FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

South Korea's "Ubiquitous City"

In what at first seems to be a throwback to the utopian urban visions of early 20th century futurism, South Korea is developing a "U-City" from the ground up, using bleeding-edge "ubiquitous" technology to monitor everything from citizens' medical records to garbage collection.

New Songdo City, being built on a man-made island 40 miles from Seoul, will feature pervasive computer technology throughout, driven by RFID tags and CDMA wireless communication. Although many Western observers would find the lack of privacy disquieting, Asian countries are more interested in the technological potential of such environments. Says John Kim, a Korean-American who is leading the planning for the U-City:

"U-life will become its own brand, its own lifestyle... [A resident's smart key] can be used to get on the subway, pay a parking meter, see a movie, borrow a free public bicycle and so on. It'll be anonymous, won't be linked to your identity, and if lost you can quickly cancel the card and reset your door lock.

"Residents will enjoy 'full videoconferencing calls between neighbors, video on demand and wireless access to their digital content and property from anywhere in Songdo.'"

With English as its official language, the city is designed to attract international business as a "free economic zone." The city will also feature ample open-space parkland and recreation facilities. The $25 billion project is slated for completion in 2014. Already, South Koreans are already applying for the chance to be among New Songdo's 65,000 residents.

Sources: New York Times, Future Feeder