Smart tech project aims to reduce coastal drownings
February 8, 2019
A new world-first beach safety initiative will use cutting-edge technology in a bid to curb the growing number of drownings along the New South Wales coast.
Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge said the Smart Beaches Project, launched today, would provide real-time updates for lifeguards and beachgoers to increase safety and improve public amenity.
“The Smart Beaches Project will see new technology installed along the shores of trial beaches in Sydney and Lake Macquarie, providing immediate condition reports to lifeguards and surf lifesavers,” Mr Tudge said.
“Sensors will be combined with a mix of other smart infrastructure to monitor wave and swell movements and provide earlier detection of dangerous conditions.”
Senator for New South Wales Arthur Sinodinos said the project had received $910,000 through Round 2 of the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.
The program supports collaborative, smart technology projects that improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of Australian cities, towns and suburbs.
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to eliminating the tragedy of coastal drownings – there are simply too many factors involved,” SenatorSinodinos said.
“However, technology can provide real safety benefits and Smart Beaches will explore that potential. Smart sensors will monitor beach activity to gauge which beaches and amenities are busiest and then transmit the data to lifeguards and local councils.”
Lake Macquarie City Mayor Kay Fraser said Redhead Beach and Blacksmiths Beach had been selected as the city’s two pilot locations.
“Both are very popular beaches; each with unique circumstances that will test this technology and how it is applied,” Cr Fraser said.
“Already this summer we have seen a disturbing number of drowning deaths along Australia’s coast. In NSW alone, there have been 16 coastal drownings since the start of summer. A search is also underway this morning for a swimmer missing on the State’s mid-north coast.”
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said the collection and recording of beach usage information was a time-consuming and imprecise task for professional lifeguards but Smart Beaches would provide accurate information to help them focus on protecting public safety.
He also said that Manly Beach and Shelly Beach in Sydney would host the Smart Beaches trial.
“These are very busy beaches, attracting not just locals but high tourist numbers and we are excited to be part of this trial to improve beach safety and amenity,” CrRegan said.
“Almost 11 million people visited the patrolled beaches of Lake Macquarie and Northern Beaches Councils in the 2017-2018 season, prompting more than 1600 rescues and leaving more than 7200 people requiring first aid.”
Surf Life Saving NSW, the Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguards Association and the Australian Coastal Councils Association are among more than a dozen other project partners.
University of Technology Sydney Associate Dean, External Engagement, Professor Myriam Amielh said Smart Beaches technology would be developed and trialled over the next 12 months, with plans to roll it out by mid-2020.
“Pending the success of this trial and ongoing funding, the technology could be rolled out to other beaches nationally and internationally,” Professor Amielh said.
“Development of this technology is in its early stages, but it has the potential to become an invaluable tool in ongoing efforts to improve beach safety and usability.”
The Smart Beaches Project has been jointly funded by the Australian Government, Lake Macquarie City Council, Northern Beaches Council and University of Technology Sydney.
Other project partners are: CIVIQ, Dantia, Lake Macquarie Tourism, Meshed, NNNCo, Nokia, NSW Data Analytics Centre, Orion Integration, Reekoh, SUMS Group, Surf Life Saving NSW and the Urban Institute.