Technology is getting more and more prevalent that it has become firmly entrenched in our daily lives. Just take a cursory look at what’s around you and you will immediately notice how ubiquitous technology has become over the last few years. Practically everyone has a mobile phone (even children have them!) that can take pictures, surf the internet and retrieve email and we haven’t touched on video calls that, a decade ago, only existed in the realm of science fiction. People who go in cafes don’t bring newspapers or books anymore. They have their laptops, portable netbooks or their ebook readers. Access to the internet is available practically anywhere thanks to WiFi, which brings a whole new level of meaning to the word “connected.” There’s no stopping the relentless march of technology that all we can do is brace ourselves to what the future will bring.
But even though technological advancements are happening all over the world there are some cities that can be considered as ahead of the curve in terms of technological acceptance and immersion. These are the cities that have made technology one of the building blocks of its growth both economically and culturally. These cities have incorporated technology to such a degree that it is beginning to define itself in terms of how it has melded itself to the digital age.
The South Korean capital is probably the most technologically integrated in the world. Seoul boasts of having one of the fastest commercially available broadband speeds on the planet. And the level of immersion in households is also among the highest – with four of five households getting broadband internet of up to 100Mbps for just $40 a month. Even mobile communications is tops in Seoul with nine out of ten people owning mobile phones. Leading technological advancements are also being developed and released in Seoul mainly because Samsung and LG, two of the top consumer electronics makers in the world, are headquartered there. This means Koreans are probably getting these advanced technologies first.
Seoul is also leading the world in terms of convergence. It is the first city to fully explore digital mobile TV broadcasting. This technology was launched way back in 2005 and at present more than two million Koreans are now subscribed to the service – watching TV on their phones at practically any place they want.
Seoul is a great city to visit, there are many Seoul hotels to choose from – from economy to luxury hotels.
If technology is the subject, Tokyo is probably the first city that any person will think of first. And for good reason. Tokyo is one of the most advanced cities in the world and probably the first truly technology driven city way before these new technologies were developed. Even before the advent of the internet, Tokyo has gained a worldwide reputation for being the source of new technologies. It is often said that if you want to find out hat kind of technology will be popular in a few years, go to Tokyo and look at what the people there are using and what the stores are selling.
It will be interesting to note that the current 3G mobile technology that the rest of the world is enjoying for the last couple of years has been used in Japan during the early years of the decade. Japan turned the phone into a real multimedia convergence device that can practically do anything. The fact that you can buy from vending machines using mobile phones is just the kind of ubiquitous application of technology that not many countries have done.
Technological advancements in Tokyo is also helped by the number of leading electronics manufacturers based in Tokyo and in other parts of Japan. It’s the reason they get a taste of the first deliveries of gaming consoles, mobile phones, electronics equipment and even down to the mundane everyday items that you wouldn’t even give second thoughts to – for example, electronic toilet bowls that warm the seat and give a gentle stream of water to wash your bottom. Only in Japan, indeed.
Technology is also well integrated when you visit Tokyo and stay in any one of the hotels in the city. A Tokyo hotel will usually have a number of high tech facilities.
The European city of Stockholm in Sweden has also distinguished itself as a technological city. The impact of technology in Sweden in general and Stockholm in particular has resulted in a big shift in educational priorities in Sweden’s youth. A significant majority of kids in Sweden now want to become engineers instead of doctors or lawyers. Science and technology has firmly taken hold of the whole country.
Sweden is one of the top countries in Europe in terms of broadband speed and penetration. And this has significantly impacted on the way technology is new being used in the city. For example, convergence efforts has now resulted in a unique application of broadband speeds, the internet, mobile telephony and e-commerce. Shoppers can now buy groceries using their mobile phones. Each item in the grocery has an RFID tag. A shopper will just have to scan all of the tags in his shopping cart and after this is done a unique ID number is given. The shopper will only need to SMS the ID number to a phone number and the groceries are automatically charged to the phone bill.
Stockholm officials are hard at work in making Stockholm one of the leading ICT capitals in the European region. And they are succeeding in that task. A growing number of IT companies are now holding office in the city and the list is growing. Government officials are hard at work in ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place to make the city more attractive for tech companies.
Stockholm is a great place to visit since it is a great jump off point when visiting the rest of Scandinavia. There are a number of great hotels in Stockholm that you can stay in.
Among the cities in the world that is slowly making its presence felt as a technological capital is the city of Tallinn in Estonia. Tallinn’s proximity to other progressive cities in Scandinavia has benefitted in tremendously in establishing its IT roots. In fact, Tallinn boasts of being one of the most wired cities in the region. The Tallinn residents are quite pampered in terms of connectivity since practically every place – whether it be the park, bars, pubs or hotels – have free WiFi. In fact, it is quite common to see road signs that indicate the nearest free WiFi hotspots in the area.
Tallinn has also earned the distinction as being the first city in the world to hold elections online. Voters merely swiped their smartcard on a card reader attached to their computer and then voted securely on a website. The same smartcard also allows residents to view any data the government may have on them. Taxes in Tallinn are now paid in the same way and because the whole system is linked to banks and other public institutions, any deductible amounts are automatically made.
Tallinn is already being marketed as a Silicon Valley of the Scandinavian region. And it is gaining a lot of success and recognition for its efforts. In fact, Skype is one of the most successful start-ups to originate in Tallinn.
Tallinn hotels are quite numerous and because of the city’s initiatives practically all of them have free WiFi.
If you are on the lookout for a true, built-from-the-ground-up technology city then all you need to remember is Songdong City. This new city is being developed 60 kilometers from Seoul on a vast 600 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea. If we’re talking about technologically advanced Songdong may just take the cake. It is the first city that will have its residential, medical and business sectors linked.
The key to everything would be a smartcard. The smartcard will be used as a housekey but can also be used in accessing the subway, paying for parking, buying movie tickets or even borrowing free public bicycles. The whole city will be pollution-free because conventional gas powered cars will not be allowed inside. Instead, visitors and residents will use the aforementioned bicycles and also electric smart cars and public transports. Over 10,000 such cars will be plying the routes of the city.
Fixed line fiber optics will be wired into all homes as well as high speed wireless in all other areas of Songdong. In one of the more inspired aspects of the city, the government’s IT infrastructure will be tied to the home networks of residents, which means residents can have access to their files wherever they are. These files can be accessed through their computers, mobile phones and other portable devices. It can also be accessed through government provided city kiosks and public screens. Even the garbage will be electronically advanced in Songdong. Sensors in garbage can will automatically alert garbage collection teams to empty the trash, while RFID can be used to credit residents if they help in recycling efforts.
With Songdong due to be completed in 2010, the future is truly just around the corner. You can already check on the progress of Songdong when you visit Seoul since it is just a short drive away. You can stay in one of the many hotels in Seoul that will fit your budget and needs.