Nº 5 2013 > Technology Watch
Seoul, Republic of Korea, is one of the world’s most tech-savvy cities, retaining its top ranking in the United Nations e‑Government Survey since 2003. It is also home of the World Cyber Games. “Smart Seoul 2015” was announced in June 2011 to uphold Seoul’s reputation as a global ICT leader by boosting its sustainability and competitiveness through smart technologies. Smart Seoul follows the u‑City project (u‑Seoul), which applied ubiquitous computing technologies to strengthen the city’s competitiveness.
While u‑Seoul improved the delivery of services by the traditional city infrastructure (such as transport and safety), it failed to improve the quality of life of Seoul’s citizens. Smart Seoul is more people-oriented, and aims not only to implement as many smart technologies as possible, but also to create a more collaborative relationship between the city and its citizens.
Smart devices for all
The inclusive network in Seoul encompasses high-speed broadband optical wire and wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi and near-field communication (NFC) technology. A key pillar of Smart Seoul is to increase access to smart devices and to educate new users on their operation, so that the voices of all citizens are heard.
In 2012, Seoul began distributing second-hand smart devices to low-income families and others in need. The ICT market moves rapidly, and typical smart-device users buy new products well within the useful lives of the devices they are replacing. Citizens are encouraged — in particular by tax deduction in the range of USD 50 to USD 100 per device — to donate their old devices when buying new ones. After these donated devices have been inspected and repaired by manufacturers, they are distributed free of charge to vulnerable populations.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is piloting a smart work centre project, allowing government employees to work from ten offices — smart work centres — located closer to their homes. Employees in the smart work centres have access to sophisticated groupware and teleconferencing systems, ensuring that their absence from City Hall in no way impedes their job performance. Seoul plans to offer Smart Work to 30 per cent of its government employees by 2015.
Seoul is implementing a smart metering project with the aim of reducing the city’s total energy use by 10 per cent. This started in 2012, with a pilot test involving the installation of a thousand smart meters. The meters provide home, office and factory owners with real-time reports of their electricity, water and gas consumption. This information is presented in monetary units, and is accompanied by details of energy-consumption patterns and means of adjusting those patterns to reduce energy costs.
A national smart-metering pilot project, completed in 2008, found that 84 per cent of participants checked their energy information status once a day or more; 60 per cent reported that the project was helpful in reducing their energy use, and 71 per cent expressed a willingness to participate in similar projects in the future.
As part of u‑Seoul, a safety service has been operating since April 2008. This service employs state-of-the-art location-based and CCTV technologies to notify authorities and family members of emergencies involving children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. A smart device has been developed for this purpose. When the holder of the device leaves a designated safe zone or pushes an emergency button, an alert is sent to guardians, police, fire departments and CCTV control centres.
To make use of u‑Seoul, citizens are required to register with mobile carriers specifically designed for this purpose. Supporting low-income households and especially vulnerable groups, Seoul often provides emergency-alert devices free of charge or at significant discounts, aiming to reach 50 000 registered users by 2014.
Eun-pyeong is a district of Seoul, and the Eun-pyeong u‑City project, which began in 2006 and was completed in March 2011, now houses 45 000 people. Smart city connections enable residents in the district to receive practical information via smart devices on their living room walls. In the interests of residents’ safety, intelligent CCTV cameras installed on every street corner automatically detect people trespassing on private premises. If a person with a disability or an elderly person carrying a location detecting device leaves Eun-pyeong or pushes an emergency bell on the device, their location is automatically sent to their guardians via text message. The city’s high-tech street lamps reduce energy use, broadcast audio and provide residents with wireless Internet access. A digital newsletter provides news, the bus schedule and other practical information to residents and visitors. Finally, the city’s u-Green service monitors factors such as water and air quality through a network of sensors, transmitting this information directly to the Media Board and the devices in citizens’ living rooms.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government runs a u‑City consolidated operations centre, which manages ubiquitous ICT networks, collecting and archiving vital city information. Seoul’s next-generation online reservation system allows citizens to search for, book and pay for public services instantly. The one-stop, integrated reservation system lists more than 150 services under categories such as education, infrastructure, cultural tourism, commodities and medical treatment. The reservation system will eventually include more than 30 000 public services offered by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and its affiliates.
Since 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been increasing the capabilities of its three-dimensional (3D) spatial information system, a mapping application providing 3D street information and enabling the provision of new smart services. Three new services were launched in 2008: geographical information giving users a street view; details of tourist attractions, offering users a virtual tour of Seoul; and an application allowing city planners to simulate infrastructure development or renovation. The quality of the 3D information was further improved in 2009, and the system will be useful in monitoring the environment. For example, flood simulations developed in 2012 help to predict which areas will be worst affected by floods, thereby enabling the development of pre-emptive flood-response mechanisms.
Introduced in 2009, Seoul’s u‑Shelter bus stops incorporate state-of-the-art ICT to offer citizens a variety of smart services, including information on bus routes, a map and the weather forecast.
Seoul Metropolitan Government discloses all its administrative information, and rewards the best use of this information by the private sector or citizens through its Public Application Contest, which began in 2010. The best applications are made freely available.
The NFC-based mobile payment system, produced by a public-private collaboration, is accessible to anyone with a smart device or mobile card. People can pay for their purchases simply by touching their smart phones to a specialized reader, which captures information essential to the transaction. The service also enables money transfers from one smart device user to another.
The privately developed HomePlus Application enables transactions at HomePlus Virtual Stores (which are found on street billboards, with each item possessing a unique barcode). Consumers can purchase goods while on the move, receiving delivery at their homes later that day. The first HomePlus Virtual Store opened in August 2011.
Another privately-developed application is School Newsletter, which connects schools with pupils’ parents, instantly notifying parents of changes in academic schedules or the items students are required to bring to school for the following day’s lessons.
As the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, says, “the key to becoming a smart society is ’communication’ on a totally different level. A smart city, for instance, involves communication between person and person, people and agencies, and citizens and municipal spaces, with human beings always taking the central position in everything. A smart city is also characterized by its unprecedented level of sharing”.
This article is based on an ITU Technology Watch report entitled “Smart Cities - Seoul: a case study”. The full report is available at http://www.itu.int/en/ ITU-/techwatch/Pages/smart-city-Seoul.aspx