The current urban environment in Japan is changing, and “Sustainability” has emerged as a crucial buzzword and aspiration for cities everywhere. In order to be sustainable, a city must not only lower its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but also make its services more easily accessible to all residents and businesses, as well as profitable.
With Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things combining to create “smart cities,” many industries are now exploring the possibility of transformation through true digitalization and tackling societal ills.
Smart City: What is it?
In order to create, implement, and promote sustainable development methods to address urbanization concerns, a smart city is a framework made up of ICT. In order to assist local governments, businesses, and residents in making better decisions that will improve quality of life, cloud-based IoT apps collect, analyze, and manage data from a network of linked machines and objects that transmit data using wireless technology. To do this, businesses worldwide are investing in an increasing number of smart cities, with 443 such initiatives presently underway in 286 towns.
Japan’s Smart City Importance
The number of smart cities in Japan continues to extend as more firms enter the Smart City Institute Japan. This non-profit organization connects the diverse sectors concerned with creating smart cities in Japan. According to Astute Analytica, the Japan smart cities industry will expand at a CAGR of 13.1% from 2022 to 2030.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, when the government realized that electrical power was limited and contemporary society was based on shaky foundations, smart cities began to take shape. Local governments submitted more than fifty project proposals in 2020, but only five would approve before the end of the year.
As opposed to smart cities in the US, which focus exclusively on technological upgrades for ecological awareness and efficiency, Japan’s smart cities prioritize social cohesiveness and tackling social challenges, such as the elderly population of the nation. Japan’s national vision is for a Society 5.0—a data-driven, human-centered, next-generation society using AI, big data, and IoT—that will use such technologies to deliver appropriate solutions.
Smart towns like Fujisawa and Kashiwa-no-ha are inspiring other investors from Japan and the rest of the globe to acknowledge why it is critical to construct a smarter future by establishing core developments of how smart is the way forward.
Enterprises Building Smart Cities in Japan
Panasonic: Fujisawa City, Kanagawa
The first business to successfully construct a smart city in Japan was the well-known manufacturer of electrical products, Panasonic, in the Kanagawa Prefecture. Due to the rise in production moving out of Japan and the power plants left untouched, Panasonic wanted to give back to the community by creating an urban development that would last for 100 years.
Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST) opened its doors to 100 families in 2014 with support from 18 different companies, academic institutions, municipal governments, and residential organizations. 2000 people now live there in the community it once was. The construction is underway and is likely to be complete by 2022. In its smart city, Panasonic chose to concentrate on five areas: energy, security, transportation, wellness, and community. The goal was for renewable energy to make up 30% of all energy utilized, water used to reduce by 30%, and CO2 emissions by 70%.
In the event of a natural disaster, the smart city’s infrastructure can store up to three days of energy. Governments and corporations from more than 50 nations have sent 30,000 people on tours of FSST, which served as a springboard for Panasonic’s second project, Tsunashima Sustainable Smart Town (TSST), which debuted in Yokohama Prefecture in 2018.
Accenture: Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima
Fukushima Prefecture is now constructing another smart city in Japan. While working with the samurai town of Aizuwakamatsu since 2011, the professional services firm the University of Aizu and Accenture announced that they would collaborate to create an API marketplace for smart cities in Japan, utilizing the town.
The purpose is to assist local government, businesses, and other stakeholders in creating and reaping the benefits of new data links between industry activities and the smart city via the API marketplace in a cloud environment. In Aizuwakamatsu, smart city initiatives have already started. These initiatives include mobility, education, healthcare, childcare, agriculture, and tourism. The Takeda General Hospital allows patients to pay with their smartphones, and citizens may log in to track their students’ academic progress and get real-time updates on snowplows activity for residents in the snowbound area.
However, one of the biggest worries about smart cities in Japan and the rest of the globe is the possibility that personal data may compromise and use improperly. As a result, Aizuwakamatsu people have the option to opt into the offered smart services. In order to have a stronger impact on the neighborhood and reach Sampo Yoshi, or three-way satisfaction for citizens, industry, and community, just 30% of residents must currently be doing this. Currently, more than 20% of locals have done this.
Toyota: Woven City, Mount Fuji
In 2020, Toyota planned to build a “city of the future” at the foot of Mount Fuji that will house 2000 full-time residents and researchers who will test and create unique technologies.
The design of a smart city is completely sustainable, with neutral-wood buildings constructed using a combination of traditional Japanese joinery and robotic production techniques. In addition, its rooftops are covered in photovoltaic panels to generate additional solar power, native vegetation incorporated throughout the city, and three distinct street usage categories: fast vehicles, low-speed vehicles and personal mobility, and pedestrians only. Toyota is collaborating with the Danish business BIG, established by architect Bjarke Ingels, whose work includes the Lego House in Denmark and the 2 World Trade Center in New York.
Plug and Play: Osaka City, Osaka
Osaka, like many other prefectures, has societal problems related to its demographics, rejuvenating structures, and natural disasters. By the end of 2020, Plug and Play, a worldwide venture accelerator that collaborates with top corporations to promote startups with cutting-edge technology and concepts, will extend to Osaka, posing a threat to these problems.
In order to turn the Keihanshin metropolitan area into one of the top startup ecosystems in the world, Plug & Play plans to introduce an accelerator program specifically geared toward smart cities in Japan. The company has already launched five programs in Japan and worked with 43 corporate partners to accelerate over 400 domestic and international entrepreneurs.
The first program in Osaka will take place at Knowledge Capital in Grand Front Osaka in collaboration with Osaka Prefecture, Osaka City. It will center on smart life and construction, travel and experiences, urban mobility, cleantech, hospitality, and health.
Startups from abroad have already been chosen for various Plug and Play programs in Japan. The company will host its Osaka accelerator program with domestic and foreign businesses that aim to use cutting-edge urban technology in innovative urban solutions across its network of 30 locations in 16 other countries.
LINE: Fukuoka City, Fukuoka
The well-known messaging service LINE has been collaborating with Fukuoka City to address present challenges, unlike other businesses in Japan that are investing in infrastructure and concentrating on the country’s future smart cities. In order to improve services like residential tax payment, large garbage collection, natural disaster notifications, infrastructure reports, and more recently, the introduction of LINE Pay’s QR code into public facilities and even an umbrella sharing program, the company has been working together since 2018.
Japan’s smart cities will probably power by 5G technology. However, as Fukuoka is currently using 3G and 4G, anyone can currently use LINE’s services. However, they would initiate 5G if the service demanded it, such as when deploying drone technology to carry fish from far-off islands. Taiwan’s Taipei is now a part of LINE’s network of smart cities, but the firm is still emphasizing a more sustainable strategy.
In Japan, smart cities are becoming increasingly important as effective solutions to both present and future challenges. The Smart City Institute Japan has more than 200 members from business, local government, academia, and the public sector. As more foreign businesses turn to Japan for its cutting-edge technology and exceptional services, the market is ripe for investment.