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Hypercat alliance for smart cities


Australia looks like throwing its lot in with the UK-originated Hypercat Alliance as a technology standard for the Internet of Things to support the development of smart cities.

Hypercat is both an alliance – it has more than 1,000 industry members – and a standard that enables free communication of data from any connected sensor or device being used to monitor an environment.

Those sensors are increasingly being used by smart cities to support decision making and improve city services: They are monitoring everything from air quality and energy usage to traffic flows and asset utilisation.

The Hypercat standard aims to underpin the interoperability of the sensors and the data, so that that data can be used by different systems. It enables data to more easily be plugged into different projects.

Hypercat was set up in the UK three years ago with UK government support. According to British Consul General Nick McInnes, the launch this week of Hypercat Australia represented an Anglo-Australian collaboration in smart cities and IoT.

Certainly Australia’s Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation and Cities Angus Taylor is open to the idea in drawing on the UK experience in driving his “City Deals” program. And he’s interested in possibly working with the City of Manchester, where the UK government has mandated Hypercat standards for its own ‘city deals’ program.

Under ‘City Deals’, the government will run projects in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney. The program aims to align the resources and interests of local councils with business and NGOs – the non-profit organisations – to solve local problems.

Mr Taylor has a $50 million fund to underwrite smart city projects at a local level. His office has been holding roundtables seeking input into how the program should be designed. Broadly it aims to create a portfolio of smallish local projects that in combination can make a big difference – and then to roll-out those successful programs elsewhere in Australia.

Speaking at a Hypercat launch roundtable hosted by KPMG, Mr Taylor said: “We are looking for, in particular, collaborations between local councils and the private sector and NGO’s – the not-for-profits.”

“We are really looking for portfolio set of exemplars which in combination can help reshape our cities,” he said.

Data is at the heart of much of this work. And he wants them focused on real-life issues. “My view on this is that we’ve got to solve real problems,” Mr Taylor said.

“If we get a few quick wins, where we are solving problems that people struggle with in their everyday lives, those people will look at that project and want more where that came from,” he said.

That’s making a difference to traffic problems, or parking problems, or dramatically improving road maintenance.

Meanwhile, Hypercat founder and director Justin Anderson said the real value is unlocked in such local projects when each is interoperable.

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