An Urban Evolution

Smart Cities

2018 / August

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams

How are artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, big data, cloud-based computing and other technological developments linking our lives and improving city administration?

“Smart city” proposals are driving experimentation and interest in using these new technologies to address the developmental needs and changing living environments of major cities around the world. Such proposals exploit the power of government, the creativity of citizens, and the capabilities of industry to explore the feasibility of greater sustainability and happiness, and more technology-­oriented lifestyles.


In his 1897 novella “A Story of Days to Come,” British author H.G. Wells describes a 22nd century of boundless urban growth and rural decay that traps human beings in stressful, overcrowded urban lives.

Wells’ vision of the future may well hit the mark. The United Nations anticipates that by 2030 there will be 43 megacities worldwide with populations of more than 10 million people, and that by 2050 nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities.

Smart city proposals seek to utilize information and communications technology (ICT) to resolve common urban problems: worsening traffic congestion, waste disposal, air pollution and energy consumption. They also chart out a vision for creating cities that are more comfortable and sustainable by making them “smart,” making urban life more convenient, and encouraging business innovation.

Smart cities take flight

Stephen Su, general director of the Industry, Science and Technology International Strategy Center at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), says that city governments around the world have become focused on making their cities “smarter.” One aspect of this involves sustainably developed low-carbon smart cities, which the European Union began promoting in 2007. Amsterdam, which has been pursuing numerous projects to use energy-­saving technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption, provides one example of the EU’s efforts. But the smart city trend isn’t limited to Europe. In the United States, the city of Seattle has developed a “smart grid” that helps save energy. In Japan, the i-Japan program is promoting the development of ICT businesses as a stepping stone to a “smart society.”

Smart city development strategies are advancing around the world. Su says that in Europe the focus in the development of smart cities has gradually shifted from emerging technology applications and infrastructure construction to solving local problems. These new strategies are using civic participation and shared bottom-up platforms to gather public views and build “innovation economies.” For example, London has provided its citizens and businesses with an online platform called Talk London that elicits proposals to solve problems. Meanwhile, Finland organizes an annual technology and startup event called the Slush conference, and an urban hackathon that promotes startup opportunities and encourages innovative businesses to participate in city development.

A smart-city lab

Taipei established the Tai­pei Smart City Project Management Office (TPMO) in 2016 to match applications from tech companies and other innovative firms to city needs. In so doing, it has turned Tai­pei into something of a living laboratory for the smart city concept.

Lee Wei-bin, commissioner of the Tai­pei City Department of Information Technology, suggests that “smart city” is more process than name, more a method than a single objective. “It’s a means of bringing information technology and innovation into government offices, and of making government’s needs known to the private sector.”

Over the last two years, the TPMO has promoted more than 120 smart city projects, including self-­driving shuttles, car sharing and motorcycle sharing; 26.7% have been considered successful.

The city is currently testing smart streetlights along sections of Jian­kang Road in Song­shan District and ­Zhouzi Street in ­Neihu.

Leotek, a Lite-On business group, worked with the Tai­pei City Government to install “Smart IoT Shared-Pole Street Lights” along three blocks of Jian­kang Road. In addition to placing LED streetlights on the same poles as traffic signals, the poles also include a variety of Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensors that allow the city government to remotely monitor air quality and traffic conditions in real time.

The other smart streetlight pilot project has IPS and two other companies testing lights around Gang­qian Road and ­Zhouzi Street in ­Neihu District that also track the movements of senior citizens and pets, the current locations of buses and garbage trucks, and the streetside parking situation. The streetlights’ sensors report the information in real time to cloud-based servers that make it available to the public via their cellphones. If the test is successful, the city government plans to gradually upgrade all of the city’s streetlights to smart lights.

Citizen tech

The AirBox is an example of a successful smart application. Many of Taiwan’s citizens are concerned about air quality and the problem of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). In 2016, Tai­pei placed AirBox air quality monitors given to the city by the companies Edimax and Realtek at 150 of the city’s elementary schools, which use them to facilitate environmental education. 

The AirBox monitors PM2.5, temperature and humidity. The Academia Sinica and Location Aware Sensing System (LASS), a maker group, then use big-data analysis on the data collected, and make it available to the public via the AirBox app and the Internet. With cities and counties all over Taiwan showing interest, Edimax went on to make AirBox a public welfare project and deploy more than 2,000 units across the island, providing Taiwan with the world’s densest national network of PM2.5 monitors.

