Technology company Panasonic is due to open its third ‘smart town’ in Japan on Friday.
The goal is for Suita to become Japan’s first urban development that derives all of its electricity from renewable sources. The community includes features such as artificial intelligence-powered cameras, digital health programmes and sensor-equipped homes to support the elderly.
Suita is a 23,000 square-metre site in a northern suburb of Osaka and joins Panasonic’s other Sustainable Smart Towns (SSTs) – Fujisawa, south of Yokohama and Tsunashima, between Yokohama and Tokyo.
The Sustainable Smart Towns, which are all located on former Panasonic manufacturing facility sites, aim to showcase solutions related to renewable energy, mobility, public safety and health.
At Suita, Panasonic also wants to promote multi-generational living to address the ageing population and loneliness. In Japan, 30 percent of the population is aged 65 or over and the number of single-person households is growing.
Panasonic’s Chief Executive Officer, Yuki Kusumi said: “We are promoting sustainable smart town community development with the aim of solving global environmental problems and enabling people to lead happy lives, both physically and mentally.”
The development includes 362 residential units, with condominiums for families and senior citizens, and smaller units with shared facilities designed for single-person households.
The goal is for Suita to derive “virtually 100 percent” of its electricity from renewable sources within five years. Extensive use is being made of solar power, and large storage batteries provide back-up in case supplies are disrupted – for example, due to a natural disaster.
The Suita complex also includes a wellness facility with serviced housing for the elderly and a group home for those with dementia, as well as a commercial complex and a central community park.
Residents have already started to move in.
Single-person housing with shared spaces
In recent updates, Panasonic shared further details about technology deployed in Suita.
Security camera monitoring
Artificial intelligence-powered cameras in public spaces will assess compliance with COVID guidelines such as crowding and mask-wearing, and will also monitor for falls and residents who may be lost due to dementia.
Sensors embedded in elderly residents’ home appliances will be able to detect changes in behaviour patterns that could indicate cognitive decline or the onset of dementia, so that support can be provided.
Residents can also opt to share health-related data from wearable devices and smartphones to an app that makes personalised recommendations.
Shared bikes will be available as well as facilities and meeting places to “encourage cross-generation interaction and help combat loneliness.”
Panasonic said its Sustainable Smart Towns in Japan are “work in progress” and that services are constantly adjusted based on feedback from residents.
Longer-term, the company aims to use the experience from the SST programme to inform and support similar developments in Japan and overseas. These currently include smart housing projects in China and Germany.
Panasonic developed Suita along with a number of partner organisations, including transportation, security, mobile communications and utility companies. It will be managed by a ‘facility council’ with input from partners, residents, local government and academia.
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