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SMART CITIES Smart Cities in Asia: Meeting the Challenges of Urbanization By Eric Wood, Navigant Research Briefly put: Smart city technologies offer the chance to make cities work better by providing management and data to better manage power usage, water, traffic, building management and government. However, each regional smart city will have its unique flavour, opportunities and challenges. And the devil is in these details... The smart city concept has caught the imagination of city leaders around the world. Cities have always been places where decisions and fortunes are made and the future is invented. Today, cities are the focal point for the most significant trends of the century. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cities of Asia. Asian cities will be the growth engines of the world economy over the next 30 years, and provide the bulk of the planet’s new urban residents. Urbanization in China, India, and Southeast Asia will continue to demand vast amounts of new and sustainable infrastructure. At the same time, countries like South Korea and Taiwan are trying to create new engines of growth for their economies based on urban innovation, while developed societies such as Japan face problems of aging populations and infrastructure in an environment of constrained city finances. Smart city technology offers the opportunity to make systems work better: fewer blackouts by reducing power demand peaks, more water delivered to taps by identifying leaks, more efficient highways and transit systems, governments that are more accessible, and buildings that are more responsive. Large developing nations like China and India have begun to run up against physical resource limits, and smart cities can reduce energy and water use without limiting economic growth. Cities across the region are also looking to smart city technology to provide new platforms for information, creativity, and innovation in urban economies. Asia is home to some of the most advanced and innovative smart city pilot development projects, such as South Korea’s Songdo – perhaps the world’s first purpose-built smart city – and India’s enormous Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), where the first of six planned smart cities is about to break ground. Leading cities such as Seoul, Singapore, Hong 58 Kong, and Tokyo have a large collection of innovative policies and technology implementations. Meanwhile, China has the world’s most aggressive smart city investment programme, with over 100 cities selected for a national programme and hundreds more involved in local initiatives. The Rise of Urban Asia The diversity of approaches to the challenges of urbanization across Asia should not be underestimated; however, there are commonalities across the emerging economies of the region that make the move to smart cities significantly different from developments in North America and Europe. Above all, the rapid growth in urbanization across the continent marks the most obvious difference. Asia is the focal point of the mass urbanization in the first part of the 21 st century. Its urban population is set to grow to over 2 billion by 2020, a doubling in size since 1990. The urban population of China and India alone will grow by 500 million people over the next 20 years. Japan and Korea have been predominantly urban for many decades, and China reached the 50% marker for urbanization in 2012 (compared to fewer than 20% living in cities in 1980). In contrast, India will not reach that stage until 2050. Despite the differences between countries, Asian cities face a number of common problems that are at the core of their smart city initiatives, namely: • Environmental sustainability: Smart city technology offers the potential to reduce both local and global environmental effects without stifling growth and while maintaining a high quality of life. Yet, environmental goals can vary widely across cities. Cities in Japan, Australia, and South Korea have global carbon emissions targets to meet, while cities in China, Southeast Asia, and India often have more immediate concerns, such as reducing local air and water pollution. • Safety, security, and resiliency: Cities in Asia (as around the world) face a variety of security challenges, including natural disasters, technological failures and terrorism threats (as well as unrest from local populations). In China alone, more than 78 million people live in vulnerable, low-elevation cities. City and national governments are addressing these issues by looking at both the design of the city and its resilience. Sensor technologies, meteorological systems, and predictive analysis can improve warning systems, emergency response operation, and risk assessment. • Economic development: Cities are hoping their smart city investments will also provide a platform for local economic development and innovations in products and services for export. This is especially true in Japan and the maturing export economies of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. They see the development and export of smart city technology to the huge and swiftly developing markets of China, India, and Southeast Asia as key to their own future prosperity. Innovation by Sector Navigant Research defines the smart city as the integration of technology into a strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development. These policy objectives are delivered through improvement in five key sectors: energy, water, transportation, buildings and government services. It is important to recognize that the smart city concept is multidimensional. It points to a matrix of issues, solutions, technologies, operations, and infrastructural requirements that cut across traditional siloes. However, most projects today are still rooted in one or more of these traditional operational areas. • Smart energy: The energy sector – particularly electric power distribution and the need for better power management and efficiency – is one of the primary drivers of the smart city concept. Asian governments across the region are investing in smart grid METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE - 2 | 2014