SCP E80 Embracing future ways of working through intentional design, with Andrew Pettifer and Steve Coster

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode80 ArupThis episode of the Smart Community Podcast is brought to you by Arup, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, working across every aspect of today’s built environment.

In this episode, I had a brilliant conversation with Andrew Pettifer, the NSW Region Leader of Arup, and Steve Coster, the Managing Director at international design practice, HASSELL. We have a fascinating discussion about the impact of technology, design and leadership on the way we work, and how this fits in the Smart Community arena.

Arup has just opened three new buildings for their workforce in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore, and we talk about the guiding principals for these buildings, and why it is so important to have this forward thinking approach rather than just leasing an existing office building. I have visited both the Sydney and Melbourne sites and I must say, the intentional design really does make a difference.

Andrew and Steve explain the process of planning, designing and implementing such a Smart and sustainable building.

As well as talking about the different ways design, space and technology are used, we also discuss the power of workplace culture, the importance of giving people flexible work choices, and the need for leadership to create high-trust environments for staff. We finish our conversation discussing the emerging trends in the ways we work and how work will change into the future.

If you would like to sponsor an episode of the Smart Community Podcast, please send me an email to and we can discuss the options. 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:

  • Andrew and Steve’s respective backgrounds and how they each became interested in this space
  • How the way we work fits into the Smart Community arena, and what Arup is doing do embrace future ways of working
  • About the new buildings, and the guiding principles that brought them to life
  • The planning and design process through to the implementation of the new buildings 
  • The importance of creating high trust, high respect environments and why the physical spaces are so important to representing and enhancing the culture 
  • How sustainability was incorporated into the design nd operation of the new buildings 
  • The Smarts incorporated into the building
  • Emerging trends in the way we work




Connect with Steve via the HASSELL website or email 

Connect with Andrew via LinkedIn and Twitter, or email

Connect with me via email: 

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E79: Smart Shared Mobility, with Alex Girard

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode79 Alex Girard


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have a really great conversation with Alex Girard, the CTO of Liftango. Alex tells us about his background and what he’s passionate about, and also what a Smart City means to him. We also talk about what’s happening in France and Australia in terms of transportation as a pillar for society, and the differences between the two. Alex then shares about what Liftango does, including carpooling and on-demand bus solutions. We then talk about how open data is a means of integrating across the different disciplines. We finish up talking about while the spotlight is on EVs and AVs, electric and autonomous vehicles, we need to start talking about how they fit into the shared mobility space. 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:

  • Alex’s background creating ride sharing apps and how that led him to being involved with Liftango
  • What a Smart City means to Alex and why he believes it’s so important
  • The similarities and differences between Australia and France in their approach to public transportation
  • The two main projects Alex is currently working on with Liftango
  • How Liftango came to be, and how the two solutions work
  • The importance of open data for enabling integration and collaboration across different disciplines
  • The opportunities and challenges of the emerging Smart Mobility space


“A Smart City is a concept that is a series of ways to tackle and/or use technologies for more behaviours that are born from them, and to reuse them in a way that is way more efficient.”

“The obvious enabler that Liftango is leveraging is the Smart phones and the hyper-connectivity that came with it.”

“The concept of Smart Cities is going to provide a new vertical for cities to [solve] some of their problems such as congestion, such as parking issues, such as pollution, using existing or at least maturing infrastructure and maybe improving a little bit on them.”

“Compared to Europe and more specifically to France, I think Australia has something that is unique, because when we look at cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, it’s low density. Compared to a city like Paris, where the buildings are actually quite high, Sydney is actually spreading, so it’s not an easy comparison but I think Australia is doing great work to improve on their transportation, especially the public system…and that’s exactly what France is doing as well because we share some of the same beliefs that transportation is a pillar for society and [that it’s important] to give everyone the same chance.”

“[Sydney is] looking at innovative ways to solve the problems of congestion and also their kind of unique challenges in terms of geography, with the bays, the bridge.”

