Smart, integrated and sustainable are among the buzzwords commonly tossed about with today’s advanced technology. And metropolises are increasingly turning to “smart city” initiatives to stimulate the engine of innovation and create an enhanced quality of life for their citizens.
The United Nations has projected that the rate of urbanisation in South-East Asia will increase from 48% in 2015 to 65% by 2050 and there is mounting pressure on governments to find solutions to challenge and improve their efficiency in the distribution of public services.
This is where smart cities come into play.
Driven by the need to boost sustainability with minimal resources, the adoption of smart infrastructure can significantly improve a city’s business climate, environmental awareness and standard of living.
While the concept of smart cities may be relatively new, a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) across 20 cities in Asia Pacific found that the demand for these initiatives are high, with 82% of 2,000 citizens wanting to see more smart city initiatives in their lives.
But what determines whether a city is smart or not?
The smart city era is characterised by several factors. These initiatives converge and interweave to transform cities by equipping them with efficiency, control and awareness in key areas.
Based on EIU’s survey results, the fundamental building blocks of any smart city are effective energy management systems, intelligent water treatment, availability of broadband, smart waste management, law enforcement, smart transportation systems, e-health and e-education and accessible government data amongst other factors.
The most prominent of these factors is connectivity and the presence of high-speed broadband, with 77% of respondents indicating that as the key factor of any sustainable smart city.
“Availability of broadband is critical to smart city development given the current trend of more connected devices through IoT. But it needs to be affordable,” says CyberSecurity Malaysia chief executive officer Amirudin Abdul Wahab.
Experts also believe that there needs to be technology-led education to sustain smart cities.
“You need smart people for smart nations and you need manpower to make it sustainable,” explains Dr Freddy Boey, deputy president of Nanyang Technological University.
Hitachi has been at the forefront of this rapid age of digitalisation. For years, the company has employed advanced information technologies and infrastructure solutions, along with collaborative creation, to build environments and platforms that stimulate big-picture thinking and find innovative solutions to address social problems.
With over US$2.8bil pumped into IoT research and development over the last three years, and through the coming together of digital and tangible worlds made possible by the IoT, more cities can become smarter, safer and more vibrant.
Hitachi is committed to offer insights and solutions in the four main domains of social innovation, including the integrated solutions of operational technology and information communication technologies to address the society’s challenges. This can help address the need for infrastructures to be leaner and smarter in areas such as urban development, water treatment systems, manufacturing and transportation.
Energy sources play a pivotal role in ensuring public infrastructures remain sustainable and stable. Hitachi has been leading the holistic energy management systems that optimise energy flows and utilise resources efficiently. There is also emphasis on tapping renewable sources of energy and decreasing our dependency on non-renewable ones like fossil fuel.
With the environment being a primary agenda of smart city initiatives, Hitachi’s extensive know-how in creating sleek energy systems will be highly welcomed.
Hitachi has also employed advanced information technologies to create the best water infrastructures that are safe and reliable. The company has delivered around 550 water treatment plants, 2,800 sewage treatment facilities and 900 monitoring and control systems to locations across Japan alone. With over 76% of surveyed citizens citing smart water treatment as a building block for smart cities, this will be beneficial to cities where water is a premium resource, like in Singapore, where 48% of people polled sees it as a determinant of a smart city.
Hitachi is also a key integrator of mobility systems, offering solutions in the management and maintenance of transportation systems. With the increase in urbanisation rates, there will be a lot of opportunities in South-East Asia to optimise transportation and the relevant infrastructure.
Countries like Malaysia are particularly in need of such initiatives to raise the train and monorail systems to that of a world-class standing. Data shows that 49% of citizens in Kuala Lumpur prioritise this over other needs.