RMIT students from Australia, Vietnam and Singapore have attended the Smart City Expo World Congress, as part of the University's Global Summer in Barcelona program.
The smart cities expo is a global summit for discussion about the link between urban reality and technological revolution.
The 30 students were exposed to hundreds of innovative ideas for smart cities as part of a visit led by one of RMIT’s summer school facilitators, Associate Professor Ibrahim Khalil from the School of Science.
Jenny Buyandelger, an RMIT Master of Urban Planning and Environment student, said she was particularly struck by the technology for connected and highly automated driving.
"We saw how a vehicle can move based on signals it receives from its surroundings, such as other vehicles and road infrastructure,” she said.
“It showed how highly automated cars can boost drivers' productivity but more importantly, how they can contribute to safer and more comfortable driving experiences.”
Buyandelger, who is from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, said she thought some of the technology showcased at the event would work well in her home city.
“Of particular interest to me were the exhibitions on smart lighting and smart waste and recycling,” she said.
“Lighting and waste management are big issues yet they seem to be able to be solved easily with innovative technologies.
“Crime and incidents happen in dark streets and mismanaged waste pollutes our environment and the city – technologies such as these can help change our cities for the better.”
But Buyandelger noted that while smart technologies make our lives easier, they can also make us mentally and physically lazy.
“We already move and think less than we did ten years ago. Technologies are doing everything for us and companies are making decisions on our behalf,” she said.
“I think one challenge for a city, in this technology-driven age, is to create more ‘real life’ environments – more public spaces where families, children and the elderly can enjoy time together; more cycling and pedestrian roads for transport options; plus more nature and gardens.”
For Francesco Amendola, another student in the Global Summer in Barcelona program, the expo presented a business opportunity.
The Bachelor of Environmental Science/Bachelor of Business student, who has his own landscaping and construction business in Melbourne, was particularly interested in the exhibitions featuring solar lighting.
“Developments in solar technology are impressive, with items showcased including solar car chargers as well as solar lighting systems for gardens,” he said.
“I think these types of devices would work really well in Melbourne and I’m currently in discussions with one of the companies exhibiting at the expo around helping them extend into Australia.”
The smart cities expo also flagged with Amendola the huge potential of the Internet of Things.
“It was such an insight to understanding the way data is captured and it can be utilised to address global challenges,” he said.
The event also made Amendola reflect on opportunities that exist today in terms of creating change with technology – and the impact that individuals can have.
"I'm personally committed to changing the ways of yesterday and creating affordability in technology so we can reduce our footprint to benefit today's and tomorrow's generation," he said.
The RMIT student participation at the smart cities expo in Barcelona, which runs over three days in November each year, was one of many activities as part of the Global Summer in Barcelona.
The program, which had the theme of urban futures, was based at RMIT Europe.
Story: Karen Matthews