Disruption, transformation key drivers to building smarter cities

Victor Wong/UBM SES

Imagine this: the year is 2050 and, according to the United Nations, the population has risen to 9.7 billion, 66% of the world has moved into cities, and India now has an extra 404 million residents—surpassing China as the most populated country.

The rapid increase of urban populations is a daunting thought for city planners, as 1.3 million people move into cities each week, causing issues such as overcrowded roads, excessive energy consumption, and housing shortages. But due to the rapid growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the evolution of Smart Cities, digitization of almost anything helps accommodate growing populations and curb the problems that arise as a result.

Best-of-breed technologies are on display at Singapore's annual trade-shows CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia. The gatherings showcase disruptive technologies in the amalgamation of Smart Cities—these include financial technology, cybersecurity and energy efficiency, all of which come together to build a ‘Smarter’ City.

When we first showcased Smart City technologies and solutions at CommunicAsia, what started out as an idea quickly became a reality. Advancements in technology have made it possible for cities to interlink as city leaders now provide an improved living experience with overall positive impact on the lives of citizens and residents in their work, life, and play.

Take Singapore, the home of CommunicAsia, for example. Taking the ‘Smart City’ to a whole new level, the island city-state announced last year it would deploy sensors and cameras that will allow the Singapore government to collect data and monitor everything—from air quality and cleanliness of public spaces, to crowd density, road conditions, and even sensors tailored for families to monitor movements of their elderly. As a result, Singapore was voted the world’s smartest city by Juniper Research in 2016.

Other examples include Hubli in India, Seoul in South Korea, and Kashiwanoha in Japan. Residents of Hubli, a fast-growing city in India, face an unpredictable water supply and hence receive alerts when clean water is available. In Seoul, advances in cybersecurity since 2008, have equipped children, the disabled, and the elderly with a smart device that works by combining location-based services and CCTV technologies. If the user steps outside a designated safe zone or pushes an emergency button, an alert is sent to guardians, police, and fire departments. Kashiwanoha operates an energy management system through a ‘Smart Center’ that oversees energy operations, management, and control for the entire town to cut peak power consumption by 26%, helping to conserve energy and cut CO2 emissions.

Asian cities strive to connect the unconnected, and soon to be “smartened” are New Delhi in India, Chiang Mai in Thailand, Bandung in Indonesia, and 122 others across the continent.

As planners across the region seek smart solutions to urban challenges, there is huge financial potential for these enhancements as well as health and safety benefits. The top 600 urban centers generate 60% of global GDP, with the market expected to be worth $1.4 trillion by 2020.

We may still be a long way from reaching that utopian goal of driverless pods being the status quo, but for now, Smart Cities are vital to sustain Asia’s growing urban population. To continue providing residents with effective and efficient solutions, cities must continue to evolve—and incorporate technologies and innovations. We look forward to the next wave of advances for Asia's cities. Meanwhile, I hope you can visit CommunicAsia from 23 to 25 May 2017, and see for yourself some of the disruptive innovations to transform smart cities and amass valuable insights from some of industry’s foremost industry experts on the field.

- Victor Wong is Project Director of Communications Events at UBM SES, event organizer of CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia

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