Introducing PlanTech

At the recent PIA Congress in Australia, a small group of delegates were surveyed to gauge how familiar urban planners are with technology related terms. I would like to replicate that survey in NZ at some point, but for now I was inspired to cover a few of these terms in the blog to raise awareness of some of the most important ones. Starting with PlanTech.

What is PlanTech?

In the Australian survey, most respondents were not familiar with ‘PlanTech’. So first up in this series, I will provide an introduction to PlanTech, and why it is an important term for planners to know.

PlanTech is not a specific “thing”, but refers to any technology designed specifically to help with doing planning tasks and which is based on recent technological innovations. You may have heard of variants of this concept as applied to other industries for example PropTech, GovTech, LegalTech, FinTech and EdTech.

What the products and services in these groupings have in common is that they make use of the latest emerging technologies. These emerging technologies include artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, machine learning and big data. These technologies can be software (e.g. artificial intelligence), hardware (e.g. drones or advanced sensors) or a combination (e.g. connected cars). Due to the advanced nature of these technologies, they can drastically improve standard processes and practices in a business and even reinvent how the whole sector operates. 

These emerging technologies now form the building blocks from which new digital products and services can be devised to support businesses, citizens and government. When these technologies are packaged as a product to support our work as planners, that product is PlanTech.

A common question is whether PlanTech is the same as e-planning. E-planning started as the digitising of plans and other planning documents so that they were available on line. It has continued to evolve to create more intuitive, user friendly planning instruments by linking in GIS systems, hyperlinking within the text and connecting to databases. The e-planning journey was an early step, and an important one to have in place, however the newer technologies which will underpin PlanTech enable things to go much, much further.

The UK held its inaugural PlanTech week in June 2017 and the term is definitely well understood in the UK planning community. A group of planners in Australia is promoting the uptake of PlanTech in Oz. So it is time NZ planners got more involved.

So for the rest of the month’s posts, I will explain some of the related technology terms. These terms will either relate to:

  • the emerging technologies which power these innovative solutions
  • examples of PlanTech solutions or equivalent solutions in other professions

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