Lorraine Tighe has had a front-row seat to IoT innovation in Australia. She played a key role at City of Melbourne's lab, helped City of Ballarat develop a smart city framework and is an advisor to energy startup RedGrid, among other roles.

We asked her about her work and the IoT issues she thinks are most important.

How were you working with IoT four years ago?

Four years ago I was leading CityLab, the innovation lab I established for the City of Melbourne. We worked on various IoT pilots and projects across council and with partners including a partnership with University of Melbourne, ARUP and council to collect environmental data. This applied research developed new systems and algorithms to help remotely monitor, understand and interpret real time information on urban environments.

The City was quite progressive in installing sensors to collect data for both operational and planning uses. The next thing we had to do was share this data for others to reuse. We received council endorsement for an Open Data Policy and launched an open data platform to share council data such as pedestrian counts and parking data with the public, businesses and entrepreneurs at no cost.

The parking data, which I believe is now shared in real-time, has been used for transport planning and by many parking apps to help drivers find a park thereby easing city congestion and reducing emissions. The pedestrian data has been used by businesses to plan rosters for busy days, see where to locate a new business and was even been used as evidence for keeping Flagstaff train station in Melbourne open on Sundays!

I also worked with Telstra on a hackathon in 2015 to address city challenges through the creation of IoT solutions. The winning team went on to patent their solution and form a company to deploy smart solutions for councils across Australia. You can read more on their story here.

Which IoT issues do you think have seen the most progress in the last four years?

From a local government perspective there is a greater understanding of the benefits of IoT for urban planning, resource management and to provide better services. Councils across Australia are implementing a wide range of IoT solutions from smart lighting, parking and water management systems for productivity and sustainability benefits.

This momentum has largely been driven by the Federal Government Smart Cities funding and the need to deliver more sustainable services with less resources. From an industry perspective we are seeing tangible use cases and so adoption is increasing in some sectors more than others e.g. the agricultural sector using precision agriculture and other IoT tools and data to reap increases in productivity, resource management and cost savings.

Which IoT issues have not progressed enough in the last four years?

Three main areas I believe require more focus include security, data integrity and greater understanding across industry sectors for how IoT can provide much needed productivity gains.

Security is still a major concern. As we move to more and more reliance on interconnected systems across government and in everyday use IoT devices become an easy target for hackers. This has massive implications for critical infrastructure and public data. It is not surprising that Cybersecurity is becoming a major growth area. Australia should however look at cybersecurity as an opportunity - imagine if everyone insisted on IoT products having the appropriate security standards, this would have a massive impact on adoption of IoT and trust in Australian systems and companies. Trust is becoming the only currency that matters in the digital world!

IoT is essentially all about data and when IoT solutions are implemented in the public realm it’s crucial that the community are engaged early in this process. Citizens should understand why their data is being collected and how it is being used. They also need to trust that their data is secure. We have seen the recent ‘Techlash’ from Toronto Side Walk Labs with major lessons to be learnt for cities all over the world. The pushback by local citizens to the data privacy concerns are very real and need to be addressed. Ensuring a collaborative human centred approach for IoT projects will not only ensure a better design for inclusive places, it will also ensure projects don’t run into issues and costly delays.

The pushback by local citizens to the data privacy concerns are very real and need to be addressed.

Take up of IoT is still quite slow across some industries in Australia and there’s a massive opportunity for productivity gains with IoT. Ensuring trust in the systems and data hopefully will assist with greater adoption.

What do you think has been the most significant development in IoT in the last four years?

We are seeing the convergence of various technologies with IoT which will assist to resolve some of the issues with distributed connected technology. Edge computing is enabling quick on site processing reducing any time lags, AI and machine learning assisting to analyse and make quick decision from big data, and Blockchain and other emerging technologies such as Holochain addressing much needed security and privacy issues. This convergence is also driving the disruption or hopefully the transformation of industries who need to adapt to this connected data driven new world.

The other development that has just begun which will greatly accelerate the adoption of IoT and further transform business models is the rollout of 5G.

From an application perspective, the sustainability benefits of using smart systems in commercial buildings is a massive benefit saving costs and energy, given that commercial buildings are one of the largest energy consumers.

Also, the health tech area has seen IoT adding massive benefits with monitoring and predictive tools to prevent serious health issues. I particularly like the combination of smart tech ‘wearables’ with great design such as the Smart Heart Necklace from Leah Heiss a collaboration with St. Vincent's Hospital Melbourne, RMIT University, and the Nossal Institute for Global Health.

Is there an IoT achievement in the last four years that you’re most proud of?

It’s difficult to single out one so maybe I’ll just mention a few of the more recent ones. I assisted the City of Ballarat to develop a Smart City and Innovation Framework and secured a partnership with Federation University and Federal Government funding to develop a City Data Model, open IoT Network and associated platforms to unlock new data, insights and innovation.

I’ve also been working with the Irish government to connect Australian Leaders in industry and government with innovative Irish companies with proven use cases in IoT. Australia has great strengths in some areas of the IoT ecosystem and in other areas it makes sense to partner with or adopt proven solutions from other markets as per the recent report by PWC for the ACS: Australia’s IoT Opportunity: Driving Future Growth. Ireland is bringing global leaders to Dublin for a Smart Cities and IoT Summit in December. This will not only be a great event to see what is happening in Ireland and Europe but also to network and share lessons across APAC, Middle East, America and Europe.

Lastly I’m excited about the opportunities for IoT to create much needed solutions to address energy and water security issues. I’m on the board of advisors for the startup RedGrid who are creating the ‘Internet of Energy’ to address issues such as wasted energy and to assist with making blackouts a thing of the past.