Adelaide marches towards smart city without NBN

Adelaide's move towards a smart city was made easier by the town largely already having access to fibre, according to the South Australian Government.

Adelaide's Internet of Things innovation hub will rely on existing fibre and the free Wi-Fi service for connection, rather than waiting for the National Broadband Network.

One of the often touted benefits of rolling out a fully fibre NBN is the ability for cities to offer better digital services to citizens, and to each become "digital hubs" for the public. Recently Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that he feared that the project had been so hyped by the former Labor government that every city wanted to become the next Silicon Valley.

"Sometimes I fear that every mayor in Australia thinks the project will turn their town into Silicon Valley. People with perfectly good broadband connections today — for example, over HFC — have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get fibre to the premises," he said.

Facing a challenging economic outlook, last month, the SA Government, the City of Adelaide, and Cisco signed a memorandum of understanding for an Internet of Things innovation hub designed to leverage Adelaide's new free wi-fi network as a test bed for new applications and projects.

The Wi-Fi network is a project by the city, the state, and iiNet, and covers the Adelaide CBD with 200 Cisco access points. In the first few months since its launch, there are around 90,000 unique users of the network in a seven-day period, according to Peter Triantafilou, South Australian Government telecommunications principal policy officer.

While Triantafilou acknowledged that the NBN was being rolled out in Adelaide, he said the hub would not be dependent on the availability of the NBN fibre.

"In the city centre itself it wasn't a critical issue because between iiNet, the state government and the City of Adelaide, there was quite a bit of fibre anyway. The NBN is coming through but it's not really going to interact much with the Wi-Fi," he said at the Cisco Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago on Wednesday.

"I guess we were fortunate from the point of view of having a large amount of fibre already in the ground."

Some of the projects being piloted in the IoT hub include traffic management, parking management, smart street lights, and waste management. 

"The IoT can provide greater efficiencies and a whole new range of services for citizens, but what we also want to do is grow a whole new industry sector," he said.

"This hub, with Cisco's help, will attract global companies to work with our local businesses and entrepreneurs."

One challenge to the move to the Internet of Things is the ownership of the data collected and analysed through the sensors and networks put in place. Triantafilou said that iiNet, as the owner of the Wi-Fi network, would own the data, but the governments would be able to access what they need.

"It's a privately-owned network now. We provided some seed funding, but iiNet owns the network," he said.

"We did take precautions during the contract negotiations to ensure that any data that the state and the City of Adelaide needed would be provided."

Josh Taylor travelled to Chicago as a guest of Cisco.

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