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© Gale International
© Gale International

How smart can a whole town be? An intelligent, networked, sustainable urban concept that saves time, costs and energy, is continuously confronted with its limitations when it comes to international projects. Evolved structures often get in the way of comprehensive digitization, the implementation of sustainability and environmental demands. Probably the first genuine “smart city” is being created completely from scratch. The stage is Korea where by 2020 life is to be breathed into a planned town by the name of Songdo City.

The scale of Songdo City can be measured by its impressive figures. This unique project on the edge of the huge metropolis of Seoul is to cost 40 billion US dollars, and 500 million tonnes of sand have been poured into the mud flats of the Yellow Sea since the turn of the century in order to create the site for this ambitious project and provide 100,000 people with a place to live. 40 percent of the space is reserved for parks and recreation areas.

 

© Gale International
© Gale International

Life on the drawing-board

Everybody living and working here will be subject to permanent surveillance by cameras, both in public and in private. A multi-function chipcard will be used for local public transport, healthcare and banking services. Patterns of activity will be compiled on the basis of access and consumption data, even in people’s apartments. The data from all sensors will be conflated in urban control centres that provide electricity and energy as required. This is designed to achieve savings in resources of up to 30 percent. Songdo knows no traffic jams as the traffic lights change according to actual traffic flows. The street lighting only comes on if someone passes by. All the rubbish is disposed of underground, and 76 percent of it is recycled.

The residents are to be drawn primarily from the young middle class. There is no doubt that this town from the drawing-board will meet the ideal of the “smart city”. It is not clear, however, whether the quality of life it offers can match that of towns that have evolved. So far it is said to be deathly quiet in Songdo. Most of the people who have moved there, are people who prefer peace and security: old-age pensioners.