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Future smart cities could lift transport into the sky to solve congestion

MELBOURNE: CITIES OF THE FUTURE could see public transportation lifted from the ground and up into the air, if Britain’s transport innovators have anything to do with it.

The future smart city plans were deliberated as part of discussions hosted by the UK government’s innovation agency InnovateUK and the Australia Trade and Investment Commission, taking part on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, Australia on Wednesday.


Called ‘Future Cities Jam’, the event saw 15 UK startups and entrepreneurs debating potential transport solutions for congested cities on both ends of the globe using their own ideas and products. In a bid to ink potential deals with movers and shakers down under, and make cities more efficient and future-proof, the UK startups pitched their smart city solutions to delegates from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

50 per cent of transport in big cities in both Australia and the UK is currently built on the ground, and both countries agreed that by building new transport solutions into the sky there would be more area for pedestrians or cyclists in the city, which would, in turn, ease congestion as well as pollution; two growing problems facing metropolitan areas.

The startups in attendance touted their products and services that can combat these issues. One in particular, called Bulweria, is proposing a concept called MonoMetro, which is essentially an upside down tram concept that would lift public transport from the ground into the air, while costing half the price of a traditional railway or tram.

“We all have a problem – traffic congestion. And it’s not only on the ground; it’s in the air. But why don’t planes collide? It’s because this transport system has been designed without needing to be built around a city,” said Bulweria’s head of development, Graham Manchester.

“MonoMetro is an urban transport system [concept] which can be built both here in Australia and the UK and could work well for airport transportation, for example, going through cities and existing buildings, not around them, more easily.”

Another innovator was JustPark, who is removing the stress of finding a parking space in inner-city areas, enabling cities to function more efficiently in the process.

Their service helps city dweller drivers find parking in seconds using real-time, predictive information on availability, restrictions and price for drivers that can reserve and pay for a guaranteed space via an app.

“Parking in cities and cars is a major pain, and JustPark unlocks potential revenue in opening up empty car parking spaces in the city as well as spaces in private areas, or commercial offices around the country,” said the firm’s founder and CEO, Anthony Eskinazi.

“We connect drivers to all that unutilised space around cities to best unlock real estate in the parking network, improving the whole journey from A-to-B in a city, directing drivers straight to a parking space rather than spending time searching and adding to congestion.”

Then there’s Citi Logik, a technology company focused on helping public sector clients to understand the movement of citizens by vehicle, on foot and by public local transport.

Citi Logik uses Vodafone’s 3G and 4G network data to create comprehensive analysis of the urban environment and the demand placed on transport networks. Their web-based Analytics Service, ‘CitiWatch’ has also recently deployed the first ever real-time mobile network analysis of road networks within a UK local authority.

“Looking at the performance of the roads and how each one works in a city, while also doing this for industrial units like airports, we can effectively end up with an understanding which helps city councils do their job better,” said City Logik’s managing director, Stephen Leece. 

The jam was part of the UK gov’s 2018 Future Cities Mission, an event that has been coordinated with the aim of flying some of the UK’s most promising tech companies across the world to open them up to some new opportunities, build business partnerships and potential investment, as well as to help them grow their businesses globally.

The event started in the country’s capital of Sydney on Monday and has now moved to Melbourne, two Eastern Australian cities that Innovate UK believes are the most forward-thinking in terms of their approach to sustainable living and smart infrastructure. µ

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