Lake Macquarie part of world-first trial of technology in Smart Beaches project | photos

LAKE Macquarie is part of a trial of world-first technology aimed at reducing drownings on NSW beaches – but the gadgetry won’t replace the experienced eyes of local lifeguards.

Sensors will be installed in the water and on the sand at Redhead and Blacksmiths beaches to give lifeguards real-time data as part of the Smart Beaches project.

“These sensors will combine with other smart technology to monitor wave and swell movement and provide earlier detection of dangerous conditions,” a spokesperson for the council said.

“Other sensors will monitor beach activity to provide information about when car parking and outdoor amenities are in demand, helping shape the provision of services where and when they are needed most.”

Data collected will be anonymous and won’t identify individual beachgoers.

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach are also taking part in the trial.

NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos said the project had received $910,000 through Round 2 of the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to eliminating the tragedy of coastal drownings – there are simply too many factors involved,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“However, technology can provide real safety benefits and Smart Beaches will explore that potential. Smart sensors will monitor beach activity to gauge which beaches and amenities are busiest and then transmit the data to lifeguards and local councils.”

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A council spokesperson said the technology was an important addition to local lifeguard patrols.

“The Smart Beaches initiative is intended to complement the regular patrols undertaken by our professional beach lifeguards, forecast resource requirements, and enhance the beachgoer experience,” they said.

“This new Smart Beaches technology is another tool our lifeguards will be able to call on to help protect the safety of visitors to Redhead Beach, and will provide important, real-time insights that will give our lifeguards a clearer view of what’s going on in the water.”

The council said having accurate information on how many people were at the beach was important  because it helped the council to determine how frequently amenities should be maintained, and informed decisions about the allocation of resources to beaches.

In NSW this summer there has been 16 coastal drownings since the start of summer.

Professor Myriam Amielh of the University of Technology Sydney said Smart Beaches technology would be developed and trialled over 12 months, with plans to roll it out by mid-2020.

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