The urban intelligence to make Townsville a resilient growing smart city

Media releases

Can numbers give Townsville a secure future?

Townsville Data Hub to harvest data to help residents, businesses and Council create a secure future

Townsville City Council is partnering with the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) on a major data project that will help guide Townsville’s future water and energy security. AURIN will be launched today in Melbourne at 3 pm.

The Townsville Data Hub will research information and trends on energy and water consumption that will assist residents, business, and Council plan for a sustainable future for the city’s predicted population growth.

Water and energy security is seen as fundamental areas of future planning for Townsville with the expected doubling of the city’s population over the next 25 years.

A related project showed last year that just giving households access to daily information about trends in their water use helps them use water smarter – saving on average ten per cent. The AURIN project will bring energy and water consumption data, and weather records and climate data, together with council’s land use, geospatial and demographic information.

Townsville Mayor Cr Jenny Hill said the project would assist researchers and urban planners to identify strategies to make Townsville a more affordable, more sustainable and healthier place to live into the future.

“This project continues Council’s approach of creating partnerships and leveraging the latest technology to benefit our community,” Cr Hill said.

“Analysis of energy and water consumption data allows us to read the vital signs of our city, showing the flow and use of these resources as they support the activities of our homes and businesses”.

“We can use this knowledge to model the impact of proposed policies and make the choices needed to create a more sustainable future for our city and its citizens”.

“Importantly, the project will also determine how non-personalised or anonymous information can be shared across government, business and the community that will lead to better planning and reducing costs generally.”

The project is a partnership between the City, AURIN, James Cook University, and Ergon Energy, Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland Cyber-Infrastructure Foundation. The AURIN Portal will provide easy to use access to this data for researchers and urban planners. AURIN is supported by the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

“We congratulate Townsville City Council on the leadership they’ve demonstrated in undertaking this project,” says Professor Bob Stimson, Director of AURIN.

“The Townsville Data Hub and the models that will ultimately draw on it will be powerful tools for planners to test policy ideas and will empower the community to make informed decisions about the shape of their city and eventually optimising their own use of energy and water.”

“We hope Townsville’s evidence-based approach to planning using our urban intelligence capability will encourage Australia’s other cities to do the same.”

The Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation, James Cook University and Queensland University of Technology are also involved in this collaborative project.

The Townsville Data Hub project builds on the success of the Townsville IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, which won the Smart Infrastructure Project award at the 2013 National Infrastructure Awards.

Media contacts

For Council: Tony Wode (0417 610-656) and Greg Bruce (0427 898-384).

For AURIN: Niall Byrne, on 0417 131-977, 03 9398-1416,

Background resources

About water use

Townsville has times of peak water need with a long hot dry in which water use increases by a third; and over seventy per cent of water is used outdoors.

Last year 289 households participated in a study that give them near real time data about their water use (with a 24 hour delay) over nine months. Just giving householders the opportunity to look at their patterns of water use led to a 10 per cent drop in water consumption. It also showed 6 per cent of households that they had leaks, many of which were invisible. The study showed that residents are willing to make smart decisions about their use of resources if they’re given access to timely information. A possible future iteration of the system will flag exceptions – when you’re using more or less than usual – which can also feed into smarter decisions by our city’s residents.

About the Data Hub

The Townsville data hub will help answer big questions for Townsville’s future, like

  • how do heat waves influence energy and water use, and how can we ensure our future infrastructure can cope with the demands of a growing population?
  • how can access to big data analytics help households and businesses save energy and water, easing the cost of living and doing business?
  • how can we plan our city to maximise the health benefits of walking?
  • The Townsville Data Hub is a joint urban intelligence project between AURIN and Townsville City Council.

This project will provide data collections that will be available via the AURIN Portal and will provide a model for delivery of these types of data (energy and water) in other jurisdictions. The benefits will flow back to Townsville City Council and Ergon Energy to identify strategies and interventions that will optimise consumption which is particularly important in light of Townsville’s projected population growth.

The partner organisations believe that exposing data to the research community will provide significant benefits in terms of returns to their organisations. These partners also believe that by their example, acting as leaders in the community, they can stimulate other organisations to provide additional data that will enrich the understanding of the Townsville urban environment.

Ultimately, the project will provide Townsville City Council with a ‘normalised’ (to prevent individual water/energy customers from being identifiable) water consumption model that can be used to assess the implications of water use interventions/policies and the influence of other factors, such as electricity use and climate. Similarly, it will also provide a normalised electricity consumption model that can be used to assess the implications of electricity use interventions and the influence of other factors, such as water use and climate.

Partners and stakeholders

  • Townsville City Council – project partner, and also provider of water use, land use and spatial data.
  • AURIN – project partner, overseeing the data cleansing, harmonisation and preparation for exposure and use through the AURIN Portal.
  • Ergon Energy – commercial partner, data provider.
  • Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation (QCIF) – provides high-performance services, infrastructure and support to computation and data-driven collaborative research. For this project, QCIF will perform overall project management.
  • James Cook University (JCU) – research partner.
  • Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – research partner.

