Robotic earthworms, stolen bacon, printed houses and video games as an Olympic sport were all on the agenda at the 2016 Annual ALGIM Conference as IT managers from around the country gathered for their yearly talkfest of practical, futuristic and downright challenging ideas. Ruth Le Pla reports on some of the highlights.
Councils can help combat crime
Council rubbish bags have been on the shoplifting lists of some well-known criminal offenders in the Auckland region along with more widespread thefts of bacon and vehicles throughout the country.
The unorthodox list of items comes courtesy of Phil Thomson whose company Auror is in the crime prevention software business. Auror’s networked platform aims to transform the way the police and communities present and solve crime in real-time by quickly mapping incidents and enabling people to see patterns that can be hard to link together via paper-based systems.
Phil says council bin bags provided such a lucrative income that a group of offenders specialised in these items alone.
“They knew they could sell them off on the black market and make quite a bit of money from the deal. They were often taking $2000 worth of bags at a time and then just heading out the door. Not stopping. Not paying.”
“It’s a surprising item to be taken,” he says, “but criminals can get rid of them easily and quickly for quite a bit of money. They steal quite a few at a time and then sell them off to local dairies who put them on sale.”
Phil says such thefts are most prevalent around the Auckland area alongside a couple of other pockets of theft throughout the country. “Obviously, the bags for which you have to pay are the ones targeted.”
Phil – whose talk at the ALGIM conference was titled “shaping the future of crime fighting with information and intelligence” – says $2 million worth of goods are stolen every single day from retail stores throughout New Zealand.
“When people think of crime they think of bank robberies and jewellery heists: the high risk / high reward crimes that movies are made of.
“In fact, most crime that occurs is low risk and low reward. And these everyday crimes are causing a big problem for our communities.”
A spate of bacon thefts made the headlines last year when it was revealed that 100 kilograms of bacon had been taken in one go in the Marlborough area. The bacon was later offered for sale on Facebook for $500 – which is well below the market rate.
Phil says the police were also finding chest freezers full of bacon when they raided properties where drugs were being sold – uncovering a direct trade in bacon for tinnies of marijuana.
He adds that car theft is strikingly prevalent in this country. Every year around 50,000 vehicles are stolen in New Zealand. This is in marked contrast to the situation in Australia, “where with a population of around four times the size, they have about half the number of vehicles stolen that we do”.
Phil says many councils need to understand there’s a crime problem in their communities and encourage their local retailers to report incidents either direct to the police or via Auror.
He says some councils are running licence plate recognition programmes and they can work with Auror to feed information to the police.
“We also work with business associations, who are supported by their councils, to help their members report crime.”
Landfills, printed clothing and those driverless cars: What to expect
Keynote international speaker Thomas Frey sketches out a future in which he says the human race is entering a period of unprecedented opportunity. “Humanity s going to change more in the next 20 years than in all human history. And at the same time our risk factors are going to increase exponentially. More things can break. “
Thomas is a world-leading futurist, executive director of the Colorado-based think-tank The Da Vinci Institute, and former innovation editor of The Futurist magazine.
Some of his more concrete predictions include:
- Our most valuable land in the future will be our landfills. “That’s because that’s where we bury our natural resources,” he says. “So rather than just ploughing everything over we will invent robotic earthworms to go and mine out all of the good stuff.”
- The internet of things will virtually eliminate theft. According to Thomas the ability to tag anything of value and know where it is at any given time will drive this change. He jokes that although this may not “totally” eliminate theft “it will certainly breed a higher calibre of criminal”.
- Driverless cars will change transportation more dramatically than the invention of the automobile itself. “That’s becoming fairly obvious.”
- By 2030 the average person will own printed clothing, live in a printed house, have packages delivered by drones, own more than one robot, work as a freelancer, frequently use a driverless car and be capable of accomplishing 10 times as much as the average person today.
- The next major leap forward will be in video games. “In South Korea they already have 100,000 people showing up for video game summits with US$1 million prizes,” he says. “There’s some talk about video games becoming an Olympic sport.”
(For more information see Thomas Frey’s article “Ch-ch-ch-Changes” in the November 2016 issue of Local Government Magazine.)
Core infrastructure in 2050
Futurist Thomas Frey performed in November a futuristic 2016 pre-launch of his then upcoming new book Epiphany Z: Eight radical visions for transforming your future which is now officially available in 2017.
His book is intended as a “roadmap to the future” spanning everything from new industries (and those that may be on the extinction list) to the implications of new advancements in robotics, drone technologies, transport and manufacturing.
He acknowledges that “virtually every piece of infrastructure creates jobs, revenue streams, and investment opportunities”. But he argues that the world of infrastructure has “far too many sacred cows with built-in inertias that are highly resistant to change”.
Looking forward to 2050, his 10 examples of how core infrastructure, in its widest sense, is about to change are:
- Driverless cars and highways;
- Tube transportation networks;
- Atmospheric water harvesters;
- Micro colleges;
- Space-based power stations;
- Drone delivery networks;
- Mass energy storage;
- A global language archive (which he has suggested could be based in New Zealand);
- A whole-earth genealogy project; and
- A trillion-sensor infrastructure.
Warning: Dangers ahead
Tony Krzyzewski (known as Tony K) delivers his 20th annual presentation with his trademark panache, warning of the current and imminent dangers of the cyber world. In his talk “20 years on and it just gets scarier”, he challenges council IT managers to assume that their organisation is going to be compromised and centre their actions on that.
He says they must drive a sense of urgency about IT security up to senior management. “It’s not going to get any better. This is the year for change.” Tony K is director of IT systems and security firm TonyK.NZ.
How to capture benefits of broadband rollout
Craig Young outlines the role that councils can play in the next few years as the quality, speed and efficiency of broadband services are tipped to improve while costs should go down.
Craig, who is CE of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), says that under the current rural broadband initiatives there are opportunities for councils to co-fund. “There are also options to extend the networks further beyond what the government might be able to put in.”
Councils can also ensure that land is available for technology. “So, for example, when you build a sub-division make sure there is space for cell towers: just simple things like that.”
He calls on councils to view communications technology as a key infrastructure. He praises Otorohonga District Council for ensuring fibre was included in early plans for building a new business park.
He also cites Western Bay of Plenty District Council as a good example of a council that is pulling together information and assessing priorities for the future communications needs of its communities.
Craig says councils can also take indirect positive action by encouraging their local businesses to use the technology that’s available to bring economic development to their area.
This article was first published in the February 2017 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.