SCP E87 Grassroots and Green Roofs, with Catherine Caruana-McManus


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast I had a really fascinating conversation with Catherine Caruana-McManus. Catherine is the Director of Meshed IoT, an Australian-based IoT Integrator, and the founder of the global community Giant Ideas for Smart Cities, and the co-founder of the IoT Alliance. Catherine recently won an IoT Ambassador Award for Australia and Smart Cities Industry Leader at the recent Smart Cities Council Awards. Catherine has been in the cities business her whole career and even though it wasn’t called Smart Cities, she shares how she’s been working in the space for 25 years. We discuss the economic imperative for cities to get Smarter and more sustainable, as well as a bit about the history and evolution of Smart Cities as a concept over the last 30 years from it being purely about urban development, to now being acted upon at the grassroots level. Catherine has some really interesting observations about how Australia is currently embracing Smart Concepts, her optimism about Australia innovation, and the opportunities we should be acting on now. We then discuss some of the many projects Catherine is working on, as well as her takeaways from her trip to the Barcelona, Amsterdam and the UK. We finish our chat focusing on the emerging trend of the circular economy, and why we should all be talking about it more. One thing I will say is that we did record this at the end of last year so you’ll hear us refer to ‘next year’ in the interview, but of course that is now this year! You’re all Smart people, I’m sure you’ll figure it out! 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:

  • Catherine’s background in urban planning and economics, and her passion for geospatial and digital infrastructure
  • The economics of the city and the role digital and technology can play in getting ROI and leveraging existing assets
  • Catherine’s definition of a Smart City and why Smart concepts are so important
  • The history and evolution of ‘Smart Cities’ as a movement, from Jane Jacobs in the 60s and 70s through to large corporates like IBM in the 2000s to now where it’s part of the council and grassroots level
  • How Catherine sees Australia embracing Smart concepts and her optimism about innovation in Australian Smart Cities and Communities
  • Projects Catherine is currently working on, including a partnership with The Things Network
  • Takeaways from Catherine’s trip to Barcelona, Amsterdam and the UK
  • What excited her at the Smart Cities World Expo
  • How to better integrate across disciplines, industries, governments and what we need to do to support innovation in Australia
  • The emerging trend of the Circular Economy and why we should all be talking about it more
  • The opportunities we have here in Australia for more sustainable cities and communities, including eliminating waste


“when I look at the opportunity and the benefits of smart cities, it’s really about converging the digital world with the physical world, and, all too often, governments focus on the physical infrastructure, the roads, the rail, the hospitals, the education institutions, but there’s such an important role for the underlying digital infrastructure to, essentially, get the best value out of that physical infrastructure.”

“Smart city to me is actually a mind-set. It’s actually not a physical thing. It’s a mindset of a society that actually wants to look at things to a different lens where they can collaborate across industries, research, and the government sector. And it’s also about a conversation. It starts with how could we actually do this better, and what is, therefore, the role of new systems and thinking and technology that can help solve for that?”

“I think cities that do well and that are Smart are those that really embrace the philosophy and the conversation about trying to do things differently and better.”

“I’m just so happy that smart cities is now part of the conversation with many councils across the country, because I think they see the benefits to it being much more grassroots movement as opposed to only being in the hands of the large players.”

“It’s important because we just can’t do what we’ve traditionally done. We’ve got pressures, particularly in Australia… there are some fundamental nuances which Australia is unique and therefore the conversation on smart cities is really important that we actually build up our own flavor of this revolution and this transformation.”

“Why it’s so important is that we want to make sure that those investments are considered investments and that we plan and embed the digital part as part of those overall infrastructure projects, so that we don’t have waste, so that we can actually deal with the fact that our cities are growing and we’re having to deal with things such as congestion, urban heat… Just look at the last couple of weeks in Sydney and in Melbourne with weather events: that’s why it’s important.”

“I do think that the Smart Cities movement is a clear opportunity for us to look at how do we prepare for Climate Change and how do also we look at things such as the Circular Economy, and do it in a really succinct and accessible way.”

“I think we’ve got the right ingredients [in Australia] and we’ve just got to continue to be open to the conversation and think strategically about how innovation, technology, new thinking and processes can actually help us move things forward and deal with the massive challenges [we’re] currently dealing with.”

“I think that Australia is ready for a rooftop revolution. You think about the space on rooftops: they’ve often got the best views but [only have industrial equipment there] but we could actually transform cities by having greening rooftops!”

