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The South Korean capital believes the analysis of urban patterns forms the bedrock of smart infrastructure and services. SmartCitiesWorld explores how it has been using data more intelligently since 2011.

When Park Won Soon took office as the Mayor of Seoul in 2011, he declared that he would build a city where the “citizens are the Mayor”. Eight years later, he has made strides to achieve this ambition: digital platforms allow ‘citizen innovators’ to co-create their future city and vote regularly on policies.

Smart citizens are front and centre of Seoul’s smart city masterplan, with smart infrastructure and smart services completing the trilogy.

The vision is to use ICT across the city’s fabric to transform the lives of citizens, including the underprivileged, through balanced regional development. The policy goals span the realms of traffic, safety, environment, welfare, economy and administration. ‘On-demand’ and ‘data-driven’ are top of the list of strategies for achieving transformation.

Rising from the ruins

Nestling on the banks of the Han River, in the North West of South Korea, Seoul’s development and transformation since the end of the Korean War in 1953 has been remarkable. Rising out of the ruins, it developed into a high-tech global megalopolis in half a century. South Korea, as a whole, industrialised in less than 30 years, while it took many European countries a century.

Between the 1960s and 1990s, Seoul grappled with rapid population growth and the urban challenges that came with it. Despite significant achievements, such as reducing waste by 40 per cent (1994 – 2015) and increasing bus use by 20 per cent (2004-2013), Seoul still has significant ongoing urban challenges to overcome. Slow traffic speeds and congestion, increased air pollution and a 27 per cent increase in the number of elderly people living alone since 2012 are just some of the issues being addressed.

Public-private partnerships and the fostering of innovative smart city start-ups are seen as fundamental to achieving sustainability.

These form part of an emerging technology and innovation ecosystem, ready to rapidly test and commercialise R&D, and embrace artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, 5G and robotics – as well as the next new technology to enter the fray.

A vision built on data

‘Based on data’ is one of the five innovation strategies that Seoul is implementing to achieve its smart city vision for energy and other sectors. The accumulation and analysis of urban patterns form the bedrock from which to achieve smart infrastructure, services and citizens. The journey towards using data more intelligently began in 2011 with the integration of siloed internal administrative datasets.

The following year the ‘Open Data Plaza’ was launched, giving third-party developers and researchers access to urban datasets from which new services and insights can be generated. More recent initiatives include a big data platform and campus, the Digital Mayor’s Office, and a real-time ‘virtual population’.

Before you can generate value from data, it has to be created first. A primary way data is generated for smart city innovations is through the real-time sensing of various urban assets. Sensors deployed so far in Seoul include CCTV cameras and detectors measuring traffic flow, speed and air quality. Seoul is aiming for a further 50,000 IoT sensors deployed across the entire city by 2022 to monitor fine dust, wind direction, noise, vibration and floating population.

With vast swathes of new data being produced by smart cities, making it widely accessible to exploit the insight potential is crucial. Seoul’s Open Data Plaza provides access to over 5,000 datasets, including real-time sensor information, with 184 apps created so far. The datasets span many areas of urban life, from health to housing, and had been viewed 6.9 billion times by January 2019.

The functionality of the website includes an API, mapping and visualisation. The economic value of opening up this information has been estimated at $1.5 billion USD by Korea Local R&D Institute. “We are actively utilising big data and IoT technologies in our policies,” said Mayor Park.

The SMG’s internal big data platform has been used to pinpoint trends and insights from vast datasets. Forty-four case studies identifying benefits have been developed over the last seven years. For example, three billion mobile call records were analysed to identify late-night calls to taxi companies and design the routes and frequency of a new ‘Owl Bus’, which services the needs of party-goers and shift workers, reducing congestion.

The AI detective

The big data platform was also used to create an ‘AI Detective’ to assist with flagging up potential crime patterns when an incident is logged, saving valuable time. Traffic accidents involving elderly citizens have also been analysed to identify hotspots where special elderly protection zones are needed. The big data campus provides secure virtual and physical environments for public, private and academic stakeholders to share data and solve pressing urban challenges through collaboration.

Two further branches opened in 2019, in addition to the existing main campus. So far around 5,000 public-private datasets have been made available and 785 separate analyses over 10 fields carried out.

Digital Mayor’s Office

The Digital Mayor’s Office was launched in 2017. The system ingests information from 290 sources to provide the mayor with real-time data dashboards and visualisations of the city status, public opinion, key project progress, decision-support tools and operational control.

The mayor can access the system through a large smart-display in his office with voice and gesture recognition, as well as when he is on the move through mobile devices.

A version of the web-based system is also made available to citizens to provide greater transparency and understanding of how their city is operating and progressing.

Future plans for data innovation include building a dedicated public-private big data platform, expansion of AI for administrative efficiency and opening up further datasets.

Aged society

Seoul has an ‘aged society’ with 14.4 per cent of the population over 65 years of age (1.4 million). The city is predicted to become a ‘super-aged society’ in 2026, with senior citizens making up over 20 per cent of the population.

Data is also at the centre of a recent safety initiative launched focused on senior citizens living alone in the city. Seoul has been installing environmental data-collecting sensors that detect motion, temperature, humidity, and lighting in the houses of vulnerable senior citizens with poor health and weak social networks. The data is being monitored in real-time on dashboards and via caseworkers’ mobile phones.

When no movement is detected over a certain period of time or if abnormal signs are detected in terms of temperature, humidity, or lighting, the caseworker in charge immediately contacts and visits the house and takes emergency measures such as calling 119.

The IoT motion detectors are designed to detect emergencies early and aim to save the lives of senior citizens who might faint in their houses due to health disorders or the elderly with dementia who might wander.

Real-time motion monitoring also enables the inspection of the safety of high-risk senior citizens living alone for whom healthcare and safety checks were not easily available due to hearing disorders that made it difficult to contact them via phone or reluctance to have visitors because of living in self-seclusion or with depression.

The data on temperature and humidity detected by IoT devices has also led to housing environments improvements for the elderly living alone, such as the installation of insect-proof nets in doorways, using resources from the local community.

Seoul Metropolitan Government claims there has been not a single lonely death in houses supported by the care service through the IoT devices since the project launched.

Future smart city investment

In March 2019, Seoul Metropolitan Government announced it would invest $1.2 billion until 2022 on smart initiatives to drive further improvements. While Seoul is regarded for its cutting-edge smart city innovation, it is the scale and breadth at which it applies solutions that really makes the city stand out. Rarely do so many innovations happen across all sectors in the same city.

Demonstrating pioneering leadership in key areas such as ageing society, digital democracy, hydrogen economy and city-driven innovation ecosystem, many of its deployments could strengthen the evidence base for similar roll-outs across the world.

To find out more about Seoul’s smart city strategy, download SmartCitiesWorld’s Seoul profile here.

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Quelle/Source: SmartCitiesWorld, 20.03.2020

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