Press Release

More than 220 people attended the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney last Thursday to participate in an interactive panel session about the potential for technology to connect us and enhance the mobility of Sydney.

June 10, 2015

Reconnecting Sydney, held during Vivid Sydney and hosted by AECOM, saw six speakers from the technology, planning, media and government backgrounds to discuss the future of the Harbour City.  

Raj Vaswani, co-founder and chief technology officer, Silver Spring Networks, said the most significant  change in the next 50 years will be machine automation becoming increasingly commonplace.

“Even today, the ‘Internet of Things’ has reached a tipping point due to constantly improving processing power, communications reliability and security, and data analytics,” Mr Vaswani said.

“These underlying technological trends will continue to create more and more possibilities for things to be connected, monitored, controlled, and integrated. These massive scale, interoperating machine networks will radically augment our environment, improving health, safety, comfort, convenience and control,” he said.  

The audience were asked to vote if they would allow a robot to care for them when they were elderly or sick and 97 per cent said yes.

The audience was then asked if humans would become obsolete in 50 years and 85 per cent said no.

Dr Angus Hervey, co-founder of Future Crunch said with the predicted advance of telemetry and associated technologies such as driverless cars in the next ten years, Sydney may not need as many more roads or train lines. 

“This technological disruption, which is part of the larger digital revolution, will mean most of the cars become a lot more efficient and algorithms drive them more effectively. That means better traffic management, and combined with car-pooling technologies such as Uber, more passengers per car trip,” Dr Hervey said.

“Sydney is spending billions of dollars on roads that may not be necessary. Surely the city could get more bang for its buck by investing in something like the world’s most advanced data centre, as China is currently doing?”

Whether we are heading in the right direction in the planning and design of Sydney, in terms of the way we move around the city, was also discussed.

James Rosenwax, AECOM cities leader, said unlike Melbourne and Brisbane, Sydney, had been neglected in terms of investment in major pieces of infrastructure and as a result the city has not kept pace with its global peers. However, Mr Rosenwax said the city was now on the mend.

“There is a phenomenal amount of city shaping infrastructure either planned or under construction in Sydney in 2015. Examples of this include the M9 Orbital, the North West Rail Link, The Bays Precinct, Sydney Metro, Second Harbour Crossing, potential second Sydney airport and the Parramatta light rail,” he said.

“Many of these are major pieces of infrastructure that will realistically take five years to plan and then another 10 years to execute so it’s 15 years before they will be fully implemented. It’s only with these pieces of infrastructure in place, that Sydney is going to be able to keep moving and remain globally competitive,” Mr Rosenwax said.

“We do need to provide flexibility in our approach to planning the future Sydney. As we have seen in the last decade, with the advancement of technology to connect and move us, change and disruption will be very high on the agenda. Certainty in Sydney should come from the delivery of a well-integrated transport network, and it is my view that we should be prepared to allow for innovation in how we live, work and play in and around this network,” he said.

When discussing the social and ethical issues around big data, Ben Grubb, Technology editor, Fairfax Media said prior to the session, he expects data breaches will be much bigger than what we’ve seen to date and this will cause a rethink around the way we store and use data.

“Everything is hackable essentially. It’s all about mitigating risks and trying to store less data. The privacy law in Australia is b…