India may be trying its hands now using digital technology for smart cities, but Japanese electronics major Panasonic is already making a headway in this field in its parent country. Though the company’s model may not be ideal for India, still, a peek into the Japanese company’s model gives an idea of how the smart city concept works.
It was after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 that Panasonic recognised the demand for renewable energy solutions with a minimal impact on environment. The Japanese company started to look for ways to infuse technology in everyday life to sustain the human ecology.
One such example is the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST). After shutting down its old unit at Fujisawa, Pansonic went ahead with the idea to build a smart city incorporating its own technology rather than the more lucrative choice to sell the land for real estate purposes.
The idea of a smart town was conceived before the 2011 earthquake. But the demand for renewable energy solutions was on rise after the calamity.
Panasonic and the local government discussed how to best utilise the land and came up with the town development policy for the Fujisawa SST in 2007. Panasonic partnered 18 more companies, all domestic except Accenture, and formed the Fujisawa SST Town Development Council, headed by Panasonic, in 2012.
The Fujisawa model boasts of an independent energy distribution system while naturally achieving environment targets. There are 600 detached houses and 400 condos in the 19-hectare property, which was opened to residents in 2014.
Panasonic studied smart city models in different countries and though the smart cities focussed on high-level infrastructure and were technology-oriented, the Japanese company found the focus was lacking in the area of residents’ life.
It focussed instead on building up a community-like structure with smart mobility, security and wellness for the residents. The community has self-check methods with targets to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions and also water and energy consumption.
Each house is fitted with an independent solar power generation system with storage battery units that can store power for three days. So in case of a disaster, the town can continue with day-to-day operations with reserves. The residents can choose solar panels and even sell the surplus power to the grid, however, the community do not share the electricity generated.
The Fujisawa SST is scheduled for commercial opening in 2018. The town has a 100-year timeline, till 2108, that covers construction, growth, maturation and evolution periods.
The town has a community platform that allows the residents to keep a check on energy consumption and residents can also avail other local services through the platform. The community centres also double up as disaster management centres in case of a calamity. A detached house costs half a million dollars, which is 15-20% higher than the average costs, with service costs at $100 a month. Also, at the time of the sale, residents are told that the use of solar power is mandatory. This makes the whole idea of smart city go a step further. Though mandatory, the solar power use clause is accepted by the residents readily.
The SST eyes to house 1,000 households including the 220 families that have already moved in.
The Fujisawa model is capitalising on the country’s shift in policies toward renewables that made solar power an important national project.
(Travel for this report was sponsored by Panasonic)