Almost 250 people drowned across Australia last year. A spate of tragic incidents on NSW beaches in early 2019 has again highlighted the need for increased beach safety and awareness of dangerous conditions. In a world-first application of cutting-edge technology and smart infrastructure, smart beaches will improve beach safety, provide real-time updates on conditions for lifeguards and beachgoers, and increase public amenity.
Why do we need smart beaches?
Anything that improves public safety and amenity on our beaches is a good thing and technology is now at a point where it can help provide these benefits. Currently, there is inconsistency in the nature of beach data collection along Australia’s coast, with different councils collecting different information relating to crowd numbers, activity and localised conditions.
Collection and recording of beach usage information is a time-consuming and imprecise task for professional lifeguards. Smart Beaches will provide reliable, uniform, objective information, allowing them to focus more on their primary role of protecting public safety.
Smart Beaches will provide immediate, constant condition reports specific to each beach and surf break covered by the project, filling in gaps left by existing surfing and weather apps, and websites.
How will it work?
Sensors and a mix of other smart infrastructure will monitor wave and swell movement to provide earlier detection of dangerous conditions, while others will monitor visitor activity to gauge which beaches and amenities (parking, outdoor showers etc) are busiest at any given time. The data these sensors collect will be transmitted in real-time to lifeguards, local councils and the community via a user-friendly smartphone interface.
Information about beach usage will help ensure amenities such as toilets, showers and rubbish bins are adequately maintained.
New software, tailored specifically for Smart Beaches, will enable ‘machine learning’, where computer modelling and analysis of data improves over time to enable more accurate prediction of conditions.
This will help inform beach safety planning.
Who is involved?
Lake Macquarie City Council is the Smart Beaches lead organisation, in partnership with Northern Beaches Council and the University of Technology Sydney.
These three organisations will drive development, implementation and testing of the Smart Beaches concept.
Other project partners include:
- Australian Coastal Councils Association
- Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association
- Lake Macquarie Tourism
- NSW Data Analytics Centre
- Orion Integration
- SUMS Group
- Surf Life Saving NSW
- Urban Institute
How is it funded?
The project has received $910,000 in funding under Round Two of the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, encouraging collaborative, cutting- edge projects that improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of Australian cities, towns and suburbs.
Smart Beaches will build on Round One of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, which included funding for the Technology for Urban Liveability Program (TULIP), led by the University of Technology Sydney in partnership with Lake Macquarie City Council.
Which beaches are included?
Smart Beaches technology will initially be trialled at Redhead Beach and Blacksmiths Beach in Lake Macquarie, and Manly Beach and Shelly Beach in the Northern Beaches Council LGA.
Pending the success of this trial and ongoing funding, the technology could be rolled out to other beaches nationally and internationally.
What’s the timeline?
Smart Beaches technology will be developed and trialled over the next 12 months, with plans to roll it out by mid-2020.
Page last updated: 30 January 2019