Panasonic Opens Doors in Smart City Market

Panasonic has its sights on yet another smart city development in Japan.
Published: Thu 14 Apr 2016

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Best known for their consumer electronics products, Panasonic also has a strong reputation when it comes to developing green and sustainable technologies. They provide the batteries for electric vehicles from Tesla and Toyota, and they also design, develop and deploy energy management solutions. [Panasonic-Tesla’s Sole Supplier of Battery Packs?]

The company’s most ambitious project to date, however, is the planning and development of a Sustainable Smart Town in Fujisawa, Japan. Built on the site of an old factory, the town is now a thriving community with renewable energy systems that can provide off-grid power for up to 3 days. It also features EV charging stations, security systems and smart home technology.

Tsunashima Sustainable Smart Town

Now, Panasonic has its sights on yet another smart town-this time in Tsunashima in the City of Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo. The Tsunashima Sustainable Smart Town (SST) Council and its lead organizers, Panasonic Corporation and Nomura Real Estate Development Co., Ltd., are planning the development of this new smart town which is due to open in 2018.

The Tsunashima SST Council, a consortium of ten organizations that promotes the development of the Tsunashima SST, created a Town Development concept which sets the town's environmental targets, safety and security goals, and rules for the landscapes and operations. This is all in place to create a town where the various industry participants come together to achieve their goals.

The Tsunashima SST, which will be located at the site of a former Panasonic factory, will consist of residential and non-residential facilities. Under the concept of "Innovating the Future Together," private enterprises and the local government aim for an urban smart city, fostering innovations by exploiting synergies among progressive knowledge, technology and services. They also envision a town that brings together people who want a better future and makes their interactions part of a global network.

The Town Development Concept has set targets for this urban smart city, including a 40% reduction of carbon emissions (based on the levels in the fiscal year ended on March 31, 2006) and consumption rates of 30% or higher for new energies.

The forward-looking city will have a town energy centre, a hydrogen refuelling station, a smart condominium and more.

With a view to realizing a smart energy network, the town energy centre is centrally located to provide the entire town with low-carbon, disaster-resistant energy systems. The centre utilizes a high-efficiency gas cogeneration system using clean city gas as its fuel. This cogeneration system efficiently utilizes heat produced during power generation for cooling, heating, and hot water supply. Gas supply utilizes highly earthquake-resistant medium-pressure gas pipelines to help ensure lifelines to stay open even during disasters. The centre intends to be a rational model for area-wide interchange of energy between compact complex town blocks.

A hydrogen refuelling station supplies hydrogen safely to fuel cell vehicles by adopting a hydrogen safety control system that integrates earthquake-resistant design and various technologies including many types of sensors. The Tsunashima SST is also considering supplying hydrogen to the fuel cell systems for commercial use to generate electricity.

A smart condominium will be a sustainable, next-generation housing suitable for an urban type smart town, combining energy creation and storing features (solar panels and storage batteries) installed in the common area, allowing for efficient use of renewable energy. When linked with the elevators, this system enables them to work during a power outage. Each dwelling unit in the housing will have home-use fuel-cells and a smart home energy management system.

The town will also feature an environmentally friendly next-generation shopping centre, which aspires to become a new flagship model of a food and health centre for the smart town and the surrounding area. Advanced environmentally-friendly measures will be put in place, including solar power generation and air conditioning systems that run on waste heat from the town energy centre.

The rise of the smart city

By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population, or 6 billion, are expected to live in cities. It is therefore important that cities are built with sustainability and the environment in mind. Smart cities are generally developed and designed to cater to a wide range of challenges including urban mobility, energy management, street lighting, public safety and water management.

In some cases, the projects are meant to turn communities into living labs for testing how well various low-carbon technologies can work together. [Aspern Seestadt – Vienna’s Smart City Energy Testbed].

In Denmark, a town near Copenhagen has become a test bed for different types of outdoor LED lighting. SunPower is working with KB Home in California to try out the pairing of lithium-ion battery systems with solar panels. The interest or even mandates to build more sustainable communities has given rise to better modelling and data analytics tools for researchers, architects and builders to design those cities.

The global smart cities market size was valued at $567.45 billion in 2013. Exponentially increasing population, and rapid urbanization coupled with continuous industrialization are major factors that will affect the market. The market is expected to register a rapid growth at an estimated CAGR of 13.6% from 2014 to 2020, according to Grand View Research in the US.

North America is expected to continue being the largest regional market over the next six years. Expanding transportation sector, improvements in water infrastructure and increasing smart grid investments have spurred regional growth. Government regulations towards reducing carbon footprint by use of renewable resources are expected to drive the regional market. Asia Pacific is expected to witness high growth too, mainly due to high residential development demand in China and India.

Key companies operating in the market include IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Accenture, ABB, Cisco, Cubic, Honeywell and Oracle. Manufacturers in Asia Pacific have been focusing on investments in R&D activities in order to ensuring global presence and strengthen their distribution network.