Smart cities have become a hot topic in recent years due to increased urbanisation and rising global pressures to remain economically viable in the face of scarce resources.
With urbanisation comes a host of problems for cities and its residents. Major cities worldwide are filled with ageing and overused infrastructure, rampant traffic congestion, and air and noise pollution. Countries are turning to smart innovations to make cities more liveable, and to accommodate further growth while also tackling environmental and societal constraints.
And nowhere is this imperative felt more than in Asia.
The United Nations (UN) reported that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, and Africa and Asia will be the fastest-growing continents. Already home to 53 percent of the world’s urban population, Asia will see this proportion expanding to 64 percent by 2050.
Building a smart city
Pressures aside, the need to adopt smart city innovations presents countless business opportunities for companies looking to tap into emerging market segments – especially in the areas of digital government services, efficient energy use and renewables, water and waste management, transportation, education and healthcare.
Smart cities are cities that leverage data and technology to deliver services and improve the well-being of citizens while staying sustainable. They address challenges and make improvements to important functional segments of a city through a network of connectivity across systems, devices and objects (known as the Internet of Things).
Take the Songdo International Business District for instance: it is a revolutionary smart city built from scratch on 600ha of reclaimed land just southwest of Seoul. In striking contrast to Seoul’s densely populated cityscape, 40 percent of the land in the business district is allocated to green space, complete with bicycle lanes, passenger pavements and waterways. The city runs on solar and wind power, along with energy generated from human waste processed in a co-generation plant. A central IT network also manages energy usage of every building, complemented by windows that reduce incoming sunlight, LED lights and water-cooled air conditioning systems – reducing energy consumption in buildings by 30 percent.
Songdo is the first district in South Korea to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation, and speaks volumes about the country’s commitment to promote sustainable growth through technological innovations.
While many established and emerging cities may not have the luxury of building from scratch, governments in Asia have been looking at ways to implement technologies and innovations to steer cities towards a more energy-efficient and connected future.
IHS predicts there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025, and Asia-Pacific will account for 32 of them. IHS defines smart cities as cities that “have deployed – or are currently piloting – the integration of information, communications and technology solutions across three or more different functional areas of a city”.
Companies in Europe and the US have been actively identifying key business opportunities to support Asia’s next wave of smart city technologies.