Melbourne, Australia Improves Urban Efficiency With Real-Time Public Data

The City of Melbourne, Australia and the Emerging Technologies Research Lab (ETLab) at Monash University have released a new report exploring how the city’s real-time public data can be gathered and used to better plan for inclusive future smart cities. The ‘City Sensing Data Futures Project’ report examines how emerging technologies can be adopted to improve urban efficiency, while also receiving input from local residents.

“Melbourne is a smart city and we want to work with the community to design, develop and test new ways to share data and knowledge for the benefit of all. This research from ETLab will build on our open data approach so that we can share our use of technology and collection of data with the community in new and exciting ways,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

The report collected data from participants interacting with live data-gathering systems in a city square from February to June 2021. It gives ten suggested approaches for cities to collect and use public data, including: 

  • develop and implement public data sensing models in alignment with the core values of preserving trust, privacy, transparency, open communication, and care;
  • incorporate local values and practices into city data sensing;
  • create varied, playful ways to interact with city data sensing, to encourage engagement for people of all ages, abilities, and diversities to access information;
  • encourage two-way communication between the city and the public through established modes, such as by accessing city data on smartphones via QR codes and providing notifications when data is gathered;
  • create opportunities for people to receive self-care information through city data alerts, such as wearing sun-screen or real-time updates on parking capacities; and
  • encourage a better understanding of public data as an asset that can provide service, education, and a sense of community to residents.

The report has also put together a design proposal for cities which physically incorporates the suggested approaches towards the gathering and use of data.  

ETLab Director, Professor Sarah Pink, said the aim was to present a realistic way to implement public engagement with city data, while still preserving the core values geared towards preserving privacy and encouraging transparent communication.   

“The actual designs and structures created for (the) Square drew on our in-depth research with people who use the square,” Ms Pink said. “We used bold colors and created a ‘family’ of characters to encourage playful engagement with the installation. People could access the city data through QR codes using their smartphones or learn about how the City collects data through the printed explanatory labels which were aimed at people without digital devices.”