Australia–Indonesia joint workshop on smart cities

This workshop brought experts from Australia and Indonesia together in the research areas of the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics and smart cities. The goal was to establish a smart cities research network addressing the challenges of rapid urbanisation. The workshop facilitated initiatives addressing smart city problems to develop intelligent, economically viable solutions of value to the environment, homeland security, infrastructure and health sciences. The workshop enabled researchers to identify common themes and opportunities for collaboration. The workshop was conducted in February 2015 in Bandung, Indonesia.

By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population – more than 6 billion people – is expected to live in cities and surrounding regions. Cities will need to be smart, if only to survive as places that enable economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. Australia is highly urbanised, with more than 89 per cent of people living in urban centres. Four of world’s top 10 cities are in Australia and Melbourne has been consistently rated as the most liveable in the world. In line with global trends, Indonesia is facing a very high rate of urbanisation. Its cities are growing by more than 4 per cent each year. To deal with this unprecedented scenario, cities need to be smart. The smartness of a city is technologically enabled by the emerging Internet of Things, which can be seamlessly integrated into urban infrastructure (transport, health, environment, etc.) and form a digital skin over the city.

The aim of the workshop was to foster research in this niche area at the crossroads of sensors (Internet of Things), communication (high-speed broadband), and interpretation (big-data analytics). Connecting sensing and actuating devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) allows the sharing of information across platforms through a unified framework, developing a common operating picture for city management. The interpretation of events and visualisation of information will ensure sustainability and higher quality of life in the urban environment. It will enable researchers in similar areas to work more cohesively to establish a long-term collaborative mechanism. It will lead to exciting projects that will deliver new knowledge in scalable network data handling. It will strategically position Australian and Indonesian researchers at the forefront of the international drive towards smart cities, and consolidate their preeminence in innovative research.

The core goal was to establish an Australia-Indonesia Research Network on Smart Cities. Building on the experience of the Australian Research Council’s successful Research Network on Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP, with more than 200 researchers worldwide), the proposed network seeks to create collaboration between the two countries. Specifically, this network will develop projects providing new solutions for monitoring, analysis, and interpretation of smart city data. In doing so, the network will form the base for collaboration between The University of Melbourne and its partners.

The program addressed technological integration by building new paradigms of the data-information-knowledge-action axis, dictated by efficient transformation of collected data to information and knowledge via novel sensing technologies and interpretation abilities.

The workshop identified major issues in cities in Indonesia, including transport, healthcare and governance. Transport is one of the major problems facing the people of Indonesia. Narrow roads and increased traffic are bringing transport to near halt. An associated problem is frequent natural disasters thwarting both transport developments and economic growth. Healthcare is another issue that needs attention. This encompasses the need for health and hygiene education to address the skills and knowledge divide amongst city population. Governance is a third important factor, covering the inability of government budgets to fund the necessary research and development projects. Similar issues were also apparent in Australian cities, including public transport, the increasing cost of energy, and issues of integrating frameworks to ensure sustainability, liveability and productivity.

Smart cities have been pitched as a means of tackling urban issues in developing and developed countries. Four key challenges were identified in building smart cities:

  • Insufficient data due to improper planning or system failure.
  • Sparse data due to problems with the system or sensors or communication
  • Erroneous data due to systemic error or problems with sensors
  • Lack of computational power. 

Providing real-time analytics is a big challenge. Smart cities bring several complicated systems together, requiring analytics algorithms to be highly intelligent and adaptive to unknown and large amounts of data. 

The workshop successfully facilitated discussions between experts from Indonesia and Australia. Common research themes and interests were identified, and common problems and possible solutions were discussed. Interactions among city councils from both nations were also identified as a critical step. There has been ongoing discussion among researchers from the University of Melbourne and the Institut Teknologi Bandung.