent of the weighting came from IDC benchmarking, public votes accounted for 25 per cent, while the remaining 25 per cent was based on assessment by the international advisory council.

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