“Looking at the stats, Australians prefer to drive their own car [because it’s convenient] but it’s actually causing some drama [with congestion] nowadays. So things need to change and I think Smart Phones with internet is providing a very good platform to plug some good solutions such as carpooling, on demand buses and also some parking solutions, and reducing the number of cars on the road.”

“The [Liftango] car pooling solution, also known as corporate rideshare, allows any organisation—such as universities, hospitals and large businesses—to set up their own private network where every employee, staff or student will exclusively carpool with one another, thereby guaranteeing some security. We incentivise this behaviour by leaving some rewards and also locating bays in car parks.”

“[The founders of Liftango] were struggling with commuting and thought ‘there must be an app for this,’ but there wasn’t… So Kevin decided to solve this problem.”

“We select the top 10 of each company and distribute some prizes such as fuel vouchers. This way, not only do we increase engagement, but also we make sure that people actually have a good time.”

“[Data] is crucial. Data is driving decisions and with the data we accumulate, we can actually make concrete decisions not just gut feeling kind of decisions and therefore you can back up any kind of initiative with data analysis.”

“We need to create bridges between those disciplines and government agencies…The obvious one is open data, and by that I mean giving people and agencies the access to some of your data, if you’re an agency or business working in the Smart City environment.”

“I believe that it’s really hard to anticipate what other [agencies] will need, therefore you’re better off opening your [data] as much as you can to the rest of the world and let them pick whatever they believe is useful for them.”

“In our [Liftango] case I believe that the autonomous vehicle is the one that will compound very nicely with our solution.”

“Any transporation network companies, like Uber and GoCatch, make it more affordable to travel around but it’s also creating congestion, so unless we start having some shared mobility companies and to reduce the number of cars I think it’s an issue.

“I think the public transport system is ripe for an update and that’s where we [Liftango] intend to play a part. [People] are not talking enough about it, I’m sure.”


Connect with Alex via LinkedIn or email him

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E78: Smart Water Management, with Frank Burns

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode78 Frank Burns


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a great conversation with Frank Burns, President and Co-Founder of APANA, a technology company that is currently applying its IoT and Prescriptive Analytics suites to solve problems with water use inside the built environment. Frank shares his background in waste water management, his passion for eliminating water waste and contamination in the commercial, industrial and institutional sector, and how it sparked his interest in the Smart Cities/Smart Communities space. We discuss the way APANA uses technology and data for Smart Water Management, and why it’s so important not only in individual companies but at the city level. Frank shares his thoughts on how this is currently happening in the US, the tug of war between the tech-focused approach and the bottom-up approach to Smart cities and why meaningful measurement is the key to integration and collaboration across sectors and disciplines. We finish our chat talking about water being the emerging trend that we’re not talking about enough, and how using IOT measurement and data analysis can be a security system against mechanical failure and human error in the Smart Water space. 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:

  • Frank’s passion for eliminating water waste from the use profile in the built environment
  • How he became involved in this space 20 years ago
  • What sparked Frank’s interest in the Smart City space
  • The technology Frank’s company uses for Smart Water Management
  • Why reducing the unnecessary water use and contamination in cities is the lowest hanging fruit in regards to reducing energy consumption
  • The tug of war between the tech-focused approach and the bottom-up approach to Smart Cities in the US
  • Projects Frank and his company APANA are currently working on
  • Why we need to measure—and have measurements that are accurate and at a resolution that’s meaningful—in order to collaborate and integrate
  • The emerging trend of Smart Water Management and why Frank things it should be the new recycling
  • Using IOT measurement and data analysis as a security system against mechanical failure and human error


I am passionate about eliminating water waste from the use profile in the built environment, and I got into this because I designed and built waste water plants for commercial centres.

We started seeing the waste water plants were receiving a lot more water in some locations than the design had projected, and we began to look up stream into the buildings on that campus and realised there were a number of mechanical failures and human waste activities that created a lot more water use than was necessary.

You can see things when you measure in high resolution in real time, you can see all kinds of stuff…all of the failure points.

Cities own all these [water meter] assets and they’re not connected. They’re using it primarily for the purpose of billing water. If you measured in a really meaningful way at one-minute intervals and had the technology to process that data and make good use of it, it’s a whole other level of value…not just waste control.

