28 November 2014

The list of problems facing policy makers in Asia Pacific includes rapid urbanization, stressed city finances, inadequate infrastructure, rising energy costs, congested transportation, pollution, climate change, and competition for global investment and skilled labor, all of which place unprecedented demands on cities.

Facing such challenges, cities across the region are starting to implement emerging intelligent systems. According to a recent report called “Smart Cities: Asia Pacific” from market research and consulting firm Navigant Research, governments in the region - working with a mix of international and regional companies - are piloting a variety of technologies to solve urban problems and prepare for future growth. Leading cities and providers are taking the initial steps in integrating networks of intelligent technologies to create true smart cities. These efforts will require a cumulative investment in smart city technology in Asia Pacific of $63.4 billion US dollars in the next ten years. 

With the world’s largest number of densely populated and fast-growing megacities, the Asia Pacific region is a primary driver of global urban development trends.  It is also the home of some of the most ambitious attempts to direct and channel those trends to national development goals, such as India’s immense Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor , China’s 104 nationally selected smart city demonstration projects, and South Korea’s pioneering Songdo smart city development. According to the report, these will form the laboratories for future smart city development worldwide.

As the technology continues to advance and mature, Asia Pacific cities in both developed and developing markets are looking to a variety of non-traditional methods to solve the key problem of financing IT and infrastructure improvements. At the same time, the group of solutions providers is growing and diversifying as Chinese and Indian firms adopt smart city strategies and expand out of their home markets, joining Japanese, South Korean, and international technology firms already active across the region. Navigant Research forecasts that annual smart city technology investment in Asia Pacific will almost quadruple by 2023, reaching $11.3 billion.

In the meanwhile, business magazine FastCompany, using a tool they developed called the Smart City Wheel, analyzed the current situation and identified the 10 Smartest Asia/Pacific Cities, which are poised to become the model city of the future. Somewhat predictably, all of the ten are situated in the regions most developed economies: South Korea (Seoul), Singapore, Japan (Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe), Hong Kong, New Zealand (Auckland), and Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Perth).

Seoul tops the list, especially with respect to digital governance and open data. The city currently has more than 1,200 open data sets for use by the general public and the private sector. Seoul also offers the OASIS Online Policy Suggestion System to receive planning suggestions from the public online. More importantly, adjacent to the Seoul airport, a purpose-built “smart city” called Songdo is being developed with a future projected population of 2 million people. Songdo contains 40% green space, universal broadband, integrated sensor networks, green buildings, and an innovative underground system of tubes for transporting kitchen waste from buildings directly to a processing facility, which will convert the waste into clean energy. 

Singapore occupies the second place. It is a clean, organized, technological city with excellent public transit systems and a commitment to sustainable development. In fact, Singapore has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any major city in the world (around 2.7 tons of CO2 per capita). Last year, Singapore introduced the Gardens, a park of 18 high-tech artificial trees, which do everything from house PV panels to provide ambient cooling within the park.

Tokyo is listed as third. Japan has established a bold strategy for 2020, which includes eight measureable goals for the future. These include increased resilience to disasters such as earthquakes, significant creation of local renewable energy generation, creation of 1,000 hectares of new green space, and numerous programs for citizen engagement and social inclusion. Smart cities must also attack their environmental and carbon footprints. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government was the first city in the world to establish a city-based cap and trade program in 2010. Since then the program has already resulted in a 23% reduction in emissions.

Hong Kong, listed at number four, is considered one of the most innovative cities in the world. The Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission, established in 2000, supported the creation of five clusters including automotive, ICT, logistics, nanotechnologies, and textiles. Since their creation, the commission has facilitated the generation of more than $3 billion in R&D projects across the five target clusters. Hong Kong also scored the highest for smart mobility. 

More on these and the other top ten cities can be found at http://www.fastcoexist.com/3021911/the-10-smartest-asia-pacific-cities

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