I had the pleasure to be invited by the Kyoto government for the last two annual iterations of the Kyoto Smart City Expo, held in the famous Kyoto Kokusai Kaikan Building. For those not up to speed, that is the same building which was used to sign-off on the infamous Kyoto Protocol in the 1990s. Even, as a regular guest of these Smart City activities in Kyoto, I have wondered what all the hoopla is about being a “Smart City”. Further confusing this was (according to Indian attendees) there are 200 smart cities in India but only one in Australia (Adelaide). Kyoto is the leader of four smart cities in Japan, nine exist in China (but neither Shanghai nor Beijing are one of these nine) and the mother of all smart cities (being the original) is Barcelona in Spain.
What is a smart city?
What is the common "smart" thread? I dug a little deeper this year at the invited seminars and reception party to get a clear definition as to what a city needs to do to upgrade from just being dumb. What I learnt from talking to a cross section of “Smart Presenters" is that it is very much in the eyes of the beholder. Presenters from the business world were crystal clear that implementing a process to produce clean drinking water in rural India can qualify your city as smart just as equally as Copenhagen qualified by implementing “live" data-monitoring of vehicular traffic using Big Data and IoT (Internet of Things) solutions to improve traffic flow as it was smart in the Nordic thinking to waste less time in traffic, spending more time on a better work/life balance.
Japan's Society 5.0
Then from the academic presenters, moving the grey-citizens from a FAX mentality to WiFi-enabled I-pods as part of Japan's Society 5.0 target to improve efficient energy utilization is just as smart as when homo-sapiens rose about the monkeys and gorillas by improving communication and controlling fire. Thus, from this viewpoint, the penny dropped for me that Smart Cities will be the next generational leap forward for mankind, as was the Industrial Revolution and the Cavemen before Christ with flint to make fire.
Who will benefit?
Now my big question is, "Who is smart enough to ride with me on the next tsunami wave of business opportunity called Smart Cities”? Wherever that may be in India, Japan, EU, USA or ???? If you want to catch that next wave together towards this future, please contact me, your “Smart" Man in Japan.