An online service that has become a feature of summer for many in Auckland is now the winner of the Smart Water category, in IDC's Smart Cities Asia Pacific Awards.
The council is not resting on its laurels, however, and is already planning the next phase of the program's development, with an eye on utilising the power of the Internet of Things (ioT) to identify sources of pollution.
Auckland Council beat competitors from South Korea, Australia and Hong Kong to claim a Smart Cities gong for its Safeswim program, which provides information about water quality and conditions at regional beaches.
From February to November 2017, Auckland Council and Watercare worked in partnership with Surf Life Saving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to upgrade Safeswim to provide more accurate information about swimming conditions.
Safeswim now provides a fully-integrated web and digital signage platform to provide advice for beach users, allowing them to "check before they swim" and make informed decisions about when and where to swim.
The system combines real-time data on the performance of the wastewater and stormwater networks with predictive models, to generate forecasts of water quality at 92 swimming sites around the Auckland region.
The water quality predictions include a range of factors such as rain intensity, duration and location, as well as tide, sunlight, wind speed and wind direction.
Auckland Council director of IT, Mark Denvir, said programs such as Safeswim are an example of how Council is deploying innovative systems to share some of the information it holds and help customers make informed decisions.
"We are looking to back into it IoT to look for the sources of pollution," he told Reseller News. "We have a program of work with the business to really take that program much further."
The water quality information is complemented with advice from Surf Life Saving Northern Region and the Auckland Regional Public Health Service on other safety hazards, such as dangerous wind and wave conditions, rip currents and the presence of hazardous marine life.
The safeswim.org.nz website is the primary communication channel for Safeswim, supplemented with on-location signage Safeswim predictions now have accuracy of up to 86 per cent when identifying swimming conditions — a major improvement over earlier programs.
Safeswim is also now providing a template for other information services.
“Our Smart City Programme, which we are launching in September, will aim to deliver outcomes like these across a wide range of topics to ensure we can make Auckland the world’s most liveable city," added Matt Montgomery, head of innovation at Auckland Council.
Meanwhile, IDC Market Analyst Jefferson King said population growth in New Zealand's urban centres is putting strain on infrastructure such as roading and housing.
To help cope, cities need to use resources more efficiently and that’s what Smart Cities are all about.
"Auckland Council is doing just that, with a range of innovative projects that leverage technology to provide positive social outcomes," he said. "What stood out about the Safeswim project was the high level of collaboration between the different organisations and the increased accuracy it delivers.
"The positive outcomes of the project itself are clear, helping locals make better informed decisions regarding swimming safety."