“We still have this big challenge around data sharing. It’s not easy, even within large organisations, to share data amongst departments, so I think by making technology more accessible and particularly at the local government level where they are really at the cusp…and making it as accessible and affordable as possible, and then from that we’ll see where it will go in terms of linking with other things such as weather data.”

“[Collaboration] is about finding the right people and places. We have had no challenges in working with leading thinkers across government, universities and the private sector…it’s a matter of picking up the phone and having a conversation.”

“Australia is the most irradiated country on the planet. There is no other country on the earth that can achieve the outcomes of solar capability, we should be world leaders in this whole space around solar [energy].”

“I think we’ve got to get really focused around the circular economy and if we were to do that I think we could really transform our cities and certainly address some of the pain points we’re seeing [in Australia] today.”

“In order for us to engage around where future work and future opportunities are going to reside, We have to understand that there will be implications of things such as automatics and artificial intelligence and robotics, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. If we prepare our society to embrace the capabilities around new value added services in this new digital space, we will actually thrive…I do believe it’s definitely a transition but investment in the right places is really important now.”


People, companies and concepts mentioned in this episode:

  • Jane Jacobs
  • Zen Energy, and renewable energies programs in South Australia
  • The Things Network
  • The Meshed Model
  • Arguing and Raspberry Pie 
  • Smart Cities World Expo
  • WaterNet
  • Port of Amsterdam Smart Parking
  • TULIP: Technology for Urban Liveability Program
  • UK’s Future Cities Catapult and Digital Catapult
  • SynchroniCity and the Seven Cities Open and Agile Cities Method
  • EndCounter 
  • Bristol MakerSpace
  • Adam Beck from the Smart Cities Council of Australia
  • Lisa McLean from the Open Cities Movement



Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn or with Giant Ideas for Smart Cities at

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The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E86 Smart Citizens in Barcelona and Beyond, with Joaquim Alvarez

episode86_joaquim alvarez_smartcommunitypodcast_blogtitleimage

In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I had a fascinating conversation with Smart City Speaker and Digital Business Strategist, Joaquim Alvarez. We discuss his technical background in telecommunications and engineering, as well as his career working on a range of big projects for governments, companies and other private organisations. Joaquim shares how working on Barcelona City’s Smart City Projects sparked his interest in the space, and why having Smart Citizens in the Smart Community is so important. We discuss his work with Barcelona City, including the four agents they look at when developing an ecosystem of integration within the Smart City. Joaquim also talks about his upcoming 5 city tour of Australia, brought to you by Delos Delta, where he will share more about his work with Barcelona City and teach his own methodology for developing digital projects. Finally, we talk about emerging trends and why it’s so hard to predict the future. 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:

  • Joaquim’s background in engineering telecommunications and his passion for using tech to help people
  • His career working on big digital projects for governments and private companies
  • Joaquim’s work with Barcelona Smart City Project and how that sparked his interest in the space
  • What Smart means to Joaquim and why he believes the concept is so important
  • How Barcelona is embracing the Smart City Concept
  • About Joaquim’s Australian speaking tour in March 2019
  • Ways Barcelona approaches integrating across disciplines, governments, academia and industry
  • The emerging trend of moving past the stage where analytics, AI, big data and other buzz words are new or unusual


“Smart comes from the word intelligent. Intelligent in Latin comes from ‘inter’ (between) and ‘legere’ (choose). That means [if you are Smart] you have the knowledge to make decisions.”

“[A Smart City has] the knowledge of all the data that is involved in the management of a city and later you can take Smart decisions to manage the city. It’s not [only] the data, I’d also put the community, the people, the citizen, involved in the concept of Smart City.”

“When you start working on a project that collaborative intention is the main objective of the project, you really see what is the power of the people, that they really want to share knowledge, they want to share ideas, and you can [be] amazed with the power of the things that you can do together with all the people. I like it very much this [Barcelona City] project. All the people are willing to present their ideas, are working towards finding how they can collaborate… Not money involved, but knowledge and ideas involved. After that you can have the money but the main reason they share is because they want to improve the quality fo life of the people.”

“One of the objectives that I have in my professional career is to use technology to improve the quality of life of the people. I think that technology, if you don’t use it for that objective…it’s useless.”

“In Barcelona one of the things we have is scarcity of space, it’s something you don’t have in Australia most of the time because you have a lot of space…So whenever you have scarcity of resources you have to use your intelligence and be Smart to know how you can manage all the resources you have.”

