Using smart IoT sensors, Sydney Olympic Park is able to decrease irrigation costs by 83%, saving 5 million AUD per year. Cost savings are associated with increased water use efficiency and avoidance of drought-damaged vegetation. Another source of savings comes from lower needs for sub-contracted park management. The project can also become a blueprint for smart park and water management.


Spreading over 40 hectares, Sydney Olympic Park has one of Australia’s largest irrigation systems.




Bicentennial Park at Sydney’s Olympic Park, a suburb of the city, has some unique urban heat and irrigation challenges. Spreading over 40 hectares, it’s actually got one of the largest irrigation systems in Australia, but because its land is spread on an uncapped landfill, the soil is really thin so the plants are quite susceptible to drought.

With heat waves of up to 50°C becoming more common, and irrigation getting more costly, the use of cutting-edge science is needed in order to monitor water use and temperatures, allowing Sydney Olympic Park Authority to optimize its water management and irrigation system.


The project

Dubbed SIMPACT (Smart Irrigation Management for Parks and Cool Towns), the project is a collaboration between the government, universities, and private industry, and utilizes artificial intelligence and technology to cool the park’s microclimate for residents and visitors.

This project uses only recycled water and represents a large-scale prototype of how smart water management can ease the pressure on our most valuable natural resource. Park visitors will also be able to check on their mobile phones where the coolest spot for a picnic is or where they should exercise.

The project also has a specific request – that the AI module can be upscaled and downscaled for any irrigation system. It can be taken into other environments, where the complexity is lower and it’s easier to start controlling the irrigation systems.


Sensor deployment

As a part of this innovative project, a network of more than 200 Senstick Agri (SSM30) soil sensors and 50 Senstick Urban (SMC30) microclimate sensors to record soil moisture and air temperature.

The SSM30 were dug into the ground and SMC30 were stuck up on poles or trees at about 3 meters off the ground. In addition to this network of sensors, there are also 13 weather stations and they’re measuring meteorological variables like wind, rain, and sunlight so that we can start to understand how the environment and plants and different kinds of management approaches alter urban heat on a really fine-scale, at the scale that people live and work and play. Sensors have a lifetime of up to 7 years and use an appropriate gateway that collects all the data and sends it to the platform where it can be managed and provides the background for AI-driven water management decisions.


50 Senstick Urban (SMC30) were planted on poles or trees, 3 meters off the ground (UP), and 200 Senstick Agri (SSM30) were dug into the ground.


Together with weather forecasts, the microclimate data captured is used to fine-tune the park’s active cooling management. This can make a substantial contribution to reducing urban heat and ensuring residents about the safety in accessing the outdoors.



All sensor data can then be read and managed on the appropriate platform. Above, snapshot of SOPA platform dashboard.




  • Financial savings: 83% decrease in irrigation costs, from $6 million AUD to $1 million AUD

Cost savings in increased water use efficiency and avoidance of drought-damaged vegetation; cost savings on sub-contracted park management. The combined cost for sub-contracted management of the irrigation system and water purchasing is more than $0.5 M per annum. Lower requirements for operational management and purchasing water will have a significant effect on annual expenses.


  • Qualitative: Optimal presentation of park venues, increased human thermal comfort through park cooling effect

The solution is the development of a digital water management and microclimate visualization tool that is capable of scheduling irrigation volumes based on environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, and vegetation type, communicating current park climate conditions to the public and providing operational information to park management. The necessary hardware – a network of wireless sensors distributed across the park – will be provided by the project partners. This solution is scalable (up and down) and repeatable to optimize the use and management of water and maximize the cooling benefits of urban green infrastructure elsewhere.


  • Social: Increased park visitation and associated community benefits in physical and mental health.

Quantifying the indirect and long-term $ returns from health benefits generated by urban green infrastructure is a new, evolving field of research. The consensus of the published studies is that the relationship is positive – more area of/more time spent in urban green infrastructure = better health = less public health costs.


Are your parks, stadiums, and recreation sites in need of smart sensor solutions?






  • How does the use of smart IoT sensors specifically contribute to reducing urban heat in Sydney Olympic Park beyond just irrigation management?

The use of smart IoT sensors goes beyond simply managing irrigation; it contributes significantly to reducing urban heat through several mechanisms. By monitoring soil moisture and air temperature in real-time, these sensors enable precise control over irrigation, preventing overwatering which can exacerbate heat through evaporation. Additionally, the data collected by the sensors allows for informed decisions on implementing active cooling measures within the park, such as adjusting shading structures or misting systems. Thus, the sensors play a crucial role in not only conserving water but also in mitigating the urban heat island effect, ultimately creating a more comfortable outdoor environment for residents and visitors.


  • Can you elaborate on the specific technological methods utilized by the sensors to optimize water management and microclimate control?

The technological methods employed by the sensors involve a sophisticated network of both soil and microclimate sensors strategically placed throughout the park. The Senstick Agri (SSM30) soil sensors, buried in the ground, continuously monitor soil moisture levels, while the Senstick Urban (SMC30) microclimate sensors, mounted on poles or trees, capture air temperature data at various heights. These sensors utilize wireless connectivity to transmit data to a central platform, where it is analyzed alongside weather forecasts. Artificial intelligence algorithms then utilize this data to optimize irrigation scheduling based on environmental conditions and vegetation needs. This integrated approach ensures efficient water usage while simultaneously maximizing the cooling effects within the park.


  • What are the potential challenges or limitations faced during the implementation of the SIMPACT project, particularly in terms of scalability and adaptability to other environments with different complexities?

Despite the success of the SIMPACT project at Sydney Olympic Park, there are indeed challenges and considerations regarding its scalability and adaptability to other environments. One challenge lies in customizing the AI-driven water management system to suit the specific characteristics and requirements of different parks, stadiums, or recreation sites. This may involve adjusting the sensor network layout, fine-tuning algorithm parameters, or integrating additional environmental variables. Furthermore, the feasibility of implementing such a system in areas with limited resources or infrastructure may pose additional challenges. However, the modular design of the sensor network and the scalability of the AI module provide a foundation for potential replication and adaptation in diverse settings, albeit with careful consideration of local conditions and constraints.