The AirBox exemplifies the kind of public-­private-people partnership (4P) stressed under the smart city concept. As Academia Sinica research fellow Chen Ling-jyh puts it, the AirBox is a successful example of Taiwanese “citizen technology.”

Tech and innovation

Many Taiwanese cities are combining big data, the IoT, and artificial intelligence to improve city government services and development. For example, New Tai­pei City’s cloud services and Kao­hsiung’s Smart City portal both integrate and disseminate information from multiple departments to the public to improve city administration and provide citizens with convenient access to additional city services.

In Tao­yuan, the fire department spent three years building a smart mobile emergency dispatch system that integrates information from seven departments and 16 systems. The system uses the IoT to gather and analyze data, then creates a smart resolution sequence to handle emergencies.

When the 119 emergency services center receives a call about a fire or earthquake damage, for example, the commander on the scene consults the system app, which provides a variety of information, including the real-time status of response vehicles, that helps speed the department’s response. If the center receives a call about a toxic chemical spill, the app helps the on-scene commander select the most appropriate emergency response by providing information on the hazardous substance involved.

The Taoyuan Fire Department says that effective use of the app cut the average response time from 521 seconds in 2015 to 468 seconds in 2017.

With AI-based image recognition technology now frequently used for police work, the scope of smart city applications has expanded further. DeepLook, a smart, cloud-based image analysis system jointly operated by the ITRI, the Hsin­chu City Police Bureau and the New Tai­pei City Police Department, provides one example of this. When a police officer pursuing a stolen vehicle, or one that has been involved in a violation or an accident, needs to access traffic camera data, the cloud-based DeepLook system utilizes AI technology and big-data analysis to rapidly sort through large volumes of vehicle and pedestrian traffic to identify the relevant license plate, greatly increasing the speed with which cases are handled.

The ITRI’s Stephen Su says, “Moving forward, we should look beyond the development of innovative applications for individual cities, and investigate whether we can seed these same systems across multiple cities to create economies of scale. Examples might include smart transportation that integrates YouBike with mass transit, or electronic payments, or what have you. We could develop foreign markets and export such systems around the world.”

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文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧莊坤儒




英國文學家威爾斯(Herbert George Wells)19世紀在《未來的故事》一文中預言,22世紀的都市漫無止境地成長,鄉間卻荒蕪。都市生活擁擠,充滿壓力,人類卻無法逃離。




智慧城市的定義包羅萬象,工研院產業科技國際策略發展所所長蘇孟宗指出,智慧城市可以涵蓋資訊城市(Information City)、數位城市(Digital City)及無所不在的城市(Ubiquitous City)等,意指利用資通訊技術,應用在各種城市智慧基礎建設上,達到城市的永續發展,改善人民生活品質,與提升城市競爭力。



然而全球智慧城市的發展策略也與時俱進。蘇孟宗所長指出,歐美智慧城市的發展,逐漸從注重新興科技應用,或是推出亮點的基礎建設,轉向解決在地問題,透過建立公民參與、由下而上(Bottom up)的共享式平台,達到創新經濟、群眾集思目的。例如倫敦針對市民、企業,提供網路平台「Talk London Community」,來共同激發出解決問題的提案;芬蘭創立科技創業聚會Slush,舉辦城市駭客松競賽(Hackathon),讓有創意的業者加入市政建設的行列,鼓勵創業機會。










這台能檢測PM2.5、濕度、溫度的空氣盒子,透過中研院與民間創客社群「開源公益環境感測網路」(LASS,Location Aware Sensing System)合作,分析大數據,將所有監測資訊上網公開,讓民眾可以透過空氣盒子APP與網站查看,吸引全省各縣市政府共襄盛舉。訊舟科技從善如流,以公益專案,從南到北佈設二千多個據點,讓台灣成為擁有全球最密集的微型空氣品質監測的國家。

「空氣盒子」也成為智慧城市所強調由政府、民間業者與人民共同合作,建立「合作夥伴關係機制」(4P, Public-Private-People Partnership)的最佳案例。尤其是熱心民眾會主動打電話給學校,通報空氣盒子壞掉了,需要維修,很多環保團體每天都會關注空氣盒子的數據,討論各地的空氣品質,中研院研究員陳伶志稱空氣盒子是台灣「公民科技」的成功典範。








桃園消防局指出,經有效運用APP,黃金搶救時間從104年的521秒,至106年的468 秒,減少53秒。





X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!