A collaborative project led by the Knowledge Economy Institute and the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures is using data science to deliver new insights into Sydney’s urban environment.
Faculties and research centres
Institute for Sustainable Futures
Knowledge Economy Institute
Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building
Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
Total Environment Centre, Meshed, Skygrid and Wattwatchers
In the built environment, where temperatures can vary by up to 15 degrees between the sunny and shady side of a single building, understanding what’s actually happening at street level is key in creating more liveable cities.
Based on an Internet of Things technology called LoRaWAN™ — a Low Power Wide Area Network specification — the Technology for Urban Liveability Project (TULIP) will use a network of wireless sensors to deliver crucial climate and air quality data for a variety of Sydney microclimates.
“LoRaWAN allows very low cost deployment of wireless sensors, somewhat like WiFi but for low data rates,” says TULIP project manager at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Andrew Tovey.
“It enables a high density of little transmitters, each sending out at a low signal level. Base stations or gateways are able to pick up the signalling sensors a few kilometres away, even in urban areas.”
In the TULIP pilot phase, a series of sensors are being deployed around Central Station, Chippendale, Redfern, Surry Hills, Ultimo and Pyrmont, with the first gateway located on top of Building 10 at UTS. The sensors will collect data on temperature and humidity, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and PM2.5 particles of the surrounding microclimates.
TULIP is believed to be the first project of its kind to collect real-time and longitudinal microclimate and environmental data in inner city Sydney; prior to the advent of technologies like LoRaWAN, the cost of such research was simply too high.
“With widespread deployment, you’ll have an ability to correlate spatial and liveability datasets over time to understand and correlate these factors with the effects of building design, traffic, climate etc and even their effect on public health for example,” says Frank Zeichner, who leads the Knowledge Economy Institute’s industry collaboration.
Approximately 20 sensors will be deployed during the pilot phase — a drop in the ocean when it comes to TULIP’s broader potential. Adding new nodes into an established network costs next to nothing — there are no connection costs, and the system uses minimal power.
In fact, according to Tovey, the project could eventually encompass thousands of sensors all over Sydney — with industry organisations, government and the community all set to benefit from the project data, there are a wealth of options for industry sponsorship and citizen expansion of the research into the foreseeable future. A key aspect of the pilot is to benchmark sensor cost, accuracy and packaging for potential citizen deployment, with the intent to engage citizens in sourcing and sharing data in their communities to help drive good urban design and liveability.
“Theoretically, the data helps people to understand the environment they use, the routes they take through the city, the places they go and the way that those all change at different times of day,” Tovey says.
“If you get a user base of thousands of people who are making those sorts of decisions and starting to think about the city and the environment they live in in new ways, you can then link that to an understanding of future developments, new government proposals for transport infrastructure or parks, or a range of different things that affect the future landscape of our city and the services and infrastructure we use.
“It’s about activating a demand, a voice, and switching people onto the issues by making it personal.”