The Development of Smart Cities in Asia

Smart Cities

With the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, our cities are becoming faster, more efficient, and smarter.

With the advancement of emerging technologies, cities around the world have started to reinvent themselves through smart city initiatives. Challenged by growing populations and the increasing difficulty of meeting the needs of citizens, cities are counting on technology for solutions.

From better healthcare facilities, sustainable living, and traffic management to increased connectivity, smart cities offer a range of benefits to the residents. With smarter technology, buildings can be carefully monitored, trash can be properly collected and disposed of, and natural disasters can be better forecasted to save lives. 

Furthermore, smart cities can reduce 30-40% of crime through virtual policing and home security systems. This means that police forces and law enforcement can have ‘eyes’ where they didn’t before.

One such example is Huawei’s eLTE system, which makes police work more accurate and efficient. Using this technology, officers can file incident reports on the spot and store surveillance data in the cloud to solve cases quicker.

In a nutshell, “the objective of smart cities is to be able to harness data, including from CCTVs, so that it can be used in various ways, including for security, safety, [and] operational efficiency,” Abhijit Shanbhag, founder and CEO of Graymatics, told Jumpstart in a previous interview.

Currently, most of the development of smart cities has been in the APAC region. The world is flocking to cities, and an increasing number of people are now moving to APAC. Today, this region is home to 60% of the world’s cities, which is expected to climb to 62% by 2030. Moreover, 1.2 billion new residents are estimated to move into APAC cities between 2019 and 2050

With the growth of megacities, it is essential to build cities that are better, cleaner, and safer. By incorporating newer technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, businesses and smart city service providers can overcome security challenges and be more efficient.

Government’s are increasingly investing in smart cities

Many APAC countries have been investing heavily in smart cities to develop their economies and become more environmentally friendly. For example, Singapore launched its Smart Nation initiative in 2014, which focuses on reducing energy consumption and dependence on water and food imports.

At its core, the initiative focuses on digitizing the government, society, and economy. For this, the nation has rolled out a slew of initiatives including drone technology to control dengue outbreaks, autonomous vehicles, contactless payments, smart parking, and more.

Similarly, China has invested heavily in smart city programs. So far, the country is on track to spend $39 billion on smart cities by 2023 through its smart city program and has over 500 smart cities in various stages of development. These cities leverage key technologies like IoT, big data, cloud computing, and other smart systems.

Currently, Danish architecture firm BIG and Chinese tech company Terminus are developing a smart city in China fully run by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Called Cloud Valley, the city – one of the 500 smart cities under development – covers over 13 million square feet. This project aims to collect data using sensors and WiFi-connected devices to automatically anticipate residents’ many needs.

Another major Asian country investing in smart cities is India. Prime minister Narendra Modi has been promoting the building of smart cities in India with the Smart City Mission. First developed in 2015, the Smart City Mission is a project targeting to transform the country’s urban landscape and to promote local markets and industries.

So far, the Mission covers 100 cities, with an aim to complete all the projects between 2019 and 2023. For this, the central government has earmarked INR 480 billion (US$6.5 billion) over five years, which will be distributed at an average of INR 1 billion (US$13.7 million) per city per year.

These cities have to focus on core infrastructure elements such as proper water supply, increased IT connectivity, and a sustainable environment, among others. Because of the initiative, cities like Surat and Indore were recently ranked as one of the top smart cities in Asia.

While many APAC countries are starting to develop smart cities, there are many risks involved. These risks include mass cyberattacks on smart cities which may potentially destroy or ruin whole communities and economies. This has already been seen in smart cities such as Atlanta, in the U.S., where multiple ransomware attacks rattled the city. In one such attack in 2018, over a year of police camera evidence and a decade’s worth of legal documents were wiped, costing the city over $12.2 million.

Furthermore, another significant concern with smart cities is the privacy of the residents. In smart cities, cameras and sensors are constantly tracking and monitoring every aspect of the city. Because of this constant data collection, there is a risk of compromising residents’ privacy.

At the end of the day, numerous countries believe that the benefits outweigh the many risks. For smart cities to realize its full potential, policymakers have to adopt the best security practices to safeguard the data collected.

Header image by Denny Ryanto on Unsplash

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George Lim

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