Smart City Solutions - Bringing it to Life

  • Having the right technology and knowing what ‘good’ looks like for a smart precinct, it’s time to address the ‘how’.

  • Successful projects will have targetted outcomes, assessed their maturity level and prioritised citizen engagement.

  • Governance and practices, delivery partnerships and secure funding will be key to operationalising.

Smart Precincts are moving urban planning beyond a focus on the simple urban form, towards a ‘system of systems’ that unlock amenity and functionality in places for communities, businesses and other precinct users.

In part one of this series, based on research by PwC Australia and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) we looked at smart technology, which has matured to the point of being able to achieve the smart city dreams of decades past. In part two, we examined the six critical enablers common to smart precincts and cities around the world that have achieved success. 

In this final article, we turn to the six steps we recommend for operationalising smart proof of concepts by embedding the identified success factors.

1. Define your target outcomes

It’s essential to define the future state in terms of the outcomes and objectives sought, and to set timeframes and allocation planning resources. These outcomes should be described in terms of real-world achievements that everyone can get behind. This is essential because success will depend on collaboration across your organisation, as well as with other agencies and stakeholders.

Outcomes should align with your organisation’s strategy, and must be unambiguous, quantified and measurable. They should target high-impact outcomes, such as improved services and/or citizen experience, more efficient/productive places, more sustainable places, safer places, and/or better connectivity.

Example objectives

2. Establish your maturity level

identify the roadmap for each precinct, in terms of strategy and planning, goals and actions to effectively move cities through the enablers of smart precinct outcomes, such as strategic intent, technology, governance and service delivery, citizen and business engagement, and use of data/ICT.

Understanding the gaps between the current level and future state level will aid with:

  • determining critical capabilities needed to progress toward longer-term goals

  • identifying what investments and adjustments are required to deliver on those goals

  • considering whether any parts of the forward program might be better advanced in collaboration with other cities and wider partners.

Conceptual example of how to apply a readiness model

3. Prioritise citizen engagement

Smart precincts are citizen- and community-centric, incorporating citizen and user perspectives throughout development.

Engagement will help ensure all technical planning is sound and aligned to the precinct’s purpose and strategy. Community consultation ensures citizens guide and co-design important decisions, and assist with the significant coordination involved in delivering a smart precinct.

Putting community co-design processes in place can uncover community concerns early, and build the social fabric of a precinct.

Acknowledgement of culture and heritage and consultation with Aboriginal owners and communities is foundational, to ensure alignment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge, values and traditions.

A scorecard approach can help inform this process, incorporating factors such as alignment to outcomes (defined in step 1), citizen consultation, broader government consultation, impact on maturity levels (established in step 2), time to deliver (quick wins versus long-term initiatives), and funding opportunities.

scorecard example

4. Establish governance and practices

The development of a smart precinct is commercially and strategically complex, bringing together different parties from the technology and property sectors, and delivering multi-network infrastructure. Establish governance and practices to clarify who is doing what to deliver the technology and service amenity, and to ensure that the full extent of capability is factored into the design and construction of surrounding sub-infrastructure in a meaningful way.

Every smart precinct requires clear practices and governance around data, to ensure security, trust and privacy. Cyber security, for instance, is not an add-on and should be integral to a broader risk management strategy.

5. Form delivery partnerships

Who will deliver the innovation and amenity citizens want in this precinct? The principle of co-design depends upon continued consultation with citizens, as well as stakeholders in the private and public sectors. Collaborations and consortia (eg. a cluster of local councils) can dramatically improve the prospects of funding, risk mitigation, and successful delivery.

Here, it’s important to know how to engage with different industries and stakeholders across the market. Target outcomes must be clearly articulated so that everyone understands (and aligns their activities to) these end goals.

Various stakeholders can support innovation within a precinct, identifying quick wins, agreeing long term initiatives, and scoping potential funding sources and requirements.

Governments have an enabling role in this innovation, through ‘sandboxing’ and providing participants with a safe space to experiment and innovate prior to regulatory and planning frameworks being set.

While flexibility is key, governments do also have an important role to develop regulations and standards, and to promote the uptake of standards. One example is where citizen outcomes are embedded in commercial agreements to ensure that these are given priority from procurement through to delivery.

With smart precincts, flexibility for the future is also an important consideration. All technology eventually becomes obsolete and superseded, so project designs must anticipate the need for upgrades in the future. Standards and interoperability frameworks can clarify how tech solutions fit together to ensure future upgrades do not have unintended consequences. Engaging with tech providers and/or other local authorities can help clarify implementation steps and requirements.

6. Secure funding

Finally, determine how the project will be funded, as well as how to measure the benefits to citizens.

With governments at every level committing funds for smart infrastructure, now is the time for smart precincts to secure investment. Various models of investment exist, including joint investment, private financing, and traditional grant funding. Where public funding is needed, a strong case that demonstrates value for money and a positive economic return is needed.

While smart precincts have the potential to deliver value to residents in terms of improved quality of life, they can also drive the local economy. Quantifying these benefits and mapping the value delivered then becomes the basis for a business case.

To effectively demonstrate value, smart city initiatives should be measured with both quantitative assessments (such as cost-benefit analyses) and outcome indicators that reflect holistic gains for citizens. t

Some smart precinct business cases identify a ‘benefits catalogue’ to define the evidence base for how investments deliver short, medium and long term benefits. These catalogues can be used to both prioritise between options and to quantify the economic benefits of the selected project. In order to build a strong case for funding, the benefits to citizens, governments, and businesses should ideally be quantified and monetised to test return on investment (ROI) and help prioritise potential interventions.

When considering the business case for a smart precinct project, benefits must be framed in terms of the outcomes sought for key beneficiaries. Once funding is allocated and prioritised in different areas, governments can move towards executing a proof-of-concept solution.

Smart places benefit framework

Time to get building

As the concept of smart precincts gains momentum, now is the time to capitalise on the amalgamation of technology and best practice. In Australia, there are an unprecedented number precincts in the planning pipeline across the nation as governments invest in infrastructure and social and cultural renewal.

Likely the case for smart projects worldwide, many of these investments will need to demonstrate to those that hold the pursestrings that they will deliver on broader place-based metrics, such as liveability, productivity, sustainability and citizen outcomes, alongside traditional economic or financial measures.

With vision, collaboration and decisiveness, smart city developments can succeed in building better precincts and more sustainable communities, and attracting global tenants and new industries. If not done the right way there is a real risk of making generational planning errors that could cost in retrofitting for decades.

The window of opportunity is now.

Interested in learning more? Download the report by PwC Australia and UTS,  Smart Cities - Why Australia’s cities of tomorrow start today, for an in depth look at the rare window of opportunity for Australia’s smart city development.