“One of the things that you have to think whenever you build a new digital solution for your Smart City is how you can make the citizen involved in that service, how you [can] give the services to the people in the right moment in the right place in the right channel.”

“You can use solutions from City to City but also you can use it at the regional level…for example transportation solutions. The Smart City solutions can be used at regional levels and local levels.”

“In the future, everybody will know how to use advanced analytics, everybody will know how to use big data and artificial intelligence. The secret will come of the knowledge that you have in your own field—health, culture, communications—but you will be an expert in AI, without knowing the founding of the technology. You don’t need it, you only need the functionality of that technology…[to] use it in [your] own field.”


Connect with Joaquim via LinkedIn or on Twitter @JoaquimAlvarez

Delos Delta

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The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E85: Getting Smart about Flood Mapping, with Juliette Murphy

The Smart Community Podcast Juliette Murphy FloodMapp


In this episode of the Smart Community Podcast, I speak with Juliette Murphy, the CEO and Cofounder of FloodMapp, a predictive flood mapping initiative that uses real time data and Smart alerts to deliver timely and location specific flood warnings. Juliette shares with me her background in environmental engineering in the water resource and hydrology, and how the 2011 Queensland floods sparked her interest in the Smart Community space.

Juliette’s experiences of flooding, both personally and professionally, and nationally and internationally, as well as an app building hobby that started in her spare time, have combined in her work at FloodMapp. Juliette and I discuss the gaps in our communications during emergencies, and also the gaps in accessibility and understanding when citizens receive these communications. We cover the dual meanings of ‘connection’ in the Smart Community and why it’s so important, and well as how well Juliette sees Australia embracing Smart concepts. We discuss what flood mapping is, how FloodMapp (with two Ps) came to be and the accellerator program she and cofounder Ryan Prosser have been participating in. We finish our chat talking about the emerging trends in the climate and natural disaster space, and how technology can and should be a part of solving some of those problems. 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:

  • Her background in environmental engineering and how some experiences nationally and internationally led to her interest in flooding
  • How she began building apps as a hobby
  • How the 2011 Qld floods sparked her interest in the Smart Community space
  • The gaps in our emergency communications and in citizen understanding/accessibility of information in of those communications that Juliette wants to fill
  • The dual meanings of connection in the Smart Community, and why it’s so important
  • How she sees Australia embracing the Smart Community concept
  • What flood mapping is and how Juliette is bringing it into real time
  • The accelorator program Juliette and cofounder Ryan participated in and what they learned from it
  • The emerging trends climate and natural disaster, and how technology can and should be a part of solving some of those problems



It started getting me thinking, why did this happen? And I know the obvious is ‘cause it flooded and we can’t stop the weather, we can’t stop the climate’ but surely there was enough time for some better planning and understanding to have gone into this.”

“If something is communicated to you but it’s in the wrong language and then it might as well not communicated to you at all.”

“Going through this accelerator program was like a really big learning class, in terms of what people actually wanted. I think we realized now, in our spare time and as a passion project, I may miss some of those steps and I was solving the problem how I wanted it solved or I thought it should be solved for me, but I haven’t really talked to the broader community, bring them along the journey and ask what did they actually see as a solution and what would make the most sense to them.”

“Two of the main struggles we have here in Australia are drought and flood. And these are going to affect different communities in different ways. Anyone who knows Australia knows that we’re not just one in the same, we’re so diverse. There’s places surrounded by tropical rainforest, there’s places that are more dry and desolate, arid climates, and I think climate change is affecting everyone in different ways. It’s really talking about starting a conversation more within communities and within leadership, about how we’re going to adapt as a community and become more resilient to that.”

“…we can have more connectedness within the community. Is there someone facing a disaster who needs help? Can people donate clothes? Can people donate furniture? Technology really serves a purpose in connecting the community to become more resilient together and tackle it as a community problem rather than as individuals.”



Connect with Juliette via email or the Floodmapp website

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The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.

