Panasonic, Accenture and seven other companies announced last week that they will partner to develop a smart city in Fujisawa, Japan.
The project, officially called "Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town," or Fujisawa SST for short, intends to be a model for an environmentally-minded urban area. Fujisawa is located 37 miles from Tokyo and, at about 400,000 residents, is roughly the size of Omaha, Nebraska.
The smart town-within-a-city will be built on the vacant lot of a former Panasonic factory, and will gain its intelligence via infrastructure and services -- from IT to energy -- from the nine companies. It will support 1,000 households and is set to open in March 2014.
(It will actually be completed in 2018, the year of Panasonic's 100th anniversary.)
But Panasonic is the biggest star here, using its property donation as cause to show off its portfolio of building, home and cities services. Through these, it wants to demonstrate energy efficiency using measures such as solar power generation and battery storage systems -- then replicate success elsewhere in Japan, as well as overseas.
Meanwhile, Accenture will use its prior experience with city and power grid projects handle the creation, design and promotion of services within the town.
The other companies:
Mitsui & Co. will develop infrastructure (city blocks and real estate) and energy management services.
Mitsui Fudosan Co. and PanaHome Corp. will handle development projects (e.g. land readjustment), service frameworks and the sale of homes and lots.
Nihon Sekkei will plan the deployment of energy devices, propose a landscape design and create maintenance guidelines for the town.
ORIX Corp. will focus on mobility sharing (to reduce carbon emissions) and green lifestyle promotion.
Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co. will determine environmental real estate values and offer "environmentally-conscious" loans and financing programs, such as for secondary batteries.
Tokyo Gas will deploy its "Ene-Farm" household fuel cell systems.
The reason for the 60 billion (approx. $742 million) project? The threat of Asia's booming population growth. Panasonic says demand for the development of new cities will occur swiftly and at great scale, believing that rolling out a full-scale smart city is a better business move than biding time with pilot projects or technical demonstrations.
(And it certainly doesn't hurt that this year's earthquake decimated large parts of Japan's energy infrastructure.)
Here's a list of "green" elements under consideration:
A "green axis" of vegetation through the town
"Wind paths" that take the wind's direction into consideration
Electric vehicle charging and sharing infrastructure
Unobtrusive solar panels
Urban planning scenarios that accommodate for all this car sharing and energy storage
In the home, smart appliances and energy generation and storage hardware
Energy generation and storage infrastructure for public buildings and places
Videocamera-based security system throughout the town
Health: medical facilities, senior centers and a pedestrian-friendly layout
The companies are measuring success by a targeted 70 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (compared to 1990 levels, unfortunately), but the real yardstick is whether citizens will bite, despite all the technological wizardry.
In this case, the most successful city might be the most boring one; brains beneath beauty.