Innovations in Australia: Exciting Times Down Under
Many people have a notion of Australians being a bushwhacking bunch of former convicts living a rough and tumble existence in the outback. Some of our near neighbors think of Australia as a European outpost on the edge of Asia separated by language, culture, race and history. While not wanting to totally demystify our romantic colonial image, data on Australia would suggest quite an alternate view.
Australia is, in fact, one of the most urbanized countries in the world. That’s right—the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that the proportion of Australians living in urban areas has increased to 90percent, compared to 82 percent in the USA and just 61 percent in China (The World Bank, 2020). More and more of us are living in cities and this means our cities are facing growing environmental, societal, and economic challenges.
Australia is a wealthy nation with a market-based economy that has a comparatively high gross domestic product and per capita income. Its economy is driven by the service sector and the export of commodities. Average wealth per adult in Australia sits at $492,055 (US $353,671) which is among the highest in the world (ABS, 2021). This is due to our superannuation system (401K), an unprecedented 26 years of continuous economic growth, high real estate prices, and plentiful natural resources.
Australia is a highly innovative country. Australian innovations include: the electronic pacemaker (1926), the ‘black box’ flight recorder (1958), ultrasound (1961), multi-channel cochlear implants (1970s), Wi-Fi (1990s), the polymer banknote (1988), Google Maps (2003), a cervical cancer vaccine (2006), and, as a nod to our hard drinking days, boxed wine. Our culture of innovation was founded on the pioneering spirt of our forefathers, who understood that if they wanted to control their future, they needed to develop their own solutions to their problems.
Like many developed countries, Australia is wrestling with the challenges of employment, access to resources and amenities, and maintaining high standards of living in its cities. The continuing densification of our cities magnifies the pressure to marry disruptive technologies such as micro-mobility, ride-hailing and car sharing and a variety of travel modes, while being constrained to the same urban footprint. Further, cities have to manage conflicting priorities within policy frameworks,
designed by councillors whose re-elections often depend upon appeasing suburban constituents.
The solution is to make cities smarter. This is possible through a confluence of innovative trends – trends that allow us to create spaces in which humans and technology interact in a more connected, intelligent, and automated way. Smart mobility and parking have emerged as key considerations in smart city infrastructural development. This is in part due to the fact that we Australians love vehicles. Australia’s 25.7 million own more than 20 million motor vehicles (ABS, 2021).
Moreover, the influence of smart mobility is changing consumer experience and expectation, shaping the demand for future parking services and compelling market vendors to innovate their offerings. Technologies like cashless systems, in-ground sensors, wayfinding navigation, and digital permits are already removing parking headaches.
Cashless systems are empowering land usage. In some cities, we have seen a swing from meter use to digital parking payments of over 70 percent, enabling municipalities to make smarter use of what is among their scarcest resource: free space.
Parking technologies are playing a key role in driving consumer behavior. In some Australian cities, the use of digital permits has reduced the number of invalid or misused physical permits by nearly 50 percent. Smart sensors have led to innovations in wayfinding, in which real-time data from sensors matches motorists to parking spaces to improve efficiency, reducing circling behavior and congestion in dense urban environments. Similarly, in-ground sensors, combined with holistic parking management, have improved vehicle turnover and compliance. The result is a measurable increase in parking equity.
Through the use of micro-mobility applications, pay-by-phone parking payment technologies and residential digital permits, cities have come to better understand the behavioral patterns of their consumers. Cities can communicate “one to one” with the users of their assets. They can introduce digital variable pricing programs to transition consumers across city assets and influence the timing of their use. Within a few short years, cities will be able to leverage more powerful information and form smarter relationships with millions of users who, until recent times, were unidentifiable.
While the challenge to meet a growing demand for higher standards is great, never before have our Australian cities had the technologies to transform their relationship with their consumers and key constituents. We live in exciting times down under.
Declan Ryan is CEO of Database Consultants Australia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org