Bright minds from throughout the Illawarra and beyond converged at University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus (UOW iC) for the Internet of Things workshop earlier this week.

Presented by SMART Infrastructure Facility’s Director, Professor Pascal Perez, along with newly appointed SMART Advisory Council member Catherine Caruana-McManus, Professor Paul Cooper, Director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC), and Andrew Maggio, Founder and Technical Director of Meshed, a company which offers IoT products, expertise and services, the event showcased the opportunities and possibilities the Internet of Things offers the region.

Co-produced through a partnership between SMART, the SBRC, iAccelerate, Meshed and UOW, the workshop’s 50 participants, who represented a broad spectrum of the community, collaborated on ideas of how Wollongong and the surrounding area could be transformed into a ‘smart city’.

Five work groups, facilitated by a number of volunteers, explored the key themes of smart cities, asset management, digital futures, energy and the environment, and innovation and research. Over 60 great IoT ideas were generated, demonstrating the multiple opportunities offered by the public access open standard LoRaWAN gateway.

Ideas for monitoring “things” included: fire alarms and water hydrants, storm water trash racks and culverts, gas and water meters, solar panels, home and industry battery storage units, air pollution and noise levels. Ideas for tracking objects included: harbour water vessels, dolphin and whale migration paths, ‘Uber’ services for community transport, foot traffic, and way-finding across the CBD.

Each group produced some amazing ideas on how the region could capitalise on the IoT, voting on their best idea and pitching to a discerning panel of judges, which included Kerry Hunt, Community Cultural and Economic Development Manager, Wollongong City Council, Nathan Brown, of Waples Marketing Group and In The Loop Wollongong, Mark Jones, Chair, property Council of Australia, Illawarra Chapter and Frank Zeichner, Director, Creatortech.

Pleased with each group’s pitches, judges highlighted the suggestions of two groups, the smart asset management team, and the cultural promotion team. The smart asset management team focused on solving the problem of how to manage intermittently-used, hard to manage building, by deploying a low cost and highly efficient monitoring network, resulting in extending the useful life of community buildings across the city. The second group, focusing on cultural promotion, recommended a crowd-funding initiative to support the roll-out of a smart sensor network, for the key tourist sites and major attractions across the city to help visitors plan their stay, and encourage customer service and engagement. The cultural ‘smart’ network would create a more ‘connected’ community with a virtual museum of cultural assets, such as dolphin sighting vantage points, bush trails and self-guided walking tours, local historic buildings, great eateries and entertainment precincts, Wollongong’s WIN stadium, and the region’s outstanding beaches.

“This workshop, in partnership with the University, Meshed and The Things Network, has shown the wider community is ready to embrace the Illawarra as a smart region,” said Ms Caruana-McManus.

“The Internet of Things is certainly upon us. By hosting a “hands on” workshop, we have demonstrated the council, local businesses, industry groups and the people of Wollongong have great ideas as to how open standards technologies and smart sensor networks can achieve economic, social and environmental benefits for all,” Ms Caruana-McManus continued.

Professor Cooper was equally enthusiastic about the workshop’s outcome: “This was a great chance to get some of the Illawarra’s bright minds together to discuss the things that matter to their community, and formulate solutions which utilise contemporary technologies.”

Professor Perez was pleased with the combination of scholars, professionals and industry personnel who attended the event.

“Such a mix shows how relevant SMART’s world-class research is to the local community,” he explained.

“We pride ourselves on being a leader in infrastructure research, and we intend to contribute to the development of Internet of Things Networks in Australia.

“The aim of the event was to start a community-based technology revolution; the passion and innovative ideas shared by participants exceeded our expectations. We are on our way to building a smart and inclusive Wollongong from the ground up,” he added.

If you want to get involved with the IoT in your city, community, business or start-up, please contact Professor Perez or Ms Caruana-McManus via the links below.