Sungwan Yu, a Korean government official, addressed the importance of the "Internet of Things" in smart city projects at the kick-off conference at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland. Image: Andrew Rodgers/Twitter.

South Korea Joins Sustainable City Project Featuring Regional Cooperation with US


Local governments and IT experts from the private sector and from universities around the globe gathered at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland this past November for a kick-off conference on the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC). At that conference, local city officials introduced their urban problems and attracted technologists to try to solve them. Recently, Busan and Daegu in South Korea became the first cities in Asia to join the GCTC. Through this global forum, communities are working together on shared challenges around the world.

GCTC is designed to encourage community members to use sustainable methods to solve different cities’ problems via high technology. To deal with problems which are unique to a specific area, local partnerships are essential. Through this program last year, San Jose, California collaborated with Intel, headquartered in the adjacent city of Santa Clara, to develop a sensor platform to measure real-time air quality and vibration data, in an effort to improve air quality. Honolulu, Hawai‘i and IBM utilized GCTC to boost communication between the government and the public by offering transparent access to city data.

The main concept behind GCTC is that of “smart cities,” which relies on computer systems and electronic gadgets to gather data which can then be analyzed to tackle problems. Solutions rely on the “Internet of Things” and “Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS),” which are high-tech systems that currently account for more than $32 trillion of the global economy and are expected to bring improvements to issues as diverse as healthcare services, air quality, and traffic congestion.

As the first Asian “smart cities” to join the GCTC, Busan and Daegu will work with Korea’s two largest telecommunications companies. SK Telecom will deploy its existing technology, including building energy management, smart crosswalks, and maritime security services, throughout Haeundae-gu in Busan with governmental support. In Daegu, KT and Samsung Electronics are collaborating to promote a healthcare system, including emergency alarming, adolescent obesity care, and global medical services.

After attending the GCTC kick-off conference, the Daegu municipal government reported interest from both AT&T and George Mason University in learning more about the healthcare project in Daegu. Although it is still in early stages, the GCTC will become an important platform for cities and companies in South Korea and the US to develop and promote sustainable projects around the world.

Minseong Baek is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an Asan Washington Young Fellow at Asan Academy in Seoul.