Extract from View From Asia, fDi magazine, Financial Times, London, Sep 2018

Many definitions exist on what a smart city is. It refers to an urban area that uses technology to increase its citizens’ quality of life and ease societal problems like urbanisation, pollution, inadequate housing and infrastructure. Cisco defines a smart city as one that uses digital technology to connect, protect, and enhance the lives of citizens. IoT sensors, video cameras, social media, and other inputs act as a nervous system, providing the city operator and citizens with constant feedback so they can make informed decisions.

Asia smart cities are rising. EasyPark Group’s 2017 Smart Cities Index listed Singapore at No. 2 and Tokyo at No 6. Taipei, Seoul and Daejeon, South Korea, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Mumbai also made the list. IDC announced that New Zealand and Singapore lead the way in the most number of smart city initiatives in the 2017 Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA).

Forbes wrote that Asia could become the world’s leading region for smart city development. China announced that 500 of its cities would be undergoing smart city transformations in 2017. In 2014, Singapore launched a landmark Smart Nation program. Frost & Sullivan estimated that there are about 10 cities that are expected to become smart cities by 2025 in Asia Pacific, of which more than 50% will be in China.

In SE Asia, ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) was developed. ASCN is a collaborative platform where ASEAN Member States work towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development using technology as an enabler to improve people’s lives. Singapore convened the first annual meeting in July 2018 alongside the World Cities Summit.

There are constraints and risks in smart city development, especially human factors. One is the population’s sub segments who are unable to fully understand and utilise the maximum potential of IoT. Asia’s growing ageing population and the poor are two such groups facing platforms and equipment that may not be user centric. Second are communication and network service providers’ investment in forming the right technological support to build smart cities that meet citizens’ needs. Third is the universality and standardisation of integration amidst Asia’s plethora of languages and IoT use preferences. A fourth factor is security and privacy issues.

Asia smart city development is now improving nicely. Let’s hope that the continuous monitoring, planning and execution help to address minor hiccups and avoid major problems.

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