The world’s population is rapidly growing. Much of the growth is happening in our urban centres, and the organic way in which many cities have evolved to date is in many cases no longer a viable option. They need to embrace digital in order to sustain this growth but also above all, they need to be liveable.
To achieve this, governments must have a vision for where the world is headed. That means exploring futuristic solutions that ultimately enhance the economic prosperity, sense of community, and the overall health of their citizens.
Smart cities and nations are one of the steps that governments are taking to implement their vision of the future – but as the focus invariably shifts to the disruptive technologies to enable them, it is imperative that governments retain focus on the human aspect in a world that feels increasingly impersonal: tech driven and virtual.
That’s what we call Intelligent Digital.
The urbanisation of Earth continues apace. According to May 2018 statistics from the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban centres by 2050, with 90% of this growth taking place in Asia and Africa.1 For governments, these figures point to an increasingly urgent imperative: one that will require technology and strategy to create connected cities that grow sustainably while improving quality of life.
The most successful smart cities keep their citizens’ experience front and centre, while embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data to create positive outcomes for inhabitants and more profits for local industries.
It’s important to remember that smart initiatives should also save urban dwellers time and energy — while measurably improving the way they live, work and play. For example, Juniper Research found that smart traffic systems including open data platforms and dynamic traffic lights can save commuters 60 hours a year and apps that centralise administrative services and healthcare can save 21 hours a year.2
Here are three Asia Pacific examples of how investing in smart initiatives results in flourishing cities.
Thailand paves the way for a smarter future
In Thailand, more than half of the population live in rural villages, away from urban centres, according to 2017 World Bank statistics.3 But in November 2017, the Thai government announced its plans to lay the groundwork for 100 smart cities within two decades — a move with powerful implications for the nation’s economic productivity, living standards and quality of life.4 A March 2018 ASEAN Post report revealed that the government’s pilot smart cities programme will revolve around Phuket, Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai with further plans to develop Chon Buri, Rayong and Chaochengsao.
Chiang Mai, a compact, northern city that’s fast becoming a base for an agile and tech-savvy workforce, is a compelling example of the ways in which an investment in smart infrastructure can transform local industries.
In February 2017, the Bangkok Post reported that the government-owned Digital Economy Protection Agency will invest 36.5 million baht (US$1.1 million) to transform Chiang Mai’s agricultural and tourism industries.5 So far, it’s partnered with Maejo University to build agricultural drones for spraying fertilisers, dramatically reducing time and labour costs. The agency has also conceived a mobile app that uses augmented reality to offer tourists historical information about the city’s top attractions. Smart initiatives in the healthcare and security industries are also currently in the works.
In Melbourne, IoT improves liveability
Melbourne, famous for trams, coffee and its orderly grid-like layout, is known as one of the world’s most liveable places. But the city, which welcomed nearly 125,000 new arrivals in the last 12 months, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has also become Australia’s fastest-growing metropolis.
Although the City of Melbourne is no stranger to smart city initiatives — over the last decade, for instance, it has engaged citizen juries to make decisions on everything from urban planning to policy — it’s also piloting disruptive new technologies. These include a 24-hour pedestrian counting system in the CBD, which delivers real-time insights into the ways Melburnians use spaces in the city.6
It’s also deploying IoT across areas such as waste removal. In 2015, the City of Melbourne installed smart bins at 17 sites around the city, wired with sensors that inform waste collectors when they are 80 percent full.7
Singapore secures smart future via a Digital Government Blueprint
Singapore, a place that’s known for well-oiled infrastructure and highly networked economy, has long been lauded for its Smart Nation credentials.8 In June 2018, the Singapore Government made this commitment official by launching a Digital Government Blueprint that shows citizens exactly how it plans to use technology to create a more sustainable, prosperous future while improving daily lives.9
The nation-state has pioneered a series of initiatives including a cashless public transport that draws on Near Field Technology and renewable energy projects such as a hybrid micro-grid, built on the island of Pulau Semaku, that will integrate renewable energy from multiple sources.10
The Digital Government Footprint introduces citizens to a new wave of smart city initiatives including SingPass Mobile, an authentication system that will empower citizens to access government services and transact with each other seamlessly and easily without the need for tokens or SMS passwords. Singaporeans, who will reap the benefits of this technology later this year, can use it to pay bills, sign online documents, apply for public housing or buy and sell their home or car.
Smart cities aren’t just about embracing the latest technology. They’re about investment in bold and ambitious projects that use digital platforms and intelligent strategy to create human outcomes. Thailand, Singapore and Melbourne are all examples of having a clear strategy and vision for how technology can be used to enhance the lives of their citizens.
Visit PwC Intelligent Digital to find out more about how technology and strategy can transform today’s urban challenges and usher in the metropolises of the future.