Sensor parking app trialled in Darby St Newcastle stars at world tech forum

SENSORS: New technology trialled in Newcastle can help drivers find a park, with parking spaces shown in red or green to indicate availability.
SENSORS: New technology trialled in Newcastle can help drivers find a park, with parking spaces shown in red or green to indicate availability.

IT’S got all the hallmarks of a futuristic science fiction film, but a little-known experiment and smart technology is about to put Newcastle on the world stage.

While most of the city’s drivers have been circling around looking for somewhere to park in recent months, some have been guided straight to vacant spaces on popular Darby Street by a trial of internet clouds and sensor technologies.

The trial has been so successful that technology geeks globally have rejoiced, putting Newcastle’s smart city status at the top of the pack. Newcastle has beaten 811 other cities in a global challenge that has a local delegation packing its bags for Chicago, where it will wave the city’s flag.

The new technology is changing the way cities operate. Sensors are being used to tell councils when bins in public parks are full and they’re even dimming street lights when no one is around.

In Newcastle, the secret trial has been codenamed the Kaooma Landscape Computing Project and was developed by a company called VIMOC Technologies.

With the help of Newcastle Now, Newcastle council and a handful of Darby Street businesses, the technology has been quietly tested.

Essentially, sensors have been placed in grid-like locations on Darby Street to collect and count not just the likes of weather conditions, but the movement of pedestrians and cars. With all the little sensors or ‘‘nBoxes’’ talking to each other, the data is then sent to an internet cloud and then back to ‘‘dashboards’’ on a smartphone or tablet app. From there, a driver is told exactly where a vacant parking spot is.

Like all technology, though, the parking sensor system might also have a downside. It has the capacity to measure where and for how long a car is parked in a particular spot, meaning the days of cheating the city’s parking meters and parking rangers by an unintended overstay might also be numbered.

The technology has already been adopted by the city of Palo Alto in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley technology hub.

The second phase of the technology is about to be rolled out and expanded in Newcastle and will include intelligent CCTV technology for public safety.

The Newcastle trial will star at a world technology forum in Chicago next month, with representatives from VIMOC, Newcastle Now and acting lord mayor Brad Luke pushing the city’s new smart city status. Cr Luke will pay his own way to the forum.

‘‘It has significant potential for Newcastle,’’ Newcastle Now board member Kris Leck said. VIMOC chief Tarik Hammadou said the company planned to build a new technology incubator in Newcastle to ‘‘capitalise on opportunities and enable smart city services’’. He also revealed that the Newcastle project has been invited to a second world congress to be held in Barcelona in November.

Newcastle council has also moved quickly to capitalise on the global attention. The council will debate a move on Tuesday to pursue and develop its emerging smart city status.

The council has shown particular interest in the next stages of the Kaooma project, which is capable of crime prevention platforms, interactive lighting systems in streets and public spaces, the control of CO2 emissions and ‘‘smart signage’’ that can inform motorists and pedestrians of traffic conditions, hazards and directions.