Building connected smart cities for Society 5.0

The pace of digitalisation is accelerating, and every aspect of our daily lives is being transformed at an incredible rate. Digitalisation is changing the way we work, live, and travel. In fact, it is altering the very fabric of many societies.

In Japan, the government recently laid out its vision for the future in the form of ‘Society 5.0’ to respond to chronic social challenges driven by a quickly ageing population. It defined Society 5.0 as a human-centred society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that integrates virtual and physical space.

The Society 5.0 vision is expected to take root globally in the coming years. The focus for many countries now is to create smart cities that are connected, inclusive, and viable. But what exactly does this entail?

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Where humanity is at the core

Generally, we are witnessing a strong focus on the physical experience of the world around us following the impact of the global pandemic. We are pushed to reconnect on a physical level in many aspects of our daily lives, accentuating the intrinsic need for social interaction.

Whereas digital advancement has been driven by technology in Industry 4.0, people will be at the heart of advancement in Society 5.0. This personalised approach will see technology and society operating in harmony, delivering economic development in an ecological way.

Where no one is left behind 

Access to technology can escalate social inequalities. This ‘digital divide’ will be bridged, with the governments facilitating the use of technology for the benefit of the society.

In the Hokkaido Municipality, Japan, the town council facilitated access to services for the senior residents in rural areas through cloud-based communications solutions. With intuitive and user-friendly interfaces, local information including a public services directory, shuttle bus timetable for mobility, and crime prevention updates are shared to ensure all citizens remain connected and informed.

The Hokkaido town council worked to give seniors access to cloud-based communications solutions. Image courtesy of lifeforstock on Freepik.

Society 5.0 is where inclusivity and fairness will prevail, with products and services delivered to the people who need them, when they need them.

It is a balancing act, where we mitigate the costs associated with an ageing society and a quickly developing technology platform, while providing for the entire population.

Securing a strong foundation

There will be no one-size-fits-all approach to Society 5.0, as different regions have their own unique socio-economic challenges and constraints. 

However, a successful Society 5.0 hinges on a common foundation of smart mission-critical networks to deliver on the promise of a world where everything is connected. 

Connectivity is integral to the future of smart and liveable cities, as it is crucial for delivering citizen experiences through enhanced communication and optimised access to services. In Australia, John Flynn Private Hospital connects its patients and healthcare workers through unified communications solutions, improving the quality of patient care while reducing the stress of the hospital employees to minimise burnout.

Transforming data into information and knowledge

We are currently developing communications and collaboration solutions to support Society 5.0 objectives. The objective is to develop a full ‘ecology of communication’ around the use of such systems with the help of AI technologies.

The plan is to curate the overwhelming, ever-growing and ever diverse flow of information amongst individual members of a society or organisation and the digital sphere through contextualisation.

At a fundamental level, contextualisation means that information is analysed in real time to obtain a picture of what is happening and in light of previous interactions. This allows the communication system to send precise, actionable information on a particular event. By presenting members with the right information at the right time, these solutions will help reduce the stress of information overload and increase timely, quality resolutions.

Contextualisation also reduces the energy footprint of such communication and collaboration systems as less storage is used to hold only time-relevant information. Less computing power is required because of the use of consumption-aware AI algorithms, contributing to the indispensable sustainability agenda for future smart cities.

At the organisational or societal level, the implementation of contextualisation provides novel real-time analytics, known as social graphs, to build an accurate picture of how policies or processes are working and anticipate or correct social inadequacies.

Gearing up for the societies of tomorrow

Many of the enabling technologies for Society 5.0 — such as IoT, AI, and robotics — are already available. However, harnessing the power of Society 5.0 and achieving a digital utopia will require robust networks, communication, and, above all, a commitment to change.

Governments and organisations have a significant role to play in delivering Society 5.0, and there must be a collaborative approach. The goal is to create shared values, where companies pursue business success in a resource-friendly manner.

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