Our world is becoming more urbanised. By 2050, 68% of the world will live in cities, up from 30% in 1950. In Australia, we’ve farewelled the doughnut cities of the 1980’s, with more people living in the city centre than ever before.

This isn’t a good or bad thing, but it does present challenges. Congestion, energy, transport, and sustainability all need new approaches with higher density.

Luckily, lots of people are working on this, from governments and city planners to private sector startups, innovating our way to better cities.

Here are some of the ways Australian startups are shaping the future of city life.

Energy & Water

With the threat posed by climate change, getting clean and reliable energy to our cities may be our biggest challenge. Luckily, there are many innovative startups helping solve it.

Planet Ark Power is an offshoot of the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. They install commercial solar power panels and batteries, using AI to create ‘smart grids’ that regulate the use of energy in response to the larger power grid. This helps create a more stable, distributed power supply for all of us.

Flow Systems design and build water recycling micro-ecosystems, Flow’s ‘local sustainable water centres’ can supply suburban houses and sporting fields with treated grey water for their gardens, or optimise the water recycling needs of entire buildings. If you’ve ever read about the water recycling capabilities of Sydney’s Central Park, you’ve heard of Flow’s work.

A flow systems water chart, one way that an australian startup is shaping our cities

Transport

The shared goal of most transport startups is to reduce our dependence on private cars, which are responsible for around 18% of Australia’s carbon footprint. While public transport does a lot to reduce car dependence, startups are helping to push us forward.

GoGet Carshare gives over 140,000 Australians access to cars by the hour, without having to own them. This on-demand access is just as convenient as owning a car, but without the cost and hassle of looking after it. Alongside rideshare, bikeshare and public transport, car ownership really does become optional.

KeoRide is an Australian startup project of public transit firm Keolis Downer. In partnership with GoGet and Transport for NSW, Keolis Downer help commuters get to and from the Northern Beaches B-Line bus without needing their own car. It’s like a small, on-demand bus route, and represents a major step forward in transportation.

Keoride RAV4 on the northern beaches

Work

Thanks to the internet and automation, how we work is changing drastically. From places to work, places to find work, or ways to get things done, startup mindsets are making those changes a little easier.

Freelancer is one of the largest marketplaces for freelance work, from creative industries to coding. Founded in Sydney in 2009, it now has over 20 million users globally. With so many freelance workers, coworking spaces like Hub give digital nomads access to an affordable office, while helping new startups find their feet.

Of course, modern software has totally upended the traditional workflow. Two of Australia’s most successful startups, Canva and Atlassian, made their name by reinventing the graphic design process (Canva) and by helping business’ track and manage their projects (Atlassian).

The team of australian startup atlassian at the company's IPO in the USA

Housing

With more people living in cities than ever before, there’s a real need to be smarter about how we live. A range of Australian startups are helping provide new ways to live.

Coliving brings cooperative living to the 21st century. Sydney’s UKO has three locations that offer apartment living, with communal kitchen and lounge spaces. As well as a more efficient use of space, it promises a unique community with the other residents in the building.

Nightingale Housing is a Melbourne based operation creating unique developments that combine affordability, sustainability, and deliberate design. As well as creating 100% fossil fuel free buildings in line with the best practices of modern design, Nightingale strip back marketing and cap profits to battle unaffordable housing.

The nightingale housing development in Melbourne Australia, a startup lead residential housing developer that is shaping the future of australian cities

Data and analysis

The most significant ways in which our cities are changing is invisible. By creating a grid of wireless sensors across the city, these startups are helping us design and run more efficient, smarter communities.

Meshed IOT use software and cloud computing power to pull insights from interconnected sensors across cities, buildings, and university campuses. These insights allow operators to monitor their energy usage and requirements and increase efficiency.

Kinesis are a Sydney based firm that create open databases and software tools for governments and city builders to better understand their city. For example, they’re mapping carbon dioxide emissions across Sydney to help Council make better decisions about climate change adaptation.

A desktop computer running the Kinesis city database analysis software

 

Whether you find yourself using one of these services, working with one, or just behind the wheel of a GoGet car, you’re doing your part to change our cities for the better.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.