Sensors take headache out of summer beach parking

Sensors take headache out of summer beach parking

Researchers are installing sensors throughout the summer hotspot of Rye to monitor traffic, parking, crowd numbers and even toilet usage to better manage holiday crowds.

The collaboration between RMIT, Mornington Peninsula Shire and other partners brings smart city technology to the traditional beach holiday, offering a glimpse of how sensor data will change how future cities operate. 

Lead researcher, RMIT University’s Associate Professor Flora Salim, said traffic sensors would feed into smart signs displaying real-time availability of parking, while also guiding traffic to the least congested route. 

“We’re also putting sensors on BBQs and in bins to let council workers know when they need attention, and air quality sensors at toilet blocks,” she said. “Even the historic Rye Pier will have air and water quality sensors.” 

The initial trial is monitoring more than 650 parking spaces, 20 bins, five toilet blocks, four BBQ facilities as well as 1 km of the main shopping street and 9 Ha of foreshore area. The sensors are currently being installed and trialled over this summer and the next, with the project to continue rolling out over subsequent years.

But Salim said smart street signs and facility monitoring was only the beginning. 

“Eventually we’ll be using Artificial Intelligence for predictive modelling of all this data for towns all along the coast, trained on historic data but also informed by weather and events information.”

“Local government will have dashboards with all this real-time information as well as forecasts for infrastructure development, while visitors can use an app to plan their ideal trip to the beach with the best route, parking and beach facilities.”  

21 January 2019

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Associate Professor Flora Salim is an expert on sensor networks and other smart cities technology.

Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor, Councillor David Gill, said the project was driven by high tourism demand on the Peninsula, particularly during the summer and holiday season.

“Rye township has been inundated with visitors, increasing pressures on parking, traffic, and amenities,” Gill said. “This project will allow the Shire to demonstrate the use of smart technologies to improve liveability of busy towns, for example finding a park.” 

Following the tests, the system will be replicated and scaled up for other beachside towns along the Mornington Peninsula with high demand pressures.

Salim, a member of RMIT’s Centre for Information Discovery and Data Analytics said it was just the beginning of the smart cities revolution that was coming.

“In the decade ahead we’ll see an explosion in services and facilities that are responsive to population movements and changing conditions, using data from the increasing number of sensors, mobile phone location data and so on to make our cities more responsive,” she said. 

“Truly smart cities need to be able to aid both the citizens as well as local governments in making intelligence-informed decisions or even automating and delegating some of these planning decisions,” Salim said. 

“For planning purposes, operational managers will be able anticipate seasonal, regular and irregular mobility and usage patterns by residents and visitors, who in turn can truly enjoy living in and visiting the Shire without the stresses or traffic, finding a car park, knowing which beach is least crowded or which BBQs will be available along their route.”

This project was funded by the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. 

Other project partners include Downer, Broadspectrum, and the Australian Road Research Board with support from Meshed, Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board and Rye Beach Business Association. 

Be part of the conversation about Melbourne's future as our population heads towards 8 million. Join local and international leaders from industry, research and innovation, 18-20 February at RMIT. Find out more at Engaging for Impact 2019.

Story: Michael Quin

21 January 2019

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