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Information and communications technology stories

Lonnie takes ‘smart city’ lead

Edition 191_Campus

Launceston grabbed national leadership as a smart city, received a Federal funding go-ahead for its Inveresk campus project and successfully hosted its first Mona Foma festival in a hectic first month of 2018.

Tasmania's so-called "northern capital" was buzzing.

The city will take a serious leap into the future with the roll out of a $3.6 million ICT collaboration involving Telstra, UTAS, State and Federal governments and the Launceston, Meander ValleyWest Tamar and George Town councils.

The Greater Launceston Transformation Project will use the latest connective technology and 3D-modelling tools to transform city-planning processes, deliver better educational outcomes and develop a co-designed innovation hub.

The project aims to make the region a fully connected, tech-ready investment site.

Importantly, it makes Launceston a primary test bed for Telstra's emerging 5G technologies, positioning it as the nation’s leading smart city.

The city will access a Telstra NarrowBand IoT (Internet of Things) network, allowing everyday devices, as well as a growing range of home, commercial and industrial equipment, to be connected.

The network will allow businesses to better record and manage data.

The NB-IoT is one of the growing platforms for connecting with devices and appliances locally, be it parking bay sensors, vehicle tracking, agricultural equipment or simply for turning on an air conditioner or other home appliance remotely.

A new Technology and Innovation Centre of Excellence, established in partnership with Enterprize Launceston, will give the city one of the nation's five Telstra Customer Insight Centres.

Among capabilities this will support are:

  • A Tasmanian Agritech Start-up Accelerator Program which will focus on improving the efficiency and productivity of agriculture by connecting local weather stations, moisture measuring and soil monitoring for farmers;
  • A flagship technology approach for Macquarie House which will become a multi-use space for business collaboration and events;
  • The Tasmanian rollout of Telstra Energy and Telstra Health platforms, as well as the development of other new products and technologies.

Telstra will provide $20,000 in sponsorship for activities and events that support the development of new products and technologies and Telstra staff will provide an hour a month to mentor and support Tasmanian IT and innovation businesses.

Telstra Enterprise Mobility Director, Brian Hillier, told The Examiner: “What a smart city will do is … generate a lot of data, which you can then analyse to help make good business decisions for your citizens and for the productivity of the regional city."

The State Minister for Information Technology, Michael Ferguson, said: “This is another step in the transformation of this city, Greater Launceston, and the nearby regional communities.

“There’s going to be a lot of innovation in this space, a lot of job opportunities will help businesses and people to be independent.”

Mr Ferguson said Launceston was now "well ahead of the pack".

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, visited the city in January to announce the pending transfer of $130 million for the UTAS project and to urge the university to get on with the job.

Launceston's Mayor, Albert van Zetten, said the cash release was a crucial step in a "once-in-a-generation project."

He said: “The benefits of bringing thousands of students into the CBD will help reinvigorate the city, with many flow-on effects for the northern economy from a $260 million project of this nature.

“It will have a massive, $1.1 billion economic direct and indirect output through the construction phase. [This project] seeks to fundamentally address the poor educational attainment levels northern Tasmania is currently burdened by.”

The national Minister for Education, Simon Birmingham, said Federal funds would be released to UTAS as performance payments as each stage of construction was entered.

“As we proceed now from the strategic business plan that the university lodged with Infrastructure Australia late last year, which we have now approved, we’ll get into the detail of which stages will be undertaken in which order,” he said.

A likely first step will be a pedestrian bridge at Willis Street.

Mr Turnbull told UTAS Acting Vice Chancellor, Mike Calford: “No pressure, but what you’ve got to do now is build it. We are looking forward to construction this year and completed by next year.”

Professor Calford responded: “As soon as possible. The sooner the better because it is a real priority for us.

"This is such an important City Deal for Launceston and for Tasmania and it is important to see more Tasmanians go through to higher education and associate degrees."

The relocation of UTAS’s main northern campus from Newnham to Inveresk is the centre-piece of a Launceston City Deal agreed on with the Australian Government, the State Government and Launceston City Council in April 2017.

The $260 million City Deal comprises $130 million from the Turnbull government, $64.6 million from the university, $60 million from the State Government and $5.4 million from the Launceston City Council.

Professor Calford said the campus move would turn Launceston into a university city, stimulating growth and jobs, strengthening local communities and lifting educational attainment.

The Australian Maritime College will remain at Newnham and a maritime technopark will be developed around it.

More State funding will be heading north if the people behind the Mona Foma music and arts festival get their way.

The zany event left Hobart for the first time in January and Launcestonians got into the spirit of things with their first "mini Mofo".

Events were well-attended and occupancy rates at local hotels were above 90 per cent.

Mofo organisers now want to move the whole event north and will be seeking $8 million in State funding over four years to support the exercise.

That negotiation will take place against a background of booming private development in Launceston, including the revival of the CH Smith complex in Charles Street; the redevelopment of the Kings Wharf grain silos to create the Silo Hotel; the revamp of Civic Square; and the second stage of the $5 million Rosevears Hotel redevelopment.

Significant money is also going into a Toll Transport freight hub, boutique accommodation units, a new hotel overlooking The Gorge; a private aged-care facility, Launceston Airport, the city's four McDonald's outlets, the moribund Star Theatre and a stretch of the Midland Highway south of the city.

As the good news rolled in, The Examiner editorialised: "Tasmania has always been a tremendous State and now it is proving to be in tremendous state. Let’s not let it slip."

Image courtesy of UTAS

7 February 2018, Edition 191

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