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Smart Social Spaces: Smart Street Furniture Supporting Social Health


University of New South Wales

Georges River Council Area, New South Wales

Project stage



Start date: 17 November 2017
End date: 01 June 2019

Project value

Australian Government funding:


  • Georges River Council
  • Street Furniture Australia

Focus area

  • Facility and services management (buildings
  • energy
  • waste
  • utilities)

Project type

  • Smart waste
  • Smart amenity management

Technology type

  • Internet of Things
  • Wi-Fi
  • Network infrastructure
  • Data Management (Data platform, open data, data privacy and security, blockchains, standards)
  • Wireless sensor networks
  • Environmental sensors
  • Smart poles
  • Cloud computing

Project summary

This project records real-time use of urban furnishings in public spaces such as parks and plazas using social media mapping, behaviour mapping and digital Internet of Things (IoT) sensors installed on street furniture. This enables efficient and informed management of public space and its infrastructure in a local government precinct. The project also designs and tests a new and innovative range of urban ‘healthy living hardware.’ Both components of this project are designed to improve healthy and connected living. This will lead to the development of a smart, infrastructure management system that can be utilised by councils throughout Australia.

The challenge

Local councils need effective, affordable, and relevant smart systems to provide hard evidence to inform open space, urban design and public infrastructure decisions. Smaller LGAs are typically ‘lower-tech’ and cannot afford complicated, outsourced, technical infrastructure needed to run a ‘smart city management system’.


The project integrates a variety of environmental IoT sensors (sound sensors, use counters, flow meters, power draw counters etc.) arranged in a wireless network configured to obtain live user data about public open space and the use and performance of their public furnishings. This data feeds into an online management system of public space and its infrastructure in a local government precinct. This contributes to better decision-making regarding land use, the design of public open space and the installation and maintenance of micro-infrastructures throughout the local government area.


The project is beneficial to the community by providing new amenities and improved street furniture.

The Healthy Living Hardware (HLH), an innovative street furniture product, includes General Power Outlets [GPO], USB outlets and a water tap. With the HLH, people can recharge their phones, wash their hands and bring a cooking appliance like an electric BBQ, wok, or hot plate. This extends the range of activities that can take place in a public setting.

The smart infrastructure and smart system improve the design and delivery of public domain facilities with efficiency to the local council and to the benefit of local residents. The management system has the ability to be upscaled and utilised by other councils around Australia.

Lessons learned

Some insights concerning processes, outputs and outcomes of the project are:

  • Appreciate that knowledge creation can happen through experiential learning or ‘learning by doing’ which means that new knowledge and innovation cannot be rushed.
  • Innovation emerges as collaboration occurs and communication between parties is vital.
  • Be aware that new products take time to be designed, tested and launched into the marketplace.
  • Improve the public amenity or services by using smart technologies with the end user in mind.
  • Continue to invest in collaboration (with partners and their relationships) and develop proposals for future projects that can benefit from the established collaboration.


  • A nimble and smart infrastructure management system is being piloted.
  • Public open space amenity levels have improved.
  • Smart micro-infrastructure has been developed.
  • An innovative ‘healthy living hardware’ product has been prototyped.

Contact details

Name: A/Prof Nancy Marshall
Phone: 02 9385 4212
Email: n.marshall@unsw.edu.au