In this episode of The Smart City Podcast, I have a great chat with Geof Heyden, Associate at data sharing company CreatorTech and Co-Founder of the IOT Alliance in Australia. Geof shares his background in the telecommunications industry, and how that sparked his interest in the Smart City space. He is passionate about helping all levels of government to really understand the importance of data and data sharing in a digital economy, and how we all need to be on the same page with protecting and sharing appropriately sometimes quite sensitive data. We also discuss the importance of councils and state governments, taking stock of what’s happening internally first in order to make Smart decisions about what Smart applications are needed, and the interesting evolution in thinking going on about what makes a liveable city or community. Geof shares his thoughts on the patchiness of Australia’s adoption of Smart concepts, and explains how the IoT Alliance came to be. We also discuss why collaboration across industries and disciplines is critical for us to actually be solving the problems we have today, with or without IOT. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Geof’s background in the telecommunications industry and his passion for data in the digital economy
  • The implications and applications of the third phase of the internet and the decreasing cost of sensors
  • Four-step journey of evolution of a Smart City is and why the concept is so important
  • Why smaller regions and communities are often better equipped than big cities to do liveability and mobility
  • The patchiness of Australia’s adoption of Smart initiatives and the cultural challenges for Australia to compete in the digital, global economy
  • The importance of the internet for anything Smart and why government investment is so critical
  • Projects Geof is currently working on including data sharing policies for local governments and sensor networks in regional areas
  • How the IOT Alliance came to be and what they do
  • Why solutions can only come in the digital age when we get out of silos and collaborate
  • The emerging trends of 5G, cyber security and data sharing for innovation
  • The opportunities and challenges of sensitive data-sharing initiatives like the My Health Record
  • The importance of transparency in decision making (rather than technical detail) in building community trust


Now we’re deeply into the third phase of real pervasiveness of the Internet where it’s not just people and computers being connected, it’s sensors that are getting lower and lower cost…and the real excitement is around all the new applications and services that these sensors and networks enable.

If you ask 100 people [what a Smart City is] you’d get more than 100 answers, so we already have quite a dilemma on our hands.

Really interesting things start to emerge after [we get out of our silos]…and that is when data from something like the [Smart lighting and waste management] example start to be brought together so that you can innovate with new ideas that use both sets of data from completely different parts of the business.

Councils and governments have got to learn how to use data, and they’ve got to learn how to use it starting with baby steps. And those baby steps are the ones that are happening right now.

There’s lots of experimenting going on, there’s lots of silo-ed projects delivering great results, but they’re all doing old things in new ways. What we’ve got to get to is the new things in new ways, which we haven’t really got to yet.

We have a massive challenge in many of the Australian cities…most of the growth and development in our cities over the last 100 years has happened through the age of the car and we’ve just about become so dependent on it, and designed suburbs be nothing more than dormitories with cars, that people aren’t walking because they’re just too far away. And we’re now very dependent on cars, and that doesn’t make for a liveable city.

Most people don’t live and work in the same council’s footprint, so you can’t even develop a service that makes much sense if you’re working on it within one council…Mobility as a service will never work if we can only do it one local government area at a time.

When you look at something as fundamental as our national broadband network, when that idea was first being talked about it…we were in the top 10 in the world in broadband connectivity. Right now, Australia ranks 66 and that’s pretty sad and very hard to recovery from, because there are 65 other countries that have better internet than we’ve got and that’s a critical enabler for Smart anything.

As councils start gathering data from all of these different soloed businesses, the first challenge is can the even share it within their own silos, let alone can they share it with their ecosystem of external partners?

The really critical thing is the ecosystems you have to develop to make solutions happen… Now, if you’ve got a problem that you’re trying to solve…but in many cases, those problems can be addressed by an Internet of Things type of solution.

Where do you fund things from when the real excitement is happening in between two silos? That’s all very tricky for local governments to handle.

The importance of how you secure and protect data, and how you share data and how you recognise that sharing data is such an enabler for innovation, is something we haven’t talked enough about at all in [Australia]… Data sharing is fundamental to our future innovation.

The community is pretty well-educated around information, but it’s also incredibly lazy. Almost all of the problems that we see on denial of service attacks and things, are caused by people not even bothering to change default passwords and that’s a fundamentally flawed thing to do, and nobody should be silly enough to do that, but most of the population truly is and that’s really sad.

It’s an incredibly complex thing to appropriately handle protecting human rights and protecting the safety of that information and sharing it appropriately with the right agencies under the right conditions, and I don’t believe there’s anybody in the community who has got the patience to sit down and work through all of those issues. But what they do need is some confidence that the people who are working on it will do the right thing, and that’s a tough thing when you’ve got a government who people broadly don’t like to trust right now.


Connect with Geof via email and find the IOT alliance via their website.

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The Smart City Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

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My Smart Community offers consulting and media services with a focus on making our communities more accessible, liveable and sustainable for all. We have a focus on Smart Mobility, Smart project management, Smart technology in regional communities, dealing with disruption and facilitating genuine collaboration. As well as podcast production, communication and media advisory and engagement, keynote speaking, moderating, master of ceremonies and workshop design and facilitation.

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