[A Smart City] is where the things that make sense are connected, and the data is useful. You can monitor and measure all kinds of things, but a lot of it doesn’t make sense to do. A Smart City is taking the stuff that means something and getting that data back so that it can be processed, turned around and made useful to either the automation system for the people who can act on it, from either an immediate intervention or general reporting perspective.

We see a tremendous potential for making water systems significantly Smarter…You could connect every house, but the things that really make sense immediately in side of most first world cities is the commercial, industrial and institutional sector properties because they have tremendous water use and that’s where most of the problems are.

The number 1 consumer of electricity in most first-world cities is the municipal waste water treatment plant. We tend not to think about it [because it’s out of sight, out of mind]. From a Smart City perspective, I think the lowest lying fruit as far as built environment is to reduce the unnecessary water use and contamination that hits our waste water plants. That would have an immediate reduction on our energy consumption at the largest energy user in most of our cities. The Smart City approach to Smart Water Management is the most practical, fastest way to accomplish that.

We call it manage water like inventory, because people understand how to manage inventory really well. We out to be managing water like that. And so we want to push that paradigm from a city level, where it will have an immediate and lasting reduction of the waste profile. It’s the easiest way for us to reduce the energy consumption by capacity in our distribution and wastewater treatment facilities.

At the end of the day, the Smart City is basically management. You’re collecting data, so you can make sense of it, and you can take some sort of action and control—manage—and get a result that is beneficial for the community.

You’ll have measurement that will manage and keep it transparent, and when things go sideways, people will know. And if they decide not to fix it, there’s an enforcement mechanism that will be enabled that will help the community contain the waste. When you measure and report in a way that is meaningful, humans tend to respond really quickly.

We need measurement that is accurate and at a resolution that is meaningful…When there’s no hiding and there’s total transparency and it’s obvious to everybody because it’s there, then collaboration and all of the discussion points becomes pretty simple.

I think eliminating water waste, unnecessary water use and unnecessary contamination should be the new solid waste recycling. People are vigilant about recycling…but when you look at how water is used, and the impact, it’s out of sight and out of mind. We haven’t even applied our brain to that part of our resource consumption and impact on the environment.

If we measure water in a meaningful way and connect it at scale, it’s very inexpensive, but it provides this security against [operational failure]…you end up with an ability to know what’s happening, pinpoint it, classify it…and guide somebody on what to do when it happens. That’s what a Smart City will look like.


Connect with Frank via the Apana website

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E77 The Power of Leadership and Technology in Smart Communities, with Jonathan Reichental

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode77 Jonathan Reichental


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a fascinating conversation with Jonathan Reichental, the Chief Information Officer for the City of Palo Alto, California. Jonathan shared a bit about his background in technology, why he loves the way technology can make positive things happen for individuals and the world. He talks about what it’s been like being, in his words, a bit of a maverick from the private sector, now being a public servant and working for local government.

Jonathan shares how the City of Palo Alto is working on digitisation and the high degree of importance they place on collaboration with the community. We talk about what a Smart City or Smart Community means to Jonathan, why it’s so important and how being in the opening chapters of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating a lot of change for all of us.

Jonathan also explains why cities or urban locations are the future, not only in terms of where most humans will live going forwards, but also in terms of solving the big problems facing our planet, such as climate change. We talk about some of the projects Palo Alto is currently working on and why decision making and leadership is key to better integrating across disciplines, industries, governments and academia.

We finish off discussing emerging trends, including the human trends of the digital divide and human rights, and tech trends such as blockchain, AI and data. As always, I hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it!

