SCP E05: Technology that makes the human experience richer, with Janine Betz



In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I had a great conversation with a fellow member of the Smart Cities Council Emerging Innovators Group, Janine Betz. Janine is a passionate advocate for sustainability and using Smart techniques to help fight against climate change. Western Australia is really lucky to benefit from Janine’s background, as she brings the European approach to sustainability and moulds it to suit the Australian conditions and environment. We discussed the challenges and opportunities building a 6-star Green Star Rating project, and how Smart Cities is about the integration between sustainability and innovation. Janine also talks passionately about Western Australia finding its feet in terms of culture, growth and identity, and how WA is well on their way to leading certain aspects of Smart Cities.

Disclaimer: Everything discussed is personal opinion only and does not represent the companies we work for or associated in any way with these companies.

What we cover in this episode:

  • Janine’s engineering, architecture and urban design background
  • How coming to Australia as an outsider from Europe gives her a unique perspective
  • Using technology to make the human experience richer
  • Building Information Modelling from a horizontal as well as a vertical perspective
  • The projects Janine is working on at the moment
  • Why a 6-Star Green Star Rating goes beyond the environmental rating, to the community and economics aspects as well
  • The Smart Tech that Janine sees as opportunities elsewhere in the world but can be a challenge to implement in Australia
  • Where Janine sees Europe leading the Smart Cities and climate change conversation compared to Australia
  • The reason we need to be careful about buzz words and greenwash terms
  • The need for a mindset shift and taking a broader viewpoint when discussing innovation in Australia
  • The opportunities, growth and mindset shifts in WA over the last decade
  • The need to foster more collaboration between industry, academia and governments
  • Why Australia is well placed to lead Smart City developments
  • The opportunities and challenges of an holistic approach to transport
  • One way Amsterdam customises the experience a person has with the environment

“I think that the conversation about Smart Cities is possibly one of the most important ones occurring at this point in time. As we know, climate change and sustainability as a whole is a challenge of our time.”

“Smart City really revolves around the human experience. For me, people are the central aspect of how we design our city…To me technology is a way of getting to a point where we design cities that improve the experience that the citizen has”

“We need to make sure that whatever cities we plan, we do that in a way that is inclusive, and that it is not only accessible to those that embrace technology…What I would like to see is for the technology to be largely invisible.”

Links to projects mentioned:

Connect with Janine:

You can connect with Janine via LinkedIn, she’d love to hear your comments on this episode.

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook @smartcitypod, or via email:

Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E04: The nexus of people, place and technology with Marcus Foth



In this episode of the Smart City Podcast, I interviewed founder and director of the Urban Informatics Research Lab at QUT in Brisbane, Marcus Foth. Although the term ‘Smart City’ wasn’t around, Marcus has been involved in this space for over 10 years, and worked in computer science before the internet became ubiquitous. He is passionate about bringing together people, places and technology in a user centric approach. We discussed a lot of exciting topics, including using technology to make a difference, how Australia is moving up in the Smart City ranks, and how climate change and sustainability need to be at the heart of a Smart City. We also discussed the next generation of personalised journey planners that would see me bumping into or avoiding my Facebook friends on my daily commute depending on how social I’m feeling that day. As well as this, Marcus introduces a number of global networks in the Smart City space that you, as the Smart City Collective, can check out and get involved with.

What we cover in this episode:

  • Marcus’s background studying computer science in Germany
  • His interest in the built environment and multi- and trans-disciplinary research approaches
  • How the Urban Informatics/Smart City conversation has evolved in the last decade
  • Why Marcus doesn’t subscribe to the dichotomy of the virtual and the real, digital and analog
  • The user-centric approach to urban planning decision making and the role technology has on enhancing community engagement
  • What technologies Marcus is interested in and excited about today
  • The projects Marcus is working on right now
  • Possibilities in optimising journey planners for variables other than just speed or distance
  • The need for algorithms to enhance diversity rather than familiarity in order to create innovation
  • How a diverse understanding of ‘city’ translates into other urban and regional contexts
  • Australia’s high level of interest in the Smart City agenda
  • Why a mature view of Smart City looks at the business and social piece as well as the technology piece
  • The advantages to trialing Smart City strategies in smaller local Councils
  • The importance of better linkages between Universities and governments
  • What we can learn from places like Canada’s City Studio Vancouver in fostering collaboration between Universities and local government
  • The reason Australian examples are increasingly being used on the international stage
  • The work of the Open and Agile Smart Cities network 
  • Why Marcus believes the current climate change and sustainability conversation is too superficial and in fact not always genuine

“One thing that I’ve learned in all of this time is that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be blinded by the shiny new objects and these different devices. It’s really important to focus on actual problem spaces and opportunity spaces, and then think of technology as a means to make a difference.”

“We are less likely to be exposed to new places, we are less likely to discover new people and new ideas. So that is particularly problematic when Australian cities want to be innovative and want to make the most of a national innovation agenda because Innovation thrives on diversity. If the algorithms that are in place are sorting us into certain categories, it actually keeps us apart.”

Links to some of the topics we discussed:

Connect with Marcus:

You can connect with Marcus on Twitter as @sunday9pm  @urbaninf or @QUTdesign

Check out his writings on this, for academic work see

and for shorter pieces see

You can also find out more about Marcus’ work at QUT, Brisbane via these websites  and

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook @smartcitypod, or via email:

Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E02: Preparing for Australia’s Smart Future, with Darren Wren



In this episode, I interview the Managing Director of IFC Collective, Darren Wren. Darren is a Civil Engineer with a diverse and expansive career. He’s excited about Smart City technology and exploring the space further both in the cities and in the regional communities.

