According to David Roberts, President and CEO at Verra Mobility, “technologies such as 5G and IoT have been instrumental in networking a variety of sensors, beacons, and endpoints.” The capabilities offered by these technologies can be exploited to build smart cities that offer a high quality of life to city dwellers by connecting various pieces of city infrastructure. Toyota is one of a few companies contributing to our understanding of the issues and challenges in the adoption of new and emerging technologies in the real world.
During CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Toyota announced that they would be building a smart city in Japan to create a “living laboratory” for new technologies. Dubbed “Woven City,” the smart city will be built from scratch on a 175-acre site near Mt. Fuji and act as a living testing ground for machines and devices such as robots and autonomous vehicles driven by new and emerging technologies.
The city will offer a fertile and conducive environment to test and assess the adoption of new and emerging technologies such as AI, 5G, and IoT in a real-world environment. According to Toyota’s President Aiko Toyoda, the residents of Woven City, along with buildings and vehicles, will all be “connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors,” offering an invaluable opportunity to “test connected AI technology.” Ultimately, testing “connected AI in both the virtual and the physical realms” will enhance understanding of how to “maximize its potential,” said President Toyoda.
Currently, the development of Woven City is in the planning and design phase tasked to renowned Danish architect and CEO of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Bjarke Ingels. The construction of the city will officially begin in 2021, with a majority of the first 2,000 residents of the city being the employees of Toyota. The adoption of advanced technologies and techniques into the city will commence right from the construction phase, where smart building materials will be employed. After completion, the city will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells to enhance sustainability, while mobility will rely exclusively on fully-autonomous vehicles with zero-emission. With “a swarm of different technologies….connected, autonomous, emission-free, and shared mobility solutions, the Woven City could pave new paths for other cities to explore,” said BIG CEO Bjarke Ingels.
The fact that Toyota’s Woven City is defined by extensive interconnection and communication of machines, infrastructure, and devices means that 5G and other technologies will play an enabling role. The high-speed connectivity and low-latency offered by 5G make it suitable to deliver scalable and reliable connectivity and fast real-time transfer of data between different points and machines within smart cities. For example, 5G’s massive machine type communication (MMTC) can be used to enable the transfer of data back and forth between a large number of IoT sensors and actuators implemented in smart buildings. Alternatively, critical machine type communication (CMTC) offered by 5G can be used in Toyota’s smart city for applications such as autonomous vehicles that require accuracy and reliability in the data transmitted from different points across the city without lag or delay.
In theory, the adoption of 5G, AI, IoT, and other new technologies will enable the realization of truly smart cities. But, adopting these technologies in a real-world environment can be complex, requiring extensive tests to understand the complexities and maximize their benefits. Toyota’s CEO, Toyoda, believes that we all have a duty “to do our part to help make the world a better place. Woven City is one small but hopefully significant step towards fulfilling that promise.”