Don’t forget to check out the Urban Motion Conference in Brisbane

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Jonathan’s background in the technology industry and business
  • How he made the switch from the private to the public sector to become a technologist within government
  • What sparked Jonathan’s interest in the Smart space and how Palo Alto decided to become a digital city
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the many, rapid changes facing humanity and the planet
  • Why the future of every human on the planet is in the urban context
  • How the US is embracing Smart concepts both nationally but also regionally and locally
  • Ways Palo Alto prioritises and involves community in collaboration, and why results are more important than names and terms
  • The power of leadership and decision making in integrating across disciplines, industries, government and with community
  • The emerging trends of blockchain and AI technology transforming the way we do things like democracy and medicine
  • The potential of data in cities  once we start to really embrace it the way the private sector has


I think we should transform the analog ways in which City works—all this paperwork and inefficiency—and push as much as we can the capability to smartphones and online and get rid of all the filing cabinets and the abundance of paperwork we have at City Hall. Make things more efficient, more accurate, lower cost and create a better experience.

We have so many difficult problems to solve. They’re interesting problems. And we now recognise that technology is going to be the heart of solving those problems, so now we have a vendor space that’s beginning to step up and help solve some of those problems. This is the next stage of digitisation…the intersection of digitisation and hardware.

We’re in the opening chapters of a revolution, a fourth industrial revolution. The way in which the world enters this revolution will look completely different on the other side…Whatever it is, and there’s going to be more of it, we’re in a great big transformation and an individual and an organisation is not going to be able to sit this out.

[A Smart Community] is a response to some very big challenges, with technology at the centre…It’s not business as usual. We can’t respond in the way we did 20-30 years ago, it just doesn’t cut it, it’s going to be ineffective. We have to make bold decisions, big decisions, some major investments. We’ve got to do it regionally, nationally and now globally.

The future of everyone is in an urban context. We’re moving into cities now 2 million people per week. By the middle of the 21st Century 70 – 80% of all humans, of which there will be about 9 billion, will live in a city. Our future belongs to cities, so if we’re going to live in cities, which is looks like we are, we’re going to want clean air and water.

Our cities are where the climate has been changed, and cities are where we’re going to fix the climate crisis if we have any chance at fixing it…This matters to every single one of us. There’s nobody on the planet who gets to say, “This isn’t my problem.”

It’s cities that matter, so it’s Mayors that are going to be having the biggest impact on the climate crisis and the way in which their cities operate. Now we don’t live in a vacuum, we have to work with our state and federal colleagues, [but] the power to influence the future is now fully embedded in cities. That’s where GDP is created, that’s where the climate crisis will be fixed, that’s where we will solve and take care of air quality and water quality and energy.

There’s nothing we can do today that isn’t benefited from collaboration. There’s nothing we can do in the absence of collaboration. We’re all in this together. We succeed here in Palo Alto because we are so well integrated between the public servants and the community members and also with the private sector and academia and other NGOs.

For the everyday community member, [the term Smart] is less important to them [than results]. They just want to know that we’re using contemporary technology, we’re innovative in how we do things, we’re managing costs, and we’re prioritising effectively.

The first thing is to make the decision [to integrate, collaborate]. The leadership of the community has to say ‘we are going to embrace all voices and create channels and opportunities for those voices.’ It starts there.

We [in Palo Alto] still strongly believe in the city or town hall concept: in person, get people in a room, get people up on whiteboards and around tables, figuring out together how we solve problems.

I’m a guy who has spend 30 years in technology innovation and I’m even exhausted by the rate of change and the rate of new tech. I have the greatest empathy for those who don’t spend their days thinking about technology but are impacted by it.

Collectively we have to come to an understanding that things are happening now that have greater scope, bigger impact and faster velocity. Scope, impact and velocity are all going at rates that we’ve never seen in the history of humanity.

The future is here but it’s not evenly distributed, and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to our cities.

Cities still have to discover the value of data. The private sector has acknowledged that the data they collect in legal, ethical ways is beneficial to driving success of a business. Government has been a little slower…but can start to leverage that as a real asset in moving forward, solving problems and complementing decision making.


Find the full show notes as:

Connect with Jonathan on Twitter @reichental or find his podcast ‘Drinking Wine Talking Tech’ on Apple Podcasts here

Connect with me via email:

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E76 Smart Regions and Communities for the Next Generation, with Kerry Anderson

SmartCommunityPodcast_BlogTitleImage_Episode76 Kerry AndersonIn this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I have an awesome conversation with Kerry Anderson, the founder of Operation NextGen and the author of Entrepreneurship: It’s everybody’s business. Kerry is passionate about sharing stories from rural and regional Australia.