We discussed a number of exciting areas of smart tech, including electric and automated vehicles, changing supply chains and revenue models, and how Australia can become Smart City leaders.

What we cover in this episode:

  • Darren’s background and interest in the Smart City space
  • How we as a society can adapt to the constant change that comes with technological advances
  • The projects Darren is working on at the moment
  • The importance of Smart City infrastructure that prepares for future changes even when we don’t know what they will be yet
  • What’s coming in terms of asset management systems and changing revenue models for government authorities
  • Why Australia is playing catch up to Europe and Asia in terms of Smart tech
  • The need to tailor Smart solutions to local Australian contexts
  • Barriers to rolling out Smart solutions in Australia, particularly in regional areas
  • The reasons more community education and user awareness is key
  • Power supply, demand and access for Australia’s Smart homes, Smart workplaces and electric vehicles
  • Why you need a camera in your fridge
  • How global collaboration will be a key part of Australia’s Smart City journey

“I think Australia is the ideal place to pilot and trial stuff because of its uniqueness in the global infrastructure world and our density clusters. It’s finding, to me, that council and authority that are willing to give it a go.”

“The skill is how we draw on all that knowledge around the world to make what we need here.”

Connect with Darren:

You can connect with Darren on LinkedIn, via his website or email him:

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me on Twitter or Facebook @smartcitypod, or via email:

Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E01: An Introduction



Hi, I’m Zoe.

I’m an engineer and a millennial with a passion for Smart City technology — and not specifically just in the big cities, but using Smart technology in any shape or form that makes things more efficient and effective and in turn makes people’s lives better.

I went searching for a hub where other people interested in this space hung out, and I couldn’t really find one, so I decided to create my own.

This is the Smart City Podcast, where experts come together and share their experiences and expertise.

Here I will interview exciting people from all around the world, about all things Smart City, including concepts, technology and anything that makes a place more livable.

I created this space mainly because I want to hang out with these exciting people, surround myself with them and build a Smart City Collective.

Each episode—other than this short intro one—will run between 30 minutes and 1 hour to listen to on your daily commute, or wherever you want!

Sit back, relax, open your mind and enjoy The Smart City Podcast.



Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

Podcast production by Ellen Ronalds Keene.


SCP E03: Technology as an enabler for social justice, with Nancy Odendaal



In this episode, I had a delightful conversation with Nancy Odendaal. Nancy is an Urban Planner, an Associate Professor in City planning at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has been in the Smart City game for well over a decade now and is really interested in how technologies affect power dynamics between people. Nancy has a number of projects on the go at the moment, one of which is researching the use of drones to enable humanitarian aid.

Nancy and I discuss many things, including using technology as an enabler for social justice, and how technology can enhance the sense of place of a city. As well as this, Nancy talked about some of the things South Africa and Africa as a whole is doing in the Smart City space, and the impact simple technology is having on transport, mobility and street traders.

This is a longer episode than usual but I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.

What we cover in this episode:

  • Nancy’s background and how she became interested in the notion of the Digital City in the late 1990s
  • The research Nancy has done in the space, including on Durbin City Government’s Smart City Strategy and Brisbane’s Digital City Initiatives
  • How informality is often core to understanding a city in the Global South
  • What drew Nancy back to the Smart City space in 2008
  • The difference between Smart Urbanism and Smart Cities
  • Nancy’s current projects, including some international collaborations
  • The notion of post-Smart that is beginning to emerge
  • How technology has become part of the day-to-day even for people who live quite marginal existences
  • What South Africa, and Africa as a whole, is doing in the Smart City space
  • The contrast between big engineering approaches to Smart Cities, and Nancy’s ideas about Smart from the bottom up
  • The social justice angle of technology being used to challenge the status quo
  • How the regulatory environment in South Africa impacts the progress of Smart City initiatives, and the role multinational IT companies have in driving Smart City visions
  • Why Nancy believes South Africa is the perfect place to pilot Smart tech
  • The importance of collaboration and the need for a shared vision when integrating across disciplines, governments, industries and universities
  • The emerging trends Nancy wants talked about more
  • The problems and opportunities of Mini-bus taxis in East Africa, and how digital technologies can become part of the mobility equation

“There’s something about the material manifestation of invention that enables us to be mobile, to communicate, which are such human qualities,…to see these material manifestations of these inventions that enable us to do that with so much more efficacy, is usually exciting.”

“My experience has always been a shared vision. If we can negotiate a shared vision, if we all want the same thing from this Smart City, if we agree on what we want from it, we can probably work towards it. I don’t think we’ll always agree but if we can at least agree on a shared vision it will help a lot.”

Resources and people mentioned:

  • Book Smart Urbanism by Simon Marvin, Colin McFarlane and Andres Luque-Ayala et. al. 
  • Marcus Foth, of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
  • Simon Marvin of Sheffield University
  • Ayona Datta of King’s University London.
  • Orla Soderstrom of the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland
  • Diganta Das from the University of Singapore
  • Alessandro Aurigi at Plymouth University in Britain
  • Vanessa Watson, University of Cape Town

Connect with Nancy:

Connect with Nancy via her Academic webpage at

or on Twitter @NancyO_UCT

Connect with Zoe:

Connect with me via email:

Connect via Twitter and Facebook @smartcitypod

Podcast Production by Ellen Ronalds Keene