Propelled by increasing concerns of citizens worldwide about safety, eco-friendliness and cost-effective living, governments, urban planners and technological innovators have been stepping up to provide a solution in the last decade.
The common term for this solution is ‘smart city’; however, with many smart city developments taking place on a global scale in the past few years, one city’s definition of ‘smart’ is likely to vary greatly from another. Nonetheless at its core, any smart city can be identified by its “integration of information, communications and technology (ICT) solutions across three or more different functional areas”, suggests IHS.
Under this definition, IHS predicts that the number of smart cities will increase by over 400% between 2013 and 2025. Investment in smart cities worldwide is expected to jump accordingly, from US $1 billion to over US $12 billion – although looser definitions of smart cities carry estimates into hundreds of billions. As efforts for smarter living are becoming a necessity in megacities across the globe, it is not surprising that investment is concentrated there. And as many megacities located in Asia are developing at a breakneck pace, it follows then that the region is projected to have the lion’s share of the world’s smart cities by 2025 as well.
But smarter living initiatives are not just a result of revisions or additions to larger cities; they’re also taking shape within households and smaller communities. Panasonic has long been making strides in creating from the ground up with over 50 years of experience in making homes and residential areas not only aesthetically pleasing but also better connected, more energy efficient and more cost effective for individual residents.
Long before the concept of ‘smart city’ became popular globally, Panasonic had been striving for better, more sustainable living. Its housing initiative was founded in 1963 from the vision of Panasonic’s founder, Konosuke Matsushita, who once said, “There is no other job more important than creating homes.” By 1977, its subsidiary housing company Panahome, launched its first urban development in Osaka, Japan. Since then, the company has gone on to develop eight smart cities across Japan, with such initiatives proving Panasonic’s strengths and capabilities to not only facilitate the efforts of local governments but also lead the way in creating new smart cities from the ground up.
One prominent development among these is Panahome’s Smart City Shioashiya, located in Ashiya City, Hyogo Prefecture. Launched in 2012, Smart City Shioashiya represents the first smart city to be developed by Panahome as an entirely independent project. With a development plan for 400 stand-alone houses and an 83-unit condominium complex, Smart City Shioashiya is much smaller than the conventional concept of a smart city. However, it is such controlled scaling that is allowing the company to make sustainable smart cities a closer reality.
Each stand-alone house within Smart City Shioashiya boasts the Panasonic Group’s full range of solutions from Panahome’s unique building technologies to Panasonic branded home fixtures, such as flooring and system kitchens. In addition, as smart homes are more commonly known for today, the homes realise the full integration of sustainable energy sources and management of such systems to help residents not only monitor and save on their own respective energy usage but also profit from unused electricity that is sold back to the grid.
Overall, the city is striving to become completely self-sufficient in meeting its energy needs. In addition to stand-alone houses aiming for net zero emissions, condominium units are also equipped with individual unit fuel cell systems despite space constraints, a first initiative for Japanese condominiums. Coupled with storage batteries and solar cell systems in common areas, even condominium residents can maximise energy creation to contribute to the ‘net zero energy’ community solution.
This focus on smarter living and self-sufficiency has carried over to Panasonic’s most recent project: Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST), located in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture. With a planned scale for 600 stand-alone homes and 400 condominium units by 2018, Fujisawa SST is already proving its popularity to prospective buyers – spearheaded by a 95% occupancy rate for the 134 stand-alone homes developed by Panasonic thus far.
Like Smart City Shioashiya, Fujisawa SST is a carefully planned-out town that maximizes energy resources while also enabling residents to monitor their individual energy usage for a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. With careful integration between town design, town management and community groups and events, Fujisawa SST projects to achieve an overall 70% reduction in CO2 and 30% reduction in water usage.
Moreover, taking clues from development of the Smart City Shioashiya, Panasonic saw that community engagement and awareness raising is fundamental. Thus, in addition to events for families of the community to network with others, they serve also to help ensure smarter lifestyles and preparedness for emergency situations.“After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, it’s become evermore apparent that we strive to build a foundation for more connected communities – not just technologically, but on a person-to-person level,” says Kohjiroh Wakabayashi, Managing Director of Panahome Asia Pacific and Project Manager of the Fujisawa SST project.
Utilizing Fujisawa SST as a flagship model, Panasonic is now looking to bring these same lifestyle benefits to countries across Asia, with developments planned for strategic markets such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand among others. Bringing together state-of-the-art technology and environmentally friendly initiatives to meet the needs of residents now and in generations to come, Panasonic is looking to ensure that cities in Asia becomes sustainable and smart world leaders.