Japan’s smart city plan is struggling

The pandemic has impacted economic activities around the world. Under such circumstances, companies have promoted information and communication technology, schools have launched online teaching, hospitals have begun remote treatment, and service industries such as the catering industry have also popularized food delivery services. In Japan, due to problems such as the slow progress in the online management of administrative procedures, the Japanese government hopes to accelerate the transformation of society to digitalization, that is, to accelerate the process of smart cities (digital cities). But in fact, Japan’s smart city process is not as smooth as expected.

Digital progress is slow
“If you score yourself, you can only get 30 points for digital progress…. I think that the ideal of a smart city may not be realized in one’s life.” said Shojiro Nakamura, head of Accenture Fukushima Innovation Center in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. Although the smart city plan is fully supported by the city of Aizuwakamatsu and started to advance very early, it is not easy to realize it.

Aizuwakamatsu has a population of about 120,000. The city and Accenture of Ireland jointly established the “Aizuwakamatsu+” system to provide citizens with mobile payment, medical and daily life services through cooperation with Internet companies. At present, nearly 90,000 citizens have become members of “Aizuwakamatsu+”, accounting for 20%. In the future, the system will further expand the types of services to 361. However, Aizuwakamatsu’s smart city plan is far from being compared to countries with almost 100% digitization rates such as Estonia and Denmark.

Nakamura said that the introduction of automatic voice functions to reduce the burden of doctors writing prescriptions violates the “Physician Law” and the use of regional currencies violates the “funding decision algorithm.” If Aizuwakamatsu City can be designated as a “super city” pilot unit in the national strategic special zone, it can break through these restrictions and conduct experiments. Therefore, Nakamura hopes that Aizuwakamatsu City can become a national war preparedness special zone and promote the construction of a smart city.

Other areas that are promoting smart city plans are setting up groups composed of local governments, private enterprises and local residents, and introducing urban information service platforms. For example, “Tokyo Port City Takeshiba”, which opened in September 2020, is promoting a city information platform that values ​​real-time information, providing people who come to the city with real-time information such as store vacancy and coupon issuance. Most of the Takeshiba area is close to the sea and is suitable for the development of various advanced information and communication technologies and software systems. This is also the reason why the area is actively promoting new service experiments. The Daimaruari Urban Construction Association, which won the “Smart Tokyo” project construction in July 2020, is also vigorously promoting the accumulation and utilization of real-time data. This commercial area is used as a smart city pilot on behalf of Japan and uses an information platform to provide users with Personalized service, including detailed data of approximately 280,000 migrant workers. At the CES International Consumer Electronics Show in the United States in January 2020, Toyota officially announced the “Woven City” plan, which will build connected cars and self-driving pure electric vehicles in Susono City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. A “smart city” in which the center, all products and services are connected via the Internet, will start construction in early 2021. In the future, the project will focus on the new generation of automotive services.

A series of urban development requires the active participation of various companies and provides a place for empirical experiments to create new industries and new businesses. Smart cities must not only provide convenient services for residents living in different environments, but also calmly deal with the sharp decline of the population and the ever-increasing aging situation. Only in this way, the number of smart cities will continue to increase, and the service functions will become more and more perfect.

But the current situation is not optimistic. Chihiro Shimizu, a professor at Nihon University, pointed out that Japan has been slow in advancing the digitization of basic information and standardization of data, and the relevant services it can provide are limited. Nakamura said that smart city services can be roughly divided into three parts: the infrastructure system, the administrative procedure system, and the people’s livelihood service system such as medical and education. The current situation is that it is difficult to provide infrastructure system services, while the services of other systems are ahead. For example, the construction industry has not yet popularized the use of data from a three-dimensional computer design system to manage the entire city; auto-driving cars require high-precision digital maps, but road information has not yet been digitized. In order to produce a three-dimensional digital map, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan formulated the “Plan for Improving the Digital Platform for Land, Infrastructure and Transport” in May 2019, and announced the professional version 1.0 in April 2020. However, according to the relevant person in charge, the map is actually perfect. just started. In July 2020, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism began to standardize the urban planning maps and road infrastructure maps that were made before. This work is based on the digital maps that have been continuously improved by the private sector, and spatial data can be used more accurately. The official use of the land and transportation digital platform is expected after 2023.

Connect people and cities with technology
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the smart city concept aimed at building a new generation of urban systems has attracted much attention. In order to solve the urgent problems faced by cities such as rapid population growth, explosive increase in energy consumption, and global warming, smart cities are increasingly active. Ishigaki, the Minister of the Promotion Department of Japan’s Smart City Planning, said that the definition of smart cities has undergone several stages of changes: First, the concept of smart cities emerged in 2009. At that time, the aim was to build environmentally friendly cities that preserve the global environment, mainly to build new ones. A generation of smart grids, and the energy consumption required for urban life is more reasonable. It is hoped that information and communication technologies can be used to achieve the goal of complete control of urban infrastructure such as tap water, communications, and transportation, led by the power grid. In 2013, in addition to the above-mentioned environmental protection city concept, keywords such as health and longevity, industrial creation, etc. appeared. The concept of environmental protection city not only includes environmental and energy issues and other “hardware”, but also covers many other areas, such as “quality” “Life” and other “software” have high hopes.

