Melbourne’s bright future

Living Well | Cathy Anderson | Posted on 17 May 2019

Learn how to live smarter and contribute to the debate about the cities of tomorrow.

A bus without a driver, a solar-powered rubbish bin that self-compacts and temperature sensors that activate cool spots during very hot days. This is just a small taste of how Melbourne’s streets could be transformed in the future. And Victorians can get a first-hand look at how technology being developed today could shape our cities of tomorrow by taking a stroll down Prototype Street, a pop-up exhibition during Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW), May 20 to 26.

Railway line and road pass over a river

 

MKW is an annual program of workshops, panel discussions and exhibitions that explore different ideas about how we can shape our future. Addressing issues such as population growth, housing density and global warming, Prototype Street is designed to not only showcase cool tech, but also to provide an opportunity to learn more about the way we currently live and travel in order to be more sustainable, financially secure and happier.

Transport is a huge issue for future communities, and Prototype Street, located in the heart of MKW’s Melbourne Innovation District on Blackwood Street, North Melbourne, will offer visitors the chance to take a ride on a driverless bus. Autonobus is part of the Australian Integrated Multimodal EcoSystem project led by the University of Melbourne, which hopes to integrate public and private transport to make roads safer and ease congestion. Those who prefer to travel by pedal power will be able to see what it’s like to ride in environments such as separated lanes or integrated with traffic via a virtual reality experience.

Visitors are also invited to download RACV’s arevo mobility app, which can plan the most efficient journey from A to B using a variety of methods including car-sharing, e-bikes, trains, trams and Uber. 

Prototype Street is all about testing future urban technologies and learning how the public will interact with it and what they like and dislike.
Rider view from electric bike riding along green pathway down futuristic street
Driverless bus making its way around university campus

 

You can also check out Clean Cubes, solar-powered bins that use real-time data to know when to self-compact rubbish. Or decide which lighting you think makes our streets safer thanks to laneway installation Out of Sight, Out of Mind. There’s even an app called Can-I-Park which uses image-recognition software to decipher parking signs and restrictions. 

Also on display is the Smartbox communications network, which can be placed anywhere in the city to provide free wifi, phone calls, a place to charge your devices and a tablet for access to city services, maps and directions.

Chair of the Knowledge City portfolio for the City of Melbourne, Councillor Dr Jackie Watts, says the pop-up provides an exciting experiential glimpse into the future.

“Prototype Street is all about testing future urban technologies and learning how the public will interact with it and what they like and dislike,” she says. “Melbourne is a great city that is always pushing itself further. We want Melbourne’s streets to continue to be great places for people.”

Understanding how our homes operate and building that public awareness can really move the needle towards a more sustainable Victoria.

In addition to cutting-edge infrastructure technology, Prototype Street will also host the RACV Tiny Home, designed and built to help Victorians become more energy-efficient, tech-savvy and to live smarter. 

Designed by Grand Designs TV host and architect Peter Maddison, the RACV Tiny Home is just 18.75 square metres, but is packed with technology and innovation, including solar panels and lithium-battery power supply, voice-activated Google commands to light the home and activate the smartphone-app-controlled home security system and super-charged insulation. It also features recycled and natural materials.

Stuart Outhred, senior planner with RACV, says the Tiny Home is designed to show visitors how they can live more sustainably (and save on heating and cooling bills) and how tech can make their lives easier.

Coffee being poured into a reusable glass cub with cork holder and silicon lid
Tiny home made out of timber sits in middle of an empty gravel street with blue sky in the background

 

“The RACV Tiny Home demonstrates how the building design process and new technology can help people be more energy efficient,” he says. “Understanding how our homes operate and building that public awareness can really move the needle towards a more sustainable Victoria... so being on Prototype Street is a great way to showcase that.”

While tiny homes are very ‘on-trend’ at the moment, Stuart says the idea of RACV’s model is not to suggest it is a panacea for our housing issues. Rather, it is designed to get people thinking about issues of housing density, urban form, future planning and infrastructure that can support our burgeoning population. These issues will be the subject of a free panel discussion next Friday, 24 May, called Melbourne’s Missing Middle, involving Stuart, Peter Maddison and Planning Institute of Australia president Laura Murray.

Stuart says that our current approach to city building, especially low-density sprawl on the urban fringe, is unlikely to serve Melbourne well in the long term. He says the limited transport choices that these types of development offer is very concerning. “A smarter approach would be to develop more diverse housing in established and accessible areas, and ensure frequent public transport is operating from day one in our growth areas.”


Five things to check out at Melbourne Knowledge Week

1. Open Innovation Challenge pitch night

Watch five entrepreneurial finalists compete for $30,000 prize money as they pitch ideas about how to use data and technology to improve safety for the 920,000 people who travel in and around the city every day. Thursday 23 May, 6 to 9pm, Mercedes Me Store Melbourne, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne. 

2. Utopian Foods cafe and bar

Fuel up during MKW on sustainable and surprising fare including insects, algae, invasive species, hemp products, vegan protein and regenerative meats. Be brave. Or there’s fabulous coffee and cocktails. 20 to 26 May, Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne .

3. Melbourne City DNA

This exhibit reveals Melbourne’s true nature through data, including maps, stories, collected information, and allows visitors to see a clear picture of where we are heading thanks to virtual-reality experience, interactive touchscreen maps and a live printed, projection-mapped 3D city model. 20 to 26 May, Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne. 

4. Can we buy our way to a better future?

Takeaway coffee cups are filling our tips and refusing to degrade, but we can make a difference as consumers, and so can businesses. This panel, hosted by KeepCup, will explore ways businesses can drive change and (gasp!) actually lead to less consumption. Friday, 24 May, 7.30 to 9am, Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne.

5. Interaction futures

Your smartphone is being programmed to read your body language, and identify your face and voice? Are you okay with this? This series of talks with the University of Melbourne’s Computing and Information Systems team explore how artificial intelligence can help us in our daily lives, but not replace our relationships with actual humans. Various speakers and times, 21 to 26 May, Meat Market, 3 Blackwood Street, North Melbourne.


Melbourne Knowledge Week is on 20 to 26 May. Visit mkw.melbourne.vic.gov.au