SCP E84 Smart Community Thinking from the Regional to the Precinct Level, with Pascal Perez


Happy New Year! Welcome back to the Smart Community Podcast for 2019. In the first episode for the new year I had a great conversation with Pascal Perez. But just before I tell you about that, I wanted to give a quick shout out to my first patrons! As you might know, I have started a Patreon page over at for fans of the podcast who want to support the show and get access to exclusive content. A big thank you to my first patrons for helping keep this show in your podcatchers week after week. If you’d like to support the show, head over to

Ok, on with the episode. Pascal Perez is the Director of the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong. In this episode he tells us about his background in agricultural and environmental engineering around the world, and how he now applies that in the urban development/infrastructure space here in Australia. Pascal shares what sparked his interest in the Smart Community space and why we need to be thinking about Smart People as much as, if not more than, Smart Cities. We discuss the importance of needs-based/problem oriented technology solutions, why regional areas are currently doing this better than the big cities in Australia, and the difference between a revolution and an epidemic when it comes to technology. Pascal then shares about some projects he’s currently working on with the University of Wollongong and the SMART Infrastructure Facility, how he sees Australia embracing Smart Concepts, and the problems in the current immature landscape of Smart Cities in Australia, including lack of standardisation and a ‘jungle rule’ approach. We finish off discussing the emerging trends of the interoperability and security of sensors and IOT devices that make up our Smart Communities. 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:

  • Pascal’s background in agricultural and environmental engineering, and how he now applies that in urban development
  • What sparked his interest in the Smart Community space and his believe that we need to be thinking about Smart People as much as Smart Cities
  • The importance of focusing on needs-based technology-enabled solutions, and the reason many regional areas in Australia do this better than the cities
  • The difference between a technological revolution and a technological epidemic
  • How Australia is embracing Smart concepts and what we can learn from examples of Smart implementation overseas, including Hong Kong and Barcelona
  • Projects Pascal is currently working on at the precinct, regional and city level
  • A quick crash course in IoT and what LoRaWAN is
  • The Smart Pedestrian project Pascal is working on in Liverpool, Western Sydney
  • The Health and Wellbeing Precinct project, an all integrated aged care facility that will be part of the UW campus
  • The Smart Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong
  • The problems Pascal can see in the current immature landscape of Smart Cities in Australia, including the lack of standardisation and a ‘jungle rule’ approach, that prevent integration across academia, industry, disciplines and government
  • The emerging trends of interoperability and security of sensors and IOT devices



“The word has been in use for nearly fifteen years now and there’s still no definition of a Smart City…It’s the fact that a Smart City should allow us, as individuals or as groups, to do better [with] what we are usually doing, to do new things we’re not aware of, or to enjoy more our life whether in the city or in the suburb.”

“Our group, here at the Smart Infrastructure Facility, really focuses on the fact that the Smart Cities have to be technology-enabled only, and if needed, if required. You can be a Smart City or Smart Town at a small scale without having to rely heavily on technology.”

“We try to improve the livability in cities, the health of the cities, but also the productivity of the cities. If new technologies can help to achieve better these goals knowing that the population increases, density in cities increases, it’s all good. But we always have to keep in mind why we’re developing these new layers of technologies in cities. If it is technology for the sake of technology, I’m sorry we’re not talking about a revolution here. A revolution starts and ends with people. When there’s only technology in the landscape, it’s called an epidemic, it’s not a revolution.”

“Should we be just dropping our arms and say ‘They’re doing it better than us and bigger than us’? No, because they’re gonna do that for themselves and not for us. So, we better find out our own solutions to our own problems, which means we need to grow our own RND and be a bit more ambitious, at the same time, hungry for expertise in teaching the young generation, as quickly as possible, the new tricks of the game.

“[There is a] necessity to go through a sandbox procurement process, so not buying things from the shelf and installing them as quickly as possible to become ‘Smart’, which I think is a dumb thing to do…but trying things, prototyping things, giving us the time and risk to prototype different technologies to see what would be the most appropriate for the problem at hand.”

“We think there’s a lot of research to be done and analysed in creating these sensors, installing these sensors, sharing information with people and seeing how we can do better at transforming data into information and information into what I tend to call actionable knowledge.”

“My frustration, at the moment, in the current landscape of Smart Cities in Australia, is the fact that the market is really immature. On one side, we have a government or governments at large who have been a bit reluctant stepping in and imposing standards….On the other side, [there is] a market where some of the competitors providing these technologies and solutions still think they can kill each other, and so, it’s really the law of the jungle out there…And in the middle we got potential clients like councils who scratch their heads who don’t really know what to do.”

“I think the danger of technological lock-in has never been as high as it is now in Australia. We shouldn’t be scared about it, we should be aware of it. And it’s up to us, collectively, industry, government, and academia and end users to have an educated discussion and communication about it.”

“We’re creating, on one side, a more productive and more efficient city and at the same time, we have to careful of whether the city is still resilient.”



Connect with Pascal via email:

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The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Ellen Ronalds Keene.