In 2013, a “Baiye Smart City” project aimed at promoting environmental coexistence, industrial creation, health and longevity completed the construction of the first block. The project plans to send information through electronic billboards, adopt a special system to effectively manage household-based energy such as electricity and gas, and provide visual services through activity meters. This is a smart city form that takes the environment, industry and health into consideration.

For mankind, nowadays, it is not only concerned with health, environment and wealth creation, but also pays more and more attention to the charm of the city and its sustainable development. In the tide of globalization, a city where people and technology are closely linked has become a big concept. Use technology to connect people together and organically combine urban hardware and software to achieve efficient and integrated control and integration-a new and convenient smart city that is based on people has begun to appear.

The road to smart cities is long
Sakamura Takeshi, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said that the mention of smart cities reminds people of the “robot computer city” concept that emerged in the mid to late 1980s, depicting a future city scene where robots with human brain functions (artificial intelligence) provide convenient and efficient services. . The concept of smart city is also to realize a society that uses the latest technology to provide energy, transportation, infrastructure, finance, medical care, food and other services needed by urban residents conveniently and efficiently.

After the global financial crisis in 2008, IBM of the United States put forward a new concept of “Smarter Planet” that uses IT technology to realize national innovation, aiming to solve various social problems such as energy, traffic congestion, logistics, medical care, and health. Among them is the concept of smart cities. Obama, who had just been elected president at the time, listened to the opinions of the heads of IBM and aviation equipment companies at the White House in January 2009. They hoped that the government should pay attention to medical care (IT healthcare), electricity (smart grid), Three areas, including education and digital communication networks, are actively investing. The U.S. Congress passed the largest economic stimulus policy in history since the implementation of the New Deal in the 1930s, and launched the “New Environmental Protection Policy” that fully reflects the concept of “Smart Earth”. “Strategic investment plan, and use this as an opportunity to promote smart city projects to the world.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has promoted the “e-Japan” national IT strategy since the establishment of the cabinet in 2001, and has begun to carry out postal privatization and other economic structural reforms. But the problem of non-performing loans in 2003 caused a micro-bubble phenomenon, leading to the beginning of this IT revolution. Although the subsequent Abe cabinet made a lot of preparations for the formulation of global warming countermeasures and economic structural reforms during his tenure, Abe himself was not in good health and various plans could not be implemented. After Abe, the cabinet of Yasuo Fukuda established a special survey meeting on “Structural Change and the Japanese Economy” led by Professor Kazuo Ueda of the University of Tokyo, and published a report on “Survival in a Globalized Economy-Rejuvenation of the Japanese Economy”, and proposed After 10 years, Japan will show its goal to the world with an economic model of “open platform” and “charming economic system.” In addition, the Japanese government has also proposed a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050, and has established a “2050 Research Council” accordingly. The seminar discussed smart cities and smart grid strategies. However, a complete report was not produced for about half a year, and finally the research group was also disbanded. Why did Japan’s smart city plan “deadly die” before the report was published?

An important indicator of a smart city is the effective use of energy, and the focus is on the transmission network. In Europe, countries such as Denmark in the north have popularized wind power, while countries such as Spain in the south have realized the popularization of renewable energy such as solar power. Although the power generation of wind power and solar power is unstable, the smart grid can connect the two parties; coupled with the connection of electric cars and household batteries, it is enough to describe the future of smart city power integration. However, the Japanese power industry is strongly resistant to this bright future, because if Japan introduces the European smart grid model, it may suddenly cause the Japanese power industry to “separate power generation (electricity) and transmission (electricity)”. situation. The main members of the 2050 Research Association said that the power industry has shown obvious concerns about smart grids, which has led to the abortion of the smart city concept in an unformed state.

In April 2020, 11 years after the 2050 Research Association was established, Japan finally realized the “separation of transmission” in the power industry. At the same time, Japan has also continued to promote solar power generation, making renewable energy accounted for approximately 17% of the composition of electric energy. In July 2020, Japan established the “Government and Civilian Association to Strengthen Competition in the Offshore Wind Power Industry”. It plans to introduce an offshore wind turbine system with “over 1 million power in the last 10 years and over 30 million power in 2040”. Renewable energy as the dominant energy In accordance with the “Energy Supply Enhancement Law” enacted in June 2020, we will discuss the wide-area transmission network mechanism necessary for the popularization of renewable energy.

Despite this, the Japanese power industry still has a wait-and-see skepticism about “whether electricity can be supplied stably” and “whether an open and decentralized smart grid can be realized.” If you repeat the mistakes of 12 years ago, Japan’s smart city construction concept will soon be eliminated by the new world trend.