Kerry tells us a little secret to start with, and also the importance of having new conversations with new people in new places. Kerry and I discuss the concept of Smart Towns and Smart Communities, and how these towns and communities have to embrace change and be willing to experiment.

Kerry then talks about the value of entrepreneurs in the region, and how complacency can affect the growth of a regional area. Kerry then shares about some of the regional conferences and events that are happening, shares some stories and tells us about Operation NextGen.

Kerry tells us about the research she completed overseas and the importance of collaboration and champions to better integrate across the different disciplines, government and industries. We talk about improving connectivity so we can embrace the gig economy in regional Australia. As always, I hope you enjoyed listening to this episode as much as I enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we covered in this episode:

  • Why Kerry was drawn to regional areas and why she started Operation Next Gen
  • What sparked Kerry’s interest in the Smart space and the connectivity piece 
  • Kerry’s definition of a Smart Community and why she believes it’s so important for rural and regional areas
  • How Australia is embracing the concept not only in the capital cities but also in the regions
  • The Operation Next Gen program and other projects Kerry is working on
  • How Kerry works with communities with Operation Next Gen
  • The importance of business not just for our communities but for everyone’s future in Australia 
  • Kerry’s research and experiences in regional areas overseas
  • The value of collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystems and why evidence is important to support the conversations
  • Why we need to accept failure as part of the learning process and ‘have a go’
  • The challenges and opportunities of collaboration for commercialising innovative ideas 
  • The differences in collaboration approaches and abilities in regional areas 
  • Emerging trends of different models for small businesses and agriculture
  • The hidden industry of the gig economy and working from home


We’ve got to have new conversations with new people in new places.

I think a Smart Community has the ability to look at existing landscapes with fresh eyes. I am so in awe of the communities that have that ability to reinvent themselves over and over again, and many communities do. A Smart Community has to embrace change, they have to be willing to experiment, they recognise the value of entrepreneurs and they need to be able to collaborate across all sectors for the greater good, because ti’s more than just us, it’s about the future o our communities and their survival. 

I think that complacency is our biggest danger, and when we live in a global world, no-one can afford to be complacent. This is the problem: many rural communities tend to sit back and think [they’re] well established…but change is inevitable and we just need to be able to actively embrace it. Some communities are really good at doing that and others need a little bit more help to get that conversation going. 

When I go around regional Australia, there’s lots of innovative businesses operating in rural towns everywhere, and they’re not necessarily connected in the Australian space yet but they’re doing awesome stuff.

It’s so important to have these conversations so that people are part of the change. It should be led by the community for the community. 

Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs is the fundamental part of Operation Next Gen. Our whole standard of living depends on a strong business sector and that’s a big part of what I do: helping people to understand the importance of business…. Australia runs on small business, that is the backbone of our economy.

In this era of connectivity, we have rural entrepreneurs that are connecting all over the world. We should be building on that. Density doesn’t have to be in a geographic sense these days, it could be through connectivity. 

The gig economy and [people working from the home office] is almost like a hidden industry in many rural towns and I think this is a huge opportunity for regional Australia, in that we’ve got this connectivity…there are lots of people using technology to work in different ways and they’re not driving into the offices like they used to. 

[The gig economy] a new kind of working…and it requires a whole new set of skills, which is so important for our education system to pick up on.


