The company behind the high-tech smart systems on our roads


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By Melissa Keogh

A decade ago electrician-by-trade Damian Hewitt was working as a maintenance manager in Adelaide’s Holden factory when he swapped the automotive industry for a career in high-tech industrial automation and control.

He joined the Tonsley-based SAGE Automation, a company that has its foot firmly in South Australia’s transport infrastructure sector and is preparing the state’s motorways for the future.

“When I moved across to SAGE I loved it and have never looked back,” says Damian, the privately-owned entity’s national manager of transport.

SAGE Automation believes its technology and ‘intelligent transport systems’ hold the key to reducing road congestion.

In recent years it has deployed vehicle infrastructure communication systems across some of the state’s busiest highways.

SAGE Automation worked on the Heysen Tunnels in 2000.

Almost 20 years ago it designed the safety control system for the Heysen Tunnels, while it also provided the control system for the bridges on the Port River Expressway.

One of its biggest recent projects was delivering an intelligent transport system for the $160m O-Bahn tunnel.

This included the installation of hardware on all O-Bahn buses, giving drivers real-time alerts if they are travelling too fast or too close to the bus in front.

Roadside sensors at either end of the tunnel detect vehicles that are authorised to use the O-Bahn.

“We’ve also delivered the Torrens to Torrens project and we’re working on the Darlington Road upgrade now,” Damian says.

“Probably about 70% of SA’s managed roads, freeways and tunnels have SAGE Automation systems on them.

“Nationally, we’re doing the Monash Freeway in Melbourne and in Sydney we’re working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s electronic lane changeover system.

“The answer to reducing congestion isn’t necessarily widening motorways, it’s about using technology.”

SAGE Automation is currently working on smart transport systems for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From real-time electronic travel time signs to a smartphone app alerting motorists about traffic delays, SAGE is at the forefront of some of the state’s most transformative technology developments in road infrastructure.

Damian says SA is a national leader when it comes to the standard of technology being deployed on road networks.

“For example, full CCTV coverage has been deployed down the entire Torrens to Torrens upgrade of South Road including thermal video incident detection,” he says.

“No other motorway has that coverage.

“The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) has also identified that the transport system is critical in emergency responses, so they have battery backups on the entire network.

The real-time travel signs tell motorists how far to particular destinations.

“If there is a state emergency, signage will direct people to where they need to go.”

SAGE Automation employs about 160 people in SA and more than 340 across the country.

It also has offices in India and is working on a global strategy to explore potential for further expansion.

But as far as manufacturing goes, Adelaide is home.

“We manufacture here in Adelaide and we’re seen as an industry leader,” Damian says.

SAGE Automation is also working on autonomous vehicle trials, something Damian says he envisages will become a part of everyday life within the next five years.

The company is working on three driverless vehicle trials, including a shuttle bus at Glenelg, driverless cargo pods at Tonsley and autonomous shuttles at Flinders University.

The smart shuttle stop, the OlliStop will make transport more accessible for aged care and disability groups.

“Our autonomous bus (at Glenelg), includes features tailored to the individual’s needs, particularly around disability and aged care groups,” Damian says.

“The vision impaired can use a voice activated messaging system that announces the arrival time of the bus.”

Damian says these advancements in transport infrastructure technology will boost demand for high-tech manufacturing jobs.

“The amount of change in the industry is going to cause significant disruption, but it’s going to excite high-end jobs,” he says.

“When you start and talk about electric vehicles and software upgrades, it’s going to create real high-end type work for our state.”

Visit I Choose SA for Industry to learn more stories about key industry leaders, why they’ve chosen SA as a base and how the state is enabling them to succeed.



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