Plans are underway to build a smart city powered by hydrogen storage and Aritificial Intelligence (AI).

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney is pursuing new partnerships to realise the potential of smart cities and hybrid energy storage systems to power them.

The university will lead Australia’s first fully integrated smart city trial in partnership with Providence Asset Group (PAG) and Tamworth City Council, in a deal announced this week.

The trial will be the first based on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and include applications across transport, energy, health, telecommunications and other community services. Previous trials have incorporated only energy systems and are based on older technology on individual user cases instead of an integrated approach.

Professor Joe Dong, director of the UNSW Digital Futures Grid Institute, is leading the research at UNSW and said the aim for the Tamworth Smart City project was to build the IT systems that would monitor and control data flowing through “smart” services, using the wireless network.

Using existing IoT infrastructure provided seamless integration of IoT devices, from home appliances and utility monitors to council services such as waste management, lighting and parking, and asset security, to health services like remote patient monitoring.

“Imagine having an app on your computer or phone that gives you your electricity usage and cost information in real time, and also tells you how some slight change of usage pattern of appliances such as the washing machine could most effectively save electricity bills,” Professor Dong said.

“You could have other apps on the smart network for a variety of purposes – such as wearable health monitors that alert your medical practitioners should you need to go and see them or live transport and traffic monitoring to give you alternative routes as soon as a hazard occurs.

“If we can prove that our solution works, the potential benefits are endless. UNSW is very excited to trial these systems with Tamworth City and Providence and hopes it will provide a template for other smart cities in Australia in the future.”

Providence Asset Group CEO Henry Sun said the partnership with UNSW underscored the potential for university and industry collaboration to bring new technologies and products to market.

“Providence realises Australia has global leading universities and talents and we want to bridge them with industry,” he said.

In another announcement, UNSW detailed its involvement in developing Australia’s first large-scale hybrid energy storage system – using lithium batteries and hydrogen fuel cells – to be installed at a $200m solar farm to be built by Providence Asset Group and Risen Energy Group in south-east Queensland.

The system will be designed to store surplus electricity generated at the farm and then discharged as required.

Professor Dong and his team, together with researchers from UTS and with Providence Asset Group as lead applicant, are working on a solution that would use artificial intelligence to manage and smooth out the intermittency of renewable energy, balance out supply and demand, and allow the storage and use of excess renewable energy where and when needed.

UNSW Scientia Professor and renowned chemical engineer Professor Rose Amal said that hydrogen’s time had come. She said Australia is well placed to take the lead on hydrogen technologies.

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