Japanese Smart City Initiative in 2020: Bright City Development of Innovations

Japanese Smart City Initiative in 2020: Bright City Development of Innovations

With the development of smart city, we were hoping to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, following the eleventh goal of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Sustainable Cities and Communities. In this article, we will highlight the development of smart city in Japan, how it started, the development, and perhaps it’s future. Basically, smart city is where we implement technology and innovation to build sustainable development practices to address urbanisation challenges.

Smart City Initiative

Smart city took advantage of connected machinery and objects that transmit data using wireless technology. By using cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) applications, we can  receive, analyse and manage data to help local governments, enterprises and citizens make better decisions that will improve quality of life. IoT is an internet-connected objects that is equipped with sensors, software, and other technologies that is tasked to connect and exchange data with other devices and system over the internet.

Companies around the world are investing in more and more IoT infused smart cities to achieve this. In Japan, there is a non-profit organization called Smart City Institute that is tasked to connects sectors engaged in the development of smart cities in Japan, with progressively more companies joining in. The smart city initiative has come to mind as Japan is recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, as the government realize that their modern civilization and the electrical power that runs it is still a fragile one.

In 2020, Smart City Institute receive about 50 project proposals from the local governments. However, only five of them will be chosen and realized. Compared to the smart cities in the US, which focused on making technology upgrades for efficiency and ecologically aware, Japanese smart cities focus on social cohesion and addressing social issues, like ageing population for example. Japan had a vision for a data-driven, human-centric, next-generation society that utilize Artificial Intellegence, big data, and IoT (they call it “Society 5.0).

If you prefer a fictional approach of this topic, you might be interested in reading: Watch Dogs, A 2014 Extraordinary Sandbox Game That Gives Us an Overview of A Smart City

Smart City Development in Japan

To develop smart cities, investment is needed to fund all of the technology and infrastructure necessary to do so. These invesment is directed to the companies who wished to develop smart city with the innovations of their own production, funded by investment they receive from outside. For example, Panasonic who’s known for manufacturing electronic appliance has become the first company who’s successfully built a smart city, in Kanagawa Prefecture as they call it Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST)

The first smart city that is successfully built, Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town of the Kanagawa Prefecture

The residence area were also tested against a magnitude 1.8 times stronger than the Great East Japan Earthquake. An emergency energy system has also been created to store enough energy for up to 3 days in case of a natural disaster-related emergency. In 2018, Panasonic opens another smart city with the same specifications in Yokohama Prefecture, called Tsunashima Sustainable Smart Town (TSST). Meanwhile, an Irish-born corporation called Accenture has built one in Fukushima Prefecture.

The residence area were also tested against a magnitude 1.8 times stronger than the Great East Japan Earthquake. An emergency energy system has also been created to store enough energy for up to 3 days in case of a natural disaster-related emergency. In 2018, Panasonic opens another smart city with the same specifications in Yokohama Prefecture, called Tsunashima Sustainable Smart Town (TSST). Meanwhile, an Irish-born corporation called Accenture has built one in Fukushima Prefecture.

The professional service firm and the University of Aizu had been working together to the city of Aizuwakamatsu into a smart city. The purpose it to help local government, companies, and other stakeholders collect new data between the smart city and industry initiatives. Aizuwakamatsu City prioritize such as mobility, education, healthcare, agriculture, and tourism. With their phone, the citizens are capable to keep track on many informations such as real-time weather updates, and even pay hospital bills.

Meanwhile, Toyota announce their plan to built “city of the future” in the beginning of 2020, at the base of Mount Fuji. That, is Woven City, home to 2000 residents and researchers who will test and develop technologies such as autonomy, robotics, mobility, smart homes, and AI on site. Woven City is planned to be fully sustainable, as it runs on solar power, buildings constructed out of neutral wood, native vegetation preserved throughout the city, and street usage designated three ways: fast vehicles, low speed vehicle, and pedestrians only.

A venture capital firm from the Sillicon Valley by the name of Plug and Play, planned to built Osaka City, a smart city in Osaka Prefecture. It was planned in the end of 2020, to help Osaka overcome social issues such as demographic structure, revitalising buildings, and natural disasters. Osaka City is planned to be a startup ecosystem, with main focus smart life and construction, travel and experiences, urban mobility and cleantech, hospitality and health. Plug and Play invites startups, local and international to incorporate in Osaka City.

It may sounds funny, but the popular Japanese messaging app LINE, has been working with Fukuoka City in Fukuoka Prefecture to resolve current issues. The collaboration has been started from 2018, to improve services such as residential tax payment, large garbage collection, natural disaster notifications, infrastructure reports, and LINE QR code pay system. For a fun fact, a smart city is expected to to be powered by 5G technology, Fukuoka City however, is still running in 3G and 4G, perhaps it’lll change in the near future.

Regardless, we should not just assume that smart city can only be built in Japan or US, it might be an efficient solutions to current and future problems of sustainable cities and communities. Smart City Institute managed to attract more than 200 companies, local governments, universities and public sectors to drop an investment to build smart cities. Perhaps one with the many investment opportunities had a chance to build smart cities, so the first task in our hand is investment hunting.

Source: Smart Cities in Japan: Practical Innovations for Conscious Future Living, by Emma Regan, December 9th, 2020

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