Connect with Kerry on LinkedIn, as @kerrywords on Twitter, as @RuralEntrepreneurs on Facebook or at her website 

Connect with me via email: 

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

Mobility, Trust and Seamless Payments in the Smart Community, with Stephen Coulter

Smart City Podcast, Smart Community Podcast


In this episode of the Smart Community podcast, I have a great chat with Stephen Coulter from Localift. Stephen tells us about his background in financial services, banking and later startups, and how the two have now combined in his interest in the Smart Mobility space. We talk about Smart Cities being made up of a series of hyper-local communities, and why it’s not just technology but also psychology that we need to be looking at when preparing for and encouraging the changes that are coming, whether they happen cooperatively or disruptively. Stephen then shares with us some of the projects he’s currently working on, including Local Lift, and why trust and seamless payment processes are so important in the Smart Mobility space. We discuss the concept of shared mobility and why it’s an emerging trend not being talked about enough, despite the fact that it’s an important part of the 21st Century solution to the 20th Century problem of congestion. 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:

  • Stephen’s background in financial services, banking and startups and his journey into the Smart mobility space
  • How Stephen defines Smart Cities and why it takes a community (not just a single entity) to drive change
  • The ways Smart City conversations can bring people together
  • The importance of technology and psychology in driving behaviour change
  • Where Stephen thinks Australia is at when it comes to Smart mobility
  • The problem with 20th Century solutions to 21st Century challenges
  • Projects Stephen is currently working on and how Localift came to be 
  • Why we should be looking at trust and not just identity
  • The need for seamless payments across systems, locations and modes of transport
  • How to better integrate across governments, disciplines and industries
  • The emerging trend of shared mobility


I’ve always been driven by the customer focus and looking at the future to see what innovations we can bring customers. 

Smart Cities [are] these hyper local communities that share something important to them in common, that overlap, that collectively make up cities. If a city is going to be a Smart City and bring the changes we’re all hearing about, you have to engage not only at the government levels but at those multiple community levels, and also with businesses that are connected to these communities that bring all these things together and have the ability to actually generate change. I don’t think any one party in that equation can actually drive the change without the support of the others.

It provides a really strong focus for people to come together around the issues that are driving some of the problems in cities, and also to bring them together around the changes required, and gives you a platform to get that collaboration happening between the many parties that are involved. 

What are the barriers to shared mobility and people doing multimodal mobility?

Car pooling is only part of the solution, [there’s] lots of new solutions emerging around the world, but again a lot are focused on solo travel. [Localift] focus on how to manage trust so people are more comfortable moving together, and how to manage payments, so that’s seamless across all modes of transport. 

Most of the applications and services that talk about trust actually only talk about identity, and verifying identity. It’s a good first step but it doesn’t prove you’re trustworthy, it just proves you are who you say you are… How do you go beyond that and find ways to identify trust marks that indicate somebody is trust worthy to the point where you’d be happy to share mobility with them even if you haven’t met them directly before?

The other really important thing to drive new forms of mobility is for payment options to be seamless and interoperable. Make it easy for people from door to door…How payments can be integrated and aggregated to get from A to B for entire journey?

Those sort of things play to the psychology part of behaviour change. There needs to be incentives, pricing levers that can be pulled, cross subsidies that make it simple for people to do these things. 

When you look at most of the mobility trends that are happening, they’re still about the technology and getting these autonomous vehicles out there, or getting bikes or scooters or how we’re going to do ride hailing. The problems around the world in congestion are very common from city to city, and the solution is on the road already in many cases. Literally millions of driver only vehicles are on the road in cities every day with 80% of their seats empty; if we can get people starting to share their mobility with the cars that are already on the road and the people that are happy to drive them we can get significant change very quickly without infrastructure spend.



Stephen’s articles:



Connect with Stephen via Email or on LinkedIn

Connect with me via email: 

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @smartcommpod

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

Startups, Coworking and Smart Tech, with Monica Wulff

Hello #smartfriends and welcome to the first interview episode of the Smart Community Podcast. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go back and listen to yesterday’s episode which is all about why I’ve rebranded to expand the conversation away from just cities. As you probably know by now, the conversations always come back to the human beings at the centre anyway, so broadening the conversation to be about Smart Communities is important. Having said all of that, we will still be using the term Smart Cities, because it is a common industry term and because most people are quite familiar with it. This episode is no different, and although the first part of the conversation is very much around Smart Cities, you will see that we do shift focus to me more inclusive of the Smart Community focus about halfway.

