The shift to smart cities, which are currently attracting attention, is a major change that each country is working on. There is no doubt that the times will change drastically and it will become more convenient as smart cities progress.
What is a smart city that will change the world? Learn the issues of Japanese companies from past news
A state-of-the-art city "smart city" that incorporates IoT technology. This time, we will focus on the smart city concept of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, China, and will follow the issues surrounding the smart city development of Japanese companies from past articles.
What is a "smart city" that is being developed around the world?
A "smart city" is a city that incorporates IoT (Internet of Things) technology. Including "smart energy" centered on the introduction of renewable energy and efficient energy management, "smart mobility" incorporating automatic driving technology, and "smart mobility" that efficiently manages home and city-wide infrastructure by connecting them via the Internet. State-of-the-art technology is utilized in all fields that support the city, such as "smart governance."
Smart cities are often conceived as "redevelopment city projects" to regenerate aging cities in developed countries such as Japan and Europe and the United States. On the other hand, in emerging countries such as China, "next-generation city projects" that form new cities are the main focus.
However, in any case, it is often a big project involving the national government, local governments, large companies and cutting-edge IT ventures. It is a big business opportunity for companies with technology and know-how, but on the other hand, Japanese companies are slowing down and are lagging behind companies in Europe, the United States and emerging countries. Here, let's look at topics related to smart cities, focusing on the issues facing Japanese companies.
Three pitfalls of smart cities Reasons why Japanese companies miss business opportunities
"Zhongxin Guangzhou Knowledge Castle" under construction in the suburbs of Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, China. It is a smart city that started in 2011 as a national joint project between China and Singapore. When completed in 30 years, 500,000 people will live in an area of 123km2.
Many foreign-affiliated companies participate only in huge projects involving two nations. Most of them are Westerners such as Siemens in Germany and Philips in the Netherlands. On the other hand, only Hitachi is participating from Japan.
It is said that there are three reasons why Japanese companies, which should have excellent technology and know-how, cannot enter the construction of smart cities.
Priority is given to risk aversion.
The first reason is that we are extremely afraid of risk. "Thinking while running is Chinese-style urban development," while Japanese companies "cannot move until the concrete picture of the project is known." He doesn't want to be actively involved in the early stages because he cares about the responsibility if the plan changes on the way.
Although local representatives of Japanese companies complained that "when the concrete image is known, there is almost no room for entry anymore", the gap with overseas companies that are willing to take risks is only widening.
A field of view that sticks to electricity and narrows
The second reason is the stereotype that "smart city = accumulation of advanced energy technology". It is said that all smart city-related projects being carried out in Japan are being promoted with the introduction of new energy-related technologies. Also, from the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, there is a strong image that "renewable energy and smart grids (next-generation power grids) are indispensable for smart cities."
On the other hand, at Guangzhou Knowledge Castle, "Introducing advanced energy technology is just one of the means to realize an environmentally friendly city," said the local expatriate. The overall concept is to actively develop knowledge-intensive industries such as ICT (Information and Communication Technology) such as optical fibers and e-government, eco-city utilizing information infrastructure, and learning city that attracts educational and research institutes.
It can be said that the issue for Japanese companies is that they are so obsessed with the energy field that they miss the opportunity to enter the market.
Know-how is important. Single item sales are thin profits
The third reason is the thinking pattern of trying to sell "single item technology" to avoid risk. Specifically, it is a retailer's idea of delivering individual items such as smart meters and HEMS (Home Energy Management System) instead of being involved in the general framework such as the master plan.
However, individual products are often sought after and do not make a big profit. In the first place, what the Chinese side, which develops Guangzhou Knowledge Castle, is looking for know-how, not goods. In other words, what is really needed is not a single item such as a smart meter, but a city management plan that utilizes it.
According to a consultant familiar with China, many Chinese complain that "Japanese people do not think about their vision together." In order for Japanese companies to participate in smart city development, it is necessary to change from the basic idea.
Smart cities are just a means
Regarding the purpose of developing Guangzhou Knowledge Castle, an executive on the Chinese side said, "Smart cities are a means to attract knowledge-intensive human resources and companies, not a purpose." He wants to transform the industrial structure of Guangzhou by providing a place where people and companies can carry out "activities that add value to society."
In order to achieve this purpose, the door is widely open to overseas companies for development. In fact, as of December 2011, 64 companies and organizations have decided to participate, including Siemens in Germany, ABB in Switzerland, Philips in the Netherlands, and Hitachi in Japan. It is said that it is actively working with Japanese companies other than Hitachi, and it is expected that it will not only sell (deliver) products but also participate in projects (as of 2011).
Toshiba is serious about smart cities, 900 billion yen concept
Of course, looking at Japan, there are many companies that are active in smart cities. One of them is Toshiba. It is said that the business scale of 400 billion yen as of 2011 will be expanded to 900 billion yen in 2015.
We have already announced that we will participate in 20 projects such as Lyon, France, but in the future we will expand into the Middle East and Southeast Asia to develop and provide "systems that improve the efficiency of electric power facilities" and "information services that lead to energy saving". I plan to do it.
"Temperature thermal energy conversion" aimed at smart cities Experiments start with IoT
"New technology" developed by venture companies is also utilized in smart city development. One of them is a power generation system developed by Matrix Industries, which is based in Silicon Valley.
However, the company has developed a "smart watch that does not require charging." It uses the temperature difference between the surface that comes into contact with the skin and the outside air temperature to generate electricity, which is then supplied to a smart watch equipped with a full-color display and GPS. This power generation mechanism is attracting attention.
A Pakistani power company has already used it as a power source for a "sensor that monitors the operation of turbines in thermal power plants", and if results are achieved, it will be expanded to all thermal power plants. A mechanism that can generate electricity efficiently regardless of time of day, weather, or location is an essential technology for IoT, and it is expected that the company's technology can be used in all fields of smart cities.
As the population continues to grow rapidly, it will be essential to realize a smart city concept with high energy efficiency and low environmental impact. Research on smart cities has already progressed all over the world, and full-scale development is beginning. There are many factors that hinder participation in smart city development, such as the thinking patterns of Japanese people and the constitution of Japanese companies. However, in order to leave Japanese technology in the future, awareness of the problem and self-transformation are urgently required.