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Data Driven IoT Insights for sustainable communities: GovHack 2020 Part 2

BY Michelle Howie 20 October 2020

In the second TelstraDev challenge for GovHack 2020 (part 1 on Communication APIs here), we asked: How can data from connected devices on the wireless Internet of Things (IoT) network be used to make our community spaces - our homes, towns, cities or region - more efficient and sustainable?

The Internet of Things connects BILLIONS of physical devices across the world. These devices could be parking sensors, water meters, pet trackers, security cameras, cars, glasses, plants, animals, kitchen appliances, park benches, anything you can thing of! There are many ways for these devices to connect to the internet, But one of the easiest and fastest ways is by putting a SIM in those devices, so it can connect straight to the 3G/4G/5G network without you having to set up cables or configure passwords. This is ‘cellular’ IoT. With Telstra’s nearly 4 million sq km of NB IoT coverage, we challenged our GovHackers to use data driven insights for sustainability, especially for devices that are hard to reach, critical, or moving. Look at almost any part of our economy – healthcare, transport, logistics, agriculture, education or engineering – and you’ll see that we measure, monitor, video and track more things than ever before.

At Telstra, we have 2 incredible cellular IoT technologies that are “Low Power Wide Area Networks” (LPWAN): NB-IoT and Cat-M1. With lower power required to connect, LPWAN IoT devices have a longer battery life. For rural deployments, this means less time spent going out to remote areas for battery changes, and in urban dense areas it means less disruption digging up underground sensors. Cellular IoT also allows rapid deployment, with minimal change to existing infrastructure; no dodgy wi-fi connections or cables, just set and forget!

If you measure what matters, you can see the way people interact and use community spaces. That could be seeing when bins are full or empty, how much water is used or wasted, or how crowded a space is. Here are the National GovHack 2020 finalists for this TelstraDev Challenge: Data Driven IoT Insights for sustainable communities.


Lights Out by Lights Out

Major cities use a significant amount of electricity on lights, especially on highways as team Lights Out found my analysing open source data from the City of Hobart (see their hackerspace page for the full list of smart city datasets). LED street lights, dynamically dimming street lights, or even Solar Powered street lights are much more energy efficient than current options. In project Lights Out, the team considered the economic tradeoffs between refitting existing light posts, replacing the lightbulbs with more LED efficient or IoT enabled dimming bulbs, or NEW installations of future proofed smart poles with solar charges. One of the interesting considerations was how Telco providers could contribute to the economics by renting space on the poles for small cell antenna deployments. Their findings can be found here:

Project Clearwater by Sanity is optional

Plastics contaminate Australia’s lands and seas, and challenge our industries, communities and decision makers with an exponentially growing problem. Project Clearwater proposes a network of IoT sensors along key waterways to track plastic waste with smart labels and readers. They built the prototype on an EC2 instance running a REST API developed in python with Flask. In the proof of concept, NTAG213 stickers were used. These run at 13.56MHz and can be read and written by common Arduino modules (they used a PN532) as well as many smartphones. Some fields - such as the Universal Product Code (UPC) - are written when the product is packed at the factory whereas others are written by the Point of Sales (PoS) system at the time of sale. They used ESP8266 development board which has built-in Wi-Fi, and a PN532 RFID module, but for the MVP they’d move to cellular IoT for reliability and scale. Check out their GitHub repo for the breakdown.

FireWater - by Water Warriors

In their project showing firefighters the fastest route to real-time available water, the Water Warriors understood some specific pain points of Rural Fire Services in their battling of bushfires, that could really make a difference if deployed. They found that there isn’t currently an easy way to see the location and water level of rural water tanks, so proposed a network of IoT sensors to bring the data to where it’s needed! The fact that they went out and tested some sensors in the field over the weekend was impressive, especially the use of the Adelaide things platform, and relevant open data sets and APIs (including out Messaging API!). See Firewater in action: (source code on GitHub)

GeoNodes by Team Chronos

GeoNodes is the unification of IoT, Augmented Reality (AR) and Machine Learning with the popular gaming aspects of GeoCaching and Ingress. It’s a Citizen AR mobile game, designed to empower individuals to contribute to ongoing scientific research in their area. Team Chronos used various open data sets like WildNet databaseAir Quality Monitoring Data and an Environment Monitoring API for access to real-time information related to environment quality, notices and forecasts collected from monitoring stations all over Victoria.

The Fire Festival by The Fire Nation

The Fire Festival is an annual multi-day public event that aims to educate families and individuals by demystifying the scale of bushfires, their causes, and their profound effects on society through a tour around the ACT. Fire Nation proposes to upskill the community with the knowledge to suitably prepare for these catastrophic events through a variety of initiatives such as connecting with local emergency and social services, creating disaster plans, and fostering a support network with the community. The Fire Festival will also be a platform to showcase a network of IoT devices connected through Telstra's IoT LPWAN involving a series of sensors that record data such as ambient temperature, thermal imagery, animal movement activity, particulate matter in the air, wind gust and more. The Fire Festival initiative is based on analysis of multiple ACT data sets; bushfire prone areas, availability of public BBQs and schools, project population growth, reflecting on the 2003 and 2019/20 bushfire crises and the network connectivity necessary to connect their IoT devices.

Their submission included a Sample festival path, and Sample festival schedule.

fire festival iot map

FireCloud by FireTech

Check out our part 1 to see the overview of FireCloud, which was also a finalist in that category for their use of the Messaging API!


You can see all the entries for this challenge on Hackerspace, including those that didn’t make it to the finals (like one of my personal faves: Tackling unprecedented hazards with IoT  who showed how well-placed IoT environmental monitors could help pre-empt future zoological diseases.)


GovHack 2020 was an awesome experience for us to collaborate with devs and entrepreneurs making life-changing solutions to Australia’s biggest challenges, all using open data and either our Messaging API or IoT network. The people that build the technology of the future, are the ones that shape our future. Let us know in the comments below if you would like to work together on an end to end solution with TelstraDev.

If you want to know more about TelstraDev and our API and IoT marketplace, head over to or watch the Conference video we presented for GovHack available on hackerspace. There’s something for new devs, or experienced coders!

Stay involved with the local internet of things space, find a local meetup near you (we recommend the newly virtualised; #AusIoT meetup!), or open source communities like Arduino online where you can share projects and of course join the TelstraDev community forum to meet other API & IoT developers!


Further reading:

Capabilities of the Telstra IoT Network:

 Purchase IoT Devices and Connectivity on TelstraDev:

Examples of devices on the cellular LPWAN IoT network for environmental monitoring:

The future of IoT and 5G:

Challenge 1 with Messaging API:

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