Council digital move to benefit ratepayers

(Australian Associated Press)

The Gold Coast city council plans to connect 60,000 devices, such as sprinklers and sewage systems, to the internet by 2021 in a move they hope will save ratepayers thousands of dollars.

The devices will be connected to the Gold Coast City Council’s new $5.5 million fibre backbone currently being installed along the G-link transport system. The council-owned infrastructure, which will stretch for 45 kilometres, from Griffith University and the Gold Coast University Hospital in the north to Coolangatta in the south and Helensvale in the west, will be capable of speeds of up to 1GB per second. This digital connection will supply more bandwidth in the area than any of the existing telecommunications carriers.

The cable will initially be used to power real-time live feeds from the city’s 550 security cameras and city-wide traffic management camera system during the Commonwealth Games. But it will also allow tens of thousands of council devices to be linked and controlled via the internet.

The rapidly escalating technology is known as the Internet of Things – a network of physical devices with the ability to connect and exchange data. It’s the same technology that allows a fridge to place an order for more milk or butter.

For the council, it means greater control over services and the ability to increase or decrease supply according to demand, reducing waste and allowing for better planning.

Once connected, dams, pumping stations, sewage plants and even watering systems, will be able to monitor and adjust systems to demand. Park sprinklers, for example, could sense when the soil is dry and automatically turn on the taps. By 2021 the city will have tens of thousands of devices networked, sending data 24 hours-a-day.

Connectivity will bring huge benefits for ratepayers, says City of Gold Coast Digital City Program Manager Ian Hatton.

“It can cost more than $50 a year to have something connected to the internet, so by having our own network we can keep costs down, and expand our IoT network to maximise benefits to residents and visitors,” Hatton says.

“With water meters, you might have a small unit in the house that can tell you how much water you have used for the year, your daily usage and even dam levels,” Hatton says.

Evidence shows that enabling customers to monitor their water use can reduce overall consumption, with resulting reductions in bills.

Already electricity authorities can monitor power usage and limit supply to areas and, in some cases, even individual appliances.

Many air-conditioners sold today have the option of allowing them to be controlled remotely in a similar way to off-peak hot water systems. With the Internet of Things, this can be done from a mobile phone.

The council also plans to use the fibre network to give up to 50,000 businesses access to a super-fast internet capable of rapidly transferring large amounts of data in fractions of a second. It hopes the fast internet speeds will be a major drawcard for businesses to base their operations on the Gold Coast.

Once the Commonwealth Games are over the council, which now has a carrier licence, will on-sell some of the excess bandwidth to other telecommunications companies, recouping the $5.5 million cost to ratepayers and providing a future source of income for the city.

Hatton says the network would futureproof the city for the next 25 years.

“It is all part of a program of modernisation that will add to the reputation of the Gold Coast as a connected city – as a leader,” Hatton says.

AAP, in collaboration with the City of Gold Coast and Gold Coast Tourism, is publishing a range of newsworthy content in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.


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