So, in this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I interview Monica Wulff, Cofounder of Startup Muster, a data-focused company that measures and publishes the progress, challenges, and opportunities within the Australian startup ecosystem. Their 2018 report is out now and you can find it at In this episode, Monica shares her passion for the future economic and social wellbeing of Australians, how childhood travel and her background in economics sparked her interest in the Smart City space, and she tells us about some of the projects she’s involved in. We do talk a lot about technology, because that is where Monica spends a lot of her time, but we also talk about the relationship we have with our technology, the evolution of our places and how they can serve us as a community. Monica talks about the need for courage for all of us as we are experiencing a lot of change and will continue to do so going forward, and the emerging trends of coworking spaces, the sharing economy, better use of dead space and why, amidst all this tech talk, we must include the Arts in our Smart conversation. 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:

  • Monica’s background in economics and technology startups, and her passion for the future economic and social wellbeing of Australians
  • How childhood travel and her experiences with Startup Muster have sparked her interest in the Smart City space
  • Monica’s definition of Smart and why the concept is so important
  • The evolution of cities and our relationship with technology
  • How Australia is faring in the Smart space and what Monica would love to see more of
  • The need for courage in the face of this huge amount of change that we’re all facing
  • Some things to think about in order to better integrate across disciplines, government, academia and industry
  • The importance of The Arts in our communities and why we should be incorporating that more into city planning
  • The emerging trends of coworking spaces, the sharing economy and making better use of dead spaces


I am really passionate about the future economic and social wellbeing of Australians. 

Through Startup Muster I’ve come across all these different technology companies that are building technology that is going to impact how our cities run, how we engage with each other, and even to the point where using big data and technology to help influence decisions making with governments around planning, electricity usage, or population density and how it moves through out he day. There is so much that we can start to track and understand about our society. And it all just comes together in this Smart Cities realm because that’s plcae and that’s people and that’s how we interact. 

A Smart City for me is a city that runs seamlessly and is one that makes sense, where we’re able to go about our day to day lives without being impacted by concerns [of technology, infrastructure, and things we use every day] being put up for political debate. 

It’s taking the history of the city into account because the history informs how people engage with each other, and what we’re used to and what w would be willing to potentially entertain for our city. 

It’s kind of like air, we shouldn’t have to worry about seeing it, but we shouldn’t have to worry about not having it.

Technology is a big part o the concept of Smart Cities, and our relationship with and usage of and involvement with technology is not going way, if anything it’s going to become more involved in our day to day. So…what does that look like? What is our relationship with technology?… We really need to think long and hard about what that’s going to look like and how it is going to serve us as a community.

You sometimes see two councils doubling up on testing the same concept. And is that really effective? If Bondi is potentially looking at new paid parking scenarios, maybe Mossman shouldn’t be doing it. Maybe Mossman should be focusing on another area and then they could do shared learnings.

Change doesn’t come from doing the same thing…we’re going into terrain that’s never been done before, and it’s unrealistic to assume that we’re suddenly going to do it right the first go and that we’re not going to be iterating on this.  

All of this that we’re going through at the moment requires courage, even the Smart Cities element. It’s a response to what we’re already as individuals experiencing, which is a significant amount of change and a significant amount of digital connectedness and that’s changing how we’re interacting with each other physically. 

Both mainstream traditional industries and government need to be aware of the risks associated with not engaging with the emerging technology companies, and also the benefits that can come from it. This isn’t a marketing exercise anymore…it goes to a much deeper level than that where we’re really trying to effect change. But until there’s actual strong commitment from government and industry, what we’ll find is the technology that is being adopted by those different sectors is coming from overseas, rather than sourcing from our own local pool. 

We’re not talking enough about The Arts, and we really need to be. We have these hybrid industries of art and technology and you can really develop out some beautiful solutions. 


Barangaroo, Sydney 

Startup Muster Report 2018

Tech Central Precinct in Sydney 

Welcome Choir in Marlborough Hotel 


Connect with Monica on LinkedIn, or as @monwulff on Twitter and Instagram. You can also head to Startup Muster to read the report or be involved.

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The Smart City Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.