Smart Asian mega-cities could boost UK firms
British technology companies struggling to find public sector business in an age of cuts could look to Asia to help pull them through hard times. The rise of Asian mega cities combined with the "smart cities" movement integrating technology areas from transport to telecommunications is creating major business opportunities in the east, according to a report published last week by government agency UK Trade & Investment.
"Smart cities of the future in Asia: The opportunities for UK business" analyses more than 100 current and future projects in areas including buildings and the environment; education; energy; health; digital media; and transport across 10 high-growth markets: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Examples include a major extension of the railway network in Hong Kong, offering opportunities to deliver a rail management system, IT infrastructure within stations and trains and journey planner for passengers; a mobile telemedicine system in Indonesia, with opportunities for patient monitoring, telemedicine and smartphone applications; and 3G network deployment in Thailand, including grid applications, remote monitoring, telehealth, telecommuting, and connected homes.
The report defines "smart" projects as "large scale developments which aim to achieve economic, environmental and social sustainability through the systematic integration of ICT into their planning, design, operations and management." At one stage, the report suggests that "smart" is the new "green" - though companies will be no doubt hoping this does not mean short-lived, over-hyped and ultimately unprofitable.
The fact that Asian markets are less affected by the global economic crisis could benefit both big and small firms looking to develop public service technologies through times of heavy cuts in the UK, Iain Jawad, director of strategic partnerships at market research firm Frost & Sullivan which produced the report, told UKAuthority.com.
"A lot of the programme areas are enabled by public funding, whether directly or through indirect public support - R&D, or even increasingly public private partnership", Jawad said. "Asian authorities are in less of a tough position currently in terms of public funding, and spending reasonably large amounts of public money on infrastructure development."
The UK has many companies active in areas falling under the loose term of "smart cities" - such as intelligent transport, e-health, assisted living, even e-learning - though they may not have badged them as such, Jawad said. Opportunities to develop these services in Asia could come back to benefit the UK public sector in better times, he said. "Many companies will have opportunity to deploy, develop and test technologies in Asia, so there is potentially a lot more opportunity out there than over here. So we can get benefits, as well as straightforward economic benefits."
Smart cities of the future in Asia: The opportunities for UK business