Koalas, Floods and Tulips: Environmental monitoring with long range, low power sensor networks

Mr Nick Cross1, Mr Peter Elford1, Catherine Caruana-McManus2

1Aarnet, North Ryde, Australia, peter.elford@aarnet.net.au

2Meshed, Castlecrag, Australia, Catherine@meshed.com.au


Emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are for the first time enabling relatively low-cost deployment of environmental sensor networks that can capture urban liveability data in real-time enabling a city liveability index. This has the potential to significantly inform development agendas and improve the world-class sustainable design approaches and progressive public policies.  Furthermore, open source technology across the technology stack for IoT presents a significant opportunity to deploy massive real-time data sets at relatively low cost. Critical to the sensor network is the ability for this data to seamlessly integrate to e-research infrastructure as well as support advanced visualization via IoT platforms and analytics.  Machine learning and cognitive systems are also required in order to process the “streams” of data that is generated by ubiquitous IoT networks.

This presentation will cover the following topics:

  1. Setting the scene for IoT and e-research (drivers, differentiators in light of existing methods of data connectivity, challenges, data categorisation)
  2. New IoT connectivity technologies – featuring a technical overview and use cases of LoRaWAN
  3. Democratising the Internet of Things – the role that public access IoT networks as the enabler for e-Research for large real-time sensor networks supporting the key sectors of: smart cities, built environment, energy, water, environment
  • Standards, interoperability and open/data sharing models as enablers for IoT
  1. The role of IoT research data network infrastructure and storage
  2. Case Studies
    1. Tulip- Air Quality Monitoring IoT Network – Sydney
    2. Early Flood Warning Systems featuring the Flood Network – Oxford
    3. Koala Protection – Gold Coast Hinterland

Key themes, – internet of things, low power long range wireless networks (LPWAN), LoRaWAN, industrial internet of things, automation, advanced visualization, air quality monitoring, urban heat island, noise pollution,


Tulip is an urban-scale sensing system that will enable the researchers, city leaders, environmentalists, urban planners, residents, governments and the built environment industry to monitor and examine Sydney’s environment, infrastructure and activity at street scale, including detecting trends and changes over time.  The goal is Tulip is to measure in fine detail “health” of the city in sufficient detail to provide data to help engineers, scientists, policymakers and residents work together to make Sydney including its suburbs and any other Australia cities healthier, more liveable and more efficient. Tulip is an open data initiative that is using a network of sensors that are measuring a range of environmental indicators including air quality (NOx SOx, CO particulate pollution), heat, noise and the numbers of people moving through spaces.  Through combining these datasets TULIP can provide a liveability index for the urban landscape and address the impact of climate change, increased density of our cities and the energy and water security issues.  Through the generation and creative use of data relating to the health of the city, Tulip is the key to catalysing action and providing planning and policy decisions with hard data for sustainably cities, social cohesion and economic prosperity.


As urban expansion continues, koalas face ever-increasing threats to their survival. Since European settlement of Australia, more than 50 per cent of koala habitat has been destroyed and much of what remains has been degraded and fragmented. Degradation of habitat can occur through factors such as selective logging of preferred koala food trees, weed invasion and inappropriate fire regimes. Fragmentation of habitat can lead to isolation of individuals and populations. However, the most immediate threat to koalas are domestic dogs and feral animals.

Near real-time monitoring of 38 foot hold traps designed to trap feral animals is being trialed by rangers in remote Gold Coast Hinterland.  The project is being delivered by Smarter Technology Solutions, using the Meshed LoRaWAN network that has been deployed across the entire municipality of the City of Gold Coast.  Many of the traps are in areas where there is no 3G coverage hence using the radio spectrum to transmit data is enabling more timely information being transmitted and greatly assisting in conservation and research efforts.


Having timely information about river level rises can mean the difference between asset protection and safety on one hand and costly flood inundation on the other.  A network of LoRaWAN river level sensors can report rapid rises in river levels with multiple data points on different tributaries that creates an overall picture in granular data sets, and visual maps.  Furthermore, the IoT enabled flood mapping application can deliver email and text message alerts to pre-determined recipients (Eg: SES crews) for rapid response, and early warning.  In this way, residents of flood prone areas will get more time to protect their assets, move vulnerable people out of harms’ way, and maybe even save lives.

Once a flood is in progress, river level data will continue to be automatically reported without the need to send people into flood effected areas to manually collect river level data.  The data that is now being automatically gathered every day can be used in a data warehouse to provide fodder for predictive analytics engines and combining with other sources of information such as the Bureau of Meteorology.


The Oxford Flood Network is a citizen-based initiative for water-level monitoring sensors – a “guerilla network” in the spirit of the crowdsourced Japan Radiation Map created by the public around Fukushima in response to a lack of official information. In the floodplain of Oxford members of the local community are installing their own water-level monitoring sensors and sharing local knowledge about rivers, streams and groundwater to build a better, hyper-local picture of the situation on the ground.



Catherine Caruana-McManus is a global expert in smart cities and digital transformation and has a career spanning 25 years across government, telecommunications, IT and advisory.

Catherine is a Director of Meshed, a Sydney based IoT integration company and the founder of Giant Ideas for Smart Cities, a global community for smart cities, the new energy economy and the internet of things.  Recently, Catherine has been recognised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Knowledge Nation initiative as one of Australia’s leading thinkers and innovators in big data and smart cities.

Catherine is on the Advisory Board for UoW SMART Faculty and is on the Executive Council and the Chairperson of the Smart Cities and Industry Engagement Work Stream of the IoT Alliance Australia.

Catherine’s prior roles include being the Director of IoT for Energy and Resources for KPMG, Director of IBM’s Smarter Cities and has held other executive positions for MC2 Consulting, PMP Limited and Telstra.

As a serial disrupter, Catherine has been intimately involved in launching many successful internet businesses such as Australia’s first real estate portal,  where.com and whitepages.com.au. Catherine holds qualifications in urban planning, economics, management and finance.

Recent Comments