Smart City Taps IoT to Monitor Environment and Crowds at Popular Lake

Smart cities can transform how cities maintain their services and interact with their citizens. IoT technologies are allowing one Australian city to track water quality, crowd density, and waste levels at a popular local lake to ensure the health of the environment and the public.

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Image Credit: City of Ballarat

Imagine you take your family to a nearby park for a picnic near the lake. You don’t even notice, but despite the crowds of people with the same thought, there is ample seating, adequate shade, the trash bins aren’t overflowing, the water is clear, and the fish are plentiful. It’s possible this scenario has been brought to you by IoT.  

That is happening now in a small lake community in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. A significant tourist destination, Ballarat is known for its history, culture and its well-preserved Victorian-era heritage.To improve sustainability and economic prosperity, the City of Ballarat has created a smart city framework that promotes transparency and accountability across the public and private sectors. 

The framework includes gathering data from a variety of sensors, built on a connected infrastructure, The Things Network. Data is collected from the smart sensors using long-range, low power wide-area network (LoRaWAN) services. Ballarat has deployed sensors to monitor crowds, environmental issues, and even its waste receptacles. 

Data from the smart sensors is available not only to the city administrators, but also to the public. The city uses the data to improve sustainability, and the public is also encouraged to check the data regularly and be accountable as well, helping the community as a whole avoid overcrowding at peak times and overflowing trash receptacles. 

An Eye on the Environment

One of the most interesting examples of Ballarat’s smart city approach can be found in and around Ballarat’s Lake Wendouree. The lake is an artificially created and maintained shallow urban lake located adjacent to the City of Ballarat. The lake and the park surrounding it contain various smart sensors, which track a host of public and environmental data points. On the environmental side, the sensors monitor air and water temperature, water movement and quality, and wind speed and direction. These sensors help determine aquatic plant development and water evaporation trends on Lake Wendouree. 

Ecologists use the data to determine when to add water to the lake and to ensure aquatic life safety and growth. The public can use this data to best determine when to visit the lake and also to keep the city accountable for sustainability. The city also uses the data to make smart investments and infrastructure changes based on monthly usage and need.  

Public Service Sensors

In addition to monitoring the ecosystem, sensors track pedestrian traffic. Ballarat uses nCounters, from Australian IoT integrator Meshed, to record Lake Wendouree’s crowd sizes and pedestrian counts by tracking the number of Wi-Fi-connected devices in specific zones. The data, including high-use areas and peak visiting times, is tracked and made available to the public, which can help people plan outings. The city uses the same data to schedule maintenance activities during off-times. Nearby Federation University also uses nCounters to measure occupancy and campus utilization to plan for maintenance and infrastructure upgrades. 

white box with Meshed branding

Imaged credit: Meshed nCounter/Here360

Ballarat also implemented a waste information system that shares and tracks data between waste bins, trucks, and other infrastructure to improve waste management and waste energy. The city has deployed sustainable, solar-powered, self-compacting landfill waste bins and recycling bins around Lake Wendouree. The IoT-enabled bins monitor waste levels and alert waste collection companies when they are nearly full. The public can also see that information via the cloud, which provides encouragement for citizens to reduce, reuse, and recycle when overall waste levels are high. 

These technologies have promoted better sustainability within Ballarat. The smart city is now capable of monitoring water quality, population sizes, and waste levels using IoT sensors, and it can easily receive and analyze the data using The Things Network platform. As smart cities continue to emerge, integrators building intelligent solutions can look toward Ballarat as a shining example of how IoT can help with sustainable and accountable living.