The project will be operating across technical teams in James Cook University (JCU), Townsville City Council (TCC), Ergon, and QUT.

Key datasets

Source Data Set Descriptions

These are currently available and will require cleansing before being made available to the AURIN portal and used as inputs into the derived data sets, described in the next section.

  • Water Consumption Data Set – Water consumption data at 3 monthly intervals.
  • TCC MiCloud Socio Economic Database – this data set includes a vast volume of data sourced from external third parties (e.g. the Census, Household Expenditure Survey), derived data generated through statistical manipulation (e.g. inferential models and micro‐simulations), and primary data collected from within Council (e.g. aerial photography).
  • TCC Land Use Data Set – this is the data set that codes all properties in Townsville in alignment with the approved land uses determined under the City’s Planning Schemes.
  • The following Ergon Data sets will be consolidated into a single customer view by Ergon before being provided to the project:
    • Ergon Energy Consumption Data Set – Consumption data at 3 monthly intervals. The potential of having access to smart power meters that will increase the granularity of the consumption in the near future.
    • Ergon Sub-station Data – Location of the substations and number and type of premises serviced by each sub-station. Network maps and infrastructure details.
    • Ergon Customer Segmentation Data – Customer data segmented into 8 different types of users with the consumption patterns defined over time of year, based on the three monthly billing cycle.

Derived Data Sets

These data sets are derived from the source data sets and other data sources.

  • TCC Water Consumption Data Set – Consumption data at 3 monthly intervals aggregated to align with the Ergon energy consumption data.
  • Ergon Energy Consumption Data Set by Substation Level – Consumption data at 3 monthly intervals aggregated to the sub-station. There is potential of having access to smart power meters that will increase the granularity of the consumption in the near future.
  • QUT/Ergon Normalised Electricity Consumption – The normalised electricity consumption data provides categorisation of consumption across a range of categories of residential users. The data improves reliability of predictions of future electrical energy demand by improved profiles of the residential users.
  • QUT/Ergon Normalised Water Consumption – The normalised water consumption data provides categorisation of consumption across a range of categories of residential users. The normalised data will be built up from individual user data sets held by TCC. Normalisation will remove any possibility of breaching privacy provisions, while providing data that is sufficient for use in accurate planning activities.
  • JCU Historical and Current Temperature Data Set
  • Manual Shade Map

Townsville statistics

  • Local government area covers 3,736 square kilometres.
  • Currently experiencing rapid residential development through the Northern Beaches growth corridor.
  • Current official estimated population ~189,238 persons
  • Estimated that by 2036 population will be ~314,362 people
  • Part of Burdekin Dry Tropics Region – 2 extreme season. “So when it’s wet, it is really wet; and when it’s dry, there is not a drop of moisture for months on end. And it is always hot!”

AURIN: Australia’s urban intelligence network

AURIN is a national collaboration delivering e-research infrastructure to empower better decisions for Australia’s urban settlements and their future development.

Funded by the Australian Government through the Education Investment Fund, and theNational Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy, the $24 million AURIN initiative is building the e-research infrastructure to enable better understanding of the current state of Australia’s cities and towns and to meet the challenges they face.

Led by The University of Melbourne, AURIN collaborates with more than 60 institutions and data providers across Australia through contracted subprojects and Data Access Agreements.

The AURIN Workbench and its flagship application, the AURIN Portal, we is delivering  access to diverse data from multiple sources, and is facilitating data integration and data interrogation using open source e-research tools.

This generates meaningful knowledge – urban intelligence – the evidence base for informed decisions for the smart growth and the sustainable development of Australia’s cities and towns.

The Challenge

Australia’s population is likely to double by mid-21st century. The vast majority of people will be living and working in urban environments across Australia’s diverse cities and towns, and 7 out of 10 people will be concentrated in just 5 mega-metro regions.

This presents big challenges for the nation, its states and territories, and local communities.

Urban systems are complex. Understanding how they function and planning for their future development is crucial.

That requires access to massive amounts of data and sophisticated analytical and modelling tools to adequately address key issues such as investment in the infrastructures required to enhance productivity, providing access to affordable housing, achieving greater efficiencies in energy and water consumption, and enhancing health and well-being.

Big data, cool tools & capability


  • Brings together and streamlines access to more than 1,000 datasets previously difficult, time consuming or costly to obtain
  • Provides the online capability to combine data at various levels of scale from multiple sources
  • Delivers online access to open source e-research tools to interrogate, model and visualise data.
  • Analytical capabilities include statistical and spatial modelling, planning and simulation tools, graphing and mapping routines (including 2D and 3D visualisation).
  • We  provide the network to facilitate collaboration, partnerships and knowledge sharing across academia, all levels of government, and the private sector.
  • Where needed, AURIN provides merit-based securitised access protocols to interrogate unit record data, maintaining privacy and confidentiality.

The AURIN Workbench is the collective term for the applications and services that the AURIN project has delivered.  Most data and services are delivered through the ‘Portal’, our flagship application, but other tools and capability are made available through other websites; in many cases, these sites are open access and do not require the AAF login that the Portal does.