8 June 2021

Waterfall Technology – The Past and the Future

When the idea of Waterfall was conceptualized in 1996, no one could foresee the incredible pace at which this ultimately world-class, sustainable Smart City would develop.

Construction of the first residential estate in Waterfall started in 2006. A mere four years later, 700 stands and units had been sold in Waterfall across five residential developments, namely Waterfall Equestrian Estate, Waterfall Country and Village Estates, Waterfall View and Waterfall Hills Mature Lifestyle Estate.

Today, Waterfall is the largest mixed-use development in Africa. At only 43% complete, it comprises 10 residential developments, housing 12 000 residents in close to 6 000 homes. Around 26 000 people work in Waterfall, which has grown to become the new economic hub of South Africa, contributing over R470-million per year in rates and taxes to the City of Johannesburg (COJ). The development boasts a slew of smart buildings and a world-class fibre optic and wireless communication network, with over 330km of installed duct infrastructure and no less than 33 cell masts.

To deliver technology to this ever-growing ‘city within a city’ has been no small feat. Back in 2010, no citywide platform had ever been developed in South Africa, so Waterfall Management Company embarked on a worldwide research project to identify possible communication platforms. The solution was eventually found with a local company called REDi. They provide property technology to developers and residential communities that can be used for marketing, managing, communication and transaction purposes. The REDi platform includes SiMS (Sales Information Management System), a cloud-based, secure repository for residential property transactions and ownership data. It is also seen as the ‘Deeds Office for Waterfall’.

Considering Waterfall’s one-of-a-kind lifestyle offering, the substantial size of the development, as well as the unique way property transactions are managed here, REDi was challenged to develop the most efficient platform on which ownership information and all related documentation for thousands of residents could be managed.

That is how, in 2013, the Waterfall Community Portal came about. The Community Portal contains all residential community notices, news, forums, documents, contacts as well as event and facility information, while allowing easy communications via direct messaging. It is also the go-to place for residents to view their current and historical COJ and levy statements.

However, as the very nature of Waterfall is that of a mixed-use development and not only a residential development, the challenge of connectivity and communication within the city as a whole, posed a more complex problem. Waterfall needed a platform that could manage and communicate the concerns of both residents and businesses across fragmented channels. Energy resources, traffic, wayfinding, security, road infrastructure etc. all affect communication and connectivity as well as the daily inner workings of the city. It became clear that Waterfall needed a citywide integrated communication platform that could cater to both its residential and commercial needs.

The Go Waterfall App was launched in March 2018 as an easy-to-use and convenient platform, where residents could access content, services and information about the Waterfall ecosystem on their mobile devices. Features of Phase 1 included access to the Community Portal, Snag logging, a Bookings function, a Waterfall Directory, Sales Map as well as Points of Interest. Later in the same year, an Emergency Button and Event Notifications were introduced. In April 2019, Phase 2 was launched. Most excitingly, the app now not only catered for residents, but also for employees of Waterfall. This phase introduced the enhanced Emergency button, including Security, Fire, Medical and Follow-Me alerts, as well as the ability to view COJ statements (pushed from the Community Portal) via the Accounts feature on the app. In August of that year, the Waterfall Podcast was added. In 2020, the Go Waterfall app went live with a refreshed look and feel. Levy statements for some estates were introduced to the Accounts feature, followed by Grocery Delivery, exclusive insurance for all residents of Waterfall from TIH, an estate-specific Emergency Contacts and Directory update, as well as touchless Access Control.

With the latest 2021 release, Forums (a feature previously only available on the Community Portal) can now be accessed from the Go Waterfall app. Here residents can subscribe to specific topics relevant to their estate, take part in secure group discussions and receive notifications. Initially, only residents from Country and Village Estates will be able to utilise this feature. Once testing has been concluded, it will be rolled out to the remaining residential developments. The integration between the Go Waterfall app and REDi’s Community Portal forms part of the long-term plan to supply users with the best of both worlds in a single communication platform, offering a seamless app user experience.

To this end, the current goal of Waterfall Management Company is to consolidate all day-to-day digital and communication activities into one platform, offering users accessibility, security and peace of mind. The Go Waterfall road map relies heavily on two models: firstly, the continued development of current services such as Snags and touchless Access Control, and secondly, the integration with digital services such as the Community Portal.

Planned for development in the near future is a payment gateway, which will, amongst other things, allow direct payment of COJ rates and taxes accounts from the app. Work is also underway on the planning of a unique Waterfall wallet, with our own Waterfall currency, and a loyalty programme. Additionally, Go Waterfall will be integrating with third party service providers, starting with specific estates’ prepaid utility service providers for improved viewing, monitoring and payment solutions. Today, the Go Waterfall app has 7 253 active monthly users. The goal is that, over time, the Go Waterfall app will be transformed into the preferred interface for all of Waterfall.

The Smart City concept is currently almost impossible to define, however for Waterfall Management Company, it comes down to how we use technology to the betterment of the people living and working within Waterfall. We will keep improving the precinct and its technology to eventually deliver a world-class Smart City – the only one of its kind on the continent!