We have a dream... and together we can make it a reality

Blog by Michael Whereat, ASCA President

In the same way Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream…” ASCA too has a dream. Our vision is to create a network of smart cities and communities across Australia. Like America in the 50s and 60s, we too have challenges and realities we need to face.

Our first reality is that there is still a big gap between the hype of the multi-million dollar benefits of IoT/smart cities and the realisation of that ambition. Expectations have been raised and now a growing number of communities are getting on board, but there is a long way to scale deployments.

Individually we (the local governments which are our cities and communities) are learning about new technologies and developing or acquiring the skills to make them happen. The new disruptive technologies are not simple, cheap or easy. We’re grappling with the gap between the brochure and the actual result of pilots often run by teams which are not taking into account the end to end system requirements or the needs of the business/branch which will need to take these solution systems forward.

If your city, region, town or community has it all sorted and is deploying integrated high-value smart city technologies at scale, read no further.

This article is for those who would like to collaborate at a national scale with others who need to get started, keep on going, continue to drive forward and want to create systems that improve their community’s user experience rather than just install some tech.

If you fall into the second group or your organisation is involved in the business and industry supply side, research and development together with innovation, then you may want to keep on reading.

Laying the foundations for collaboration

ASCA is laying the foundations to create a collaboration framework called the ASCA Accelerator. We will structure the Accelerator on a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) basis to seek Smart Cities and Suburbs Funding application by 30 June. But this work won’t wait for the funding program outcome to progress. It’s too important to design it around a funding program. We need to harness the ASCA ecosystem of members and partners and develop the Accelerator to provide benefits to our extensive network.

We’ll structure the Accelerator to operate at a higher level if funded through Round One of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program; that funding would ensure more is achieved and all local governments across Australia would benefit from the Accelerator, not just our ASCA core membership.

We’ll also structure the Accelerator to accommodate more partners and funds from other sources to ensure it can grow and become self-sustaining into the future.

How will it work?

1. The concept is simple. We’ll look to a number of experienced and established local government centres to serve as the host environments for scale testing and evaluation in the real world. They’ll share between each other at the granular level – this is their perk for sharing access to multiples of fine grain knowledge and experience.

Our wider network of ASCA members will have access to the results – managed, filtered and refined to give a detailed but high-level information in all three phases: pre, during and post. We’ll provide scope for funding contributions by these communities to access the program at a granular level. Everybody benefiting must contribute to benefit.

An ASCA Accelerator Journal will be developed and released. The extent to which this will be circulated and access to the central database will vary, pending funding.

2. We’ll look to our business and industry partners (and wider industry, were necessary) for best of breed examples of solutions and systems to achieve the short-listed testing and evaluation. The initial MVP suggests we should focus on six tests with at least three competing solutions in each. That list will be determined by a governance group informed by the wider ASCA membership.

We’re looking for these business and industry partners to contribute the testing kit and access at no cost or heavily subsidised basis as they will see the selection of their product and inclusion in the Journal as the necessary investment to be part of the pre-procurement stage of a national program.

3. We’ll then seek to extend the program to the innovation community – incubators, innovation centres and wider community - who would have the opportunity to take the live data APIs and other value adding potential to where there are close to national-scale applications. Their involvement would be in-kind and self-managed with representatives involved in the governance aspects of the program.

To build a competent selection, independent evaluation and reporting system, we’ll approach our Research and Development partners; we’re working to confirm the involvement of Data61 and eight universities, with some positive results already. We know that our university researchers and academics have a proven track record of delivering this kind of advice and will be best placed to partner where there is a matching dollar for dollar system in place.

Creating a harmonised view of activities

The ASCA Accelerator Governance Group will draw on many of the active initiatives already occurring across Australia – from standards to systems, interoperability to integrated platforms and principles to procurement – the group will seek to bed down the current disparate activities and viewpoints into a harmonised ASCA view. This material will be of a very high value to the local government demand side and help to inform the supply side development and revisions.

With ASCA Board sign off, this initiative will begin in July with a pre-start phase of six months to sort all the details outlined above, lock in the participant organisations for Phase 1 (Jan 2018 to June 2019), and the program of works planned and signed off by December 2017.

I hope you’ll agree that by harnessing the unique combination of members and partners, the ASCA ecosystem has the potential to make a significant impact on our Australian communities, and continue to create and grow its network of smart cities and communities.

If you would like to facilitate the active involvement of your organisation or you have comments and feedback about this proposed initiative, feel free to contact me.

Finally, if you have suggestions for the projects to be undertaken in Round 1, please let me know.  

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