Smart technology trialled to make streets safe

Smart poles could soon be coming to a neighbourhood near you, looking to create a safer environment for people.

Funding for three new high-tech smart poles has been approved by the Christchurch City council recently, following a successful year-long trial of two units at Lyttelton's Naval Point.

Smart Christchurch Programme Manager Michael Healy said smart poles were a way that you can put a combination of technology in a discreet pole and make it part of the street landscape.

"Initially we've got funding to trial one here in New Brighton, one at Papanui, one in Hornby. We'll be working with key stakeholders in the community about where best to place them within those neighbourhoods."

The poles feature a free wi-fi network, security cameras linked to the police, advanced lighting, pedestrian and vehicle counters and speakers for public alerts.

Healy admits the smart surveillance technology could be a concern for some people.

"Things like pedestrian counting, it's completely anonymous. We don't look at who the person is, what gender. Car counting is similar as well. It can tell that a car has been there, has gone past. It can tell what speed, but it can't tell who's driving it, what the license plate was, or any identifying details beyond that."

A smart pole at Lyttelton's Naval Point. Photo: Geoff Sloan
A smart pole at Lyttelton's Naval Point. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Funding has come from the previous government’s 'Better Off' support package, targeted at initiatives that will improve community wellbeing and safety.

Coastal Ward Councillor Celeste Donovan said an extra $100,000 has also been allocated for more safety initiatives in the New Brighton area.

"I think New Brighton is a great location for the trial because we are epicentre of a lot of different types of activities. So we have a lot of visitors coming to the area and we host a lot of events."

Greater New Brighton leadership group deputy chairperson Lin Klenner agreed, saying residents want to see investment into the seaside community.

"I think it's absolutely amazing, It's just what we need and we know that our community will really use it and appreciate it."

Healy said there were options for other add-ons like cell phone chargers and sensors to monitor air quality, weather conditions and noise.

"It's just a really exciting project. We're really great to be working with the various communities on designing these poles, seeing how they work out, and hopefully, you know, if there's a need for them, we can expand the network going forward."

The three new smart poles are scheduled to be installed and ready for action by the middle of the year.

- By Geoff Sloan