Technology innovators are being invited to offer suggestions about how Sydney’s emerging ‘third city’, Bradfield, can tap smart city technologies to help the “city for the future” meet its goals around clean energy, digital connectivity, circular economy, and other areas.

After years of planning that will see the new Bradfield City Centre – a 30-hectare patch of the 100-hectare suburb, located just north of Bringelly – positioned as a major commercial centre as part of Western Sydney’s aerotropolis, the newly announced market sounding process sees the NSW Government canvassing technology and service providers for proposals about how to make the new city as future-proof as possible.

“Bradfield is a city for the future,” NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Alister Henskens said in announcing the market sounding process, which will run through March 2023 and is designed to help the state deliver “the best and most advanced services for the residents and businesses that will call it home”.

“We only have one chance to get this right,” Henskens said, “and as we develop this new city from the ground up, we need to make sure we’re investing in the right assets, the best products, and the services and solutions that will drive the economy for generations to come.”

Solutions for the city – which was last year named after Sydney Harbour Bridge designer John Bradfield after an extensive public poll – must provide “world leading technology at a city scale to build a true 22nd-century city,” the Market Sounding Launch website explains.

The project’s strategic goals include significantly reducing energy consumption and avoiding carbon emissions; providing “high capacity” and “ultra high-speed” fibre broadband connections with extensive coverage; and building a circular economy system that includes enabling digitally-connected, efficient buildings that activate services like cooling and waste collection.

The city’s systems will be fed by sensors that capture data around energy and water use, the precis describes, matching them with current weather and service disruption data to help provide resilience in daily life “so people are less vulnerable to the disruption of major weather events, cyber breaches or other incidents”.

Systems for the Bradfield project “must be customer centric, sustainable, flexible and future proofed,” Western Parkland City Authority chair Jennifer Westacott said at the launch, pointing out that the projects are expected to bring new investment to the Western Sydney area “and deliver better paid and more diverse local jobs”.

The major commercial and residential area around the Western Sydney Airport has attracted foundation partner commitments from companies including Siemens, Hitachi, Northrup Grumman, CSIRO, and others – a nod to extensive studies highlighting the importance of doubling down on science and technology innovation.

Planning for the future

The NSW Government’s push to shape Bradfield as the pinnacle of a technology-led future reflects similar navel gazing by governments in Australia and around the world, as they work to leave COVID in the rear-view and revitalise cityscapes that have been profoundly reshaped by the pandemic.

Smart city projects have a mixed track record so far, with some panned as failures and others emerging as futuristic tech utopias.

The Digital CBD Roadmap project run by Victoria’s RMIT University, for one, last month released a detailed roadmap for the “regeneration and reinvention of Melbourne” that includes 10 key recommendations that it argues should be implemented in the next five years.

These include the creation of a world-first Digital Cities Research Centre that will, RMIT Digital CBD Project member and RMIT College of Business and Law research fellow Dr Alexia Maddox said, spearhead “a clear pathway that could set the scene for cities across the world to not only become digital, but improve data utilisation, connect communities and engage people in the city centre.”

Other recommendations include the creation of a digital skills academy; a program to encourage migrants to live and work in Victoria; recommendations for ‘green legislation’ and construction of sustainable data centres using technologies that manage distributed energy sources and enhance the management of energy use.

“The key to Melbourne’s status as a fully global digital city is merging our physical and digital experiences into a central built environment that leverages web3 technologies,” Maddox explained.

“A digital environment is only as good as the infrastructures and the skills of the people who use it, so ensuring that a good secure framework is in place is essential.”

Potential contributors to the Bradfield project can register their interest through February 2023.