Callaghan backs Christchurch as Sensing City

  • Steven Joyce
  • Gerry Brownlee
Science and Innovation Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

A world-leading project to transform Christchurch into a smart city of the future and create opportunities for New Zealand’s tech sector is to receive support from Callaghan Innovation, the Government’s new High Tech HQ for business.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today announced that Callaghan Innovation is providing $250,000 in seed funding as well as technical expertise to help deliver one of the Sensing City initiative’s first projects, which will use sensor technology to investigate the health impacts of air pollution.

“This is an ambitious, multi-faceted project that will help position Christchurch as a city of the future, grow the region’s ICT sector, and foster entrepreneurialism and the development of weightless exports via the creation of new IP.

“It also fits perfectly with Callaghan Innovation’s role to accelerate commercialisation of innovation by firms in New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.

Sensing City, led by innovation expert Roger Dennis, involves the integration of a network of digital sensors into the physical infrastructure of the Christchurch CBD as it is rebuilt, generating data sets with multiple uses and benefits.

The initiative aims to be the catalyst for the creation of new information-based services and solutions to improve how cities are managed.  It also aims to kick start a new data-focussed export industry, encourage inward investment, and attract talent to the region, as well as position Christchurch at the global forefront of future cities.

Mr Brownlee says today’s announcement follows over a year of engagement with Roger Dennis, who very early on saw the opportunity rebuilding Christchurch presented the country.

“What we have in the Christchurch rebuild is a myriad of opportunities to use digital sensor technology to learn lessons about how modern cities work, and eventually create a longitudinal database of information from which technology companies can deliver future solutions for other cities across the globe.”

In addition to funding, Callaghan Innovation will provide expertise in the areas of sensors, networks and medical devices to deliver one of Sensing City’s first pilot projects, a health innovation and air quality demonstration project involving installing sensors in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) inhalers and pollution sensors across the city.

Sensing City will provide an online platform for public access to anonymised data sets to demonstrate the value of collecting data to the benefit of all society. 

“Publicly releasing the data will allow for wider publishing of the real time data, and allow for further investigation, deeper research and development of insights into respiratory conditions and air quality in Christchurch,” Mr Joyce says.

“The project leverages the opportunity the rebuild has provided to install sensors in the infrastructure throughout the CBD. Other pilot projects will use sensor technology to collect real time traffic data which developers will then be able to aggregate into an app, and a community-based project to test water quality throughout the city,” Mr Brownlee says. 

Partners providing additional funding to Sensing City include Infratil and Z Energy.

For more information on Sensing City go to