A Look At Korea’s Smart-City Ambitions At CES


LAS VEGAS–A large screen tucked away in the basement of the Sands convention center here offered passerby news they couldn’t immediately use: an array of live stats about life and business in Seoul, South Korea.

That Smart City Platform for Mayor dashboard is displaying vital signs for a city some 6,000 miles west of here as part of Korea’s CES presence. It provides such data points as the current air quality, traffic congestion, the progress of municipal infrastructure projects, and the state of the startup ecosystem.

“In 2016, the mayor received data by document, but he wanted to get the data by computer,” said Seoul metropolitan government representative Weon Bo Sim through an interpreter. He said this dashboard makes a total of 62 civic stats public and remains unique in the Republic of Korea.

As in any other large city, traffic dominates both that dashboard and other smart-cities entrants scattered across Seoul’s exhibit space in the Eureka Park startup exhibition, one of the faster-growing parts of the CES trade show here.

For example, the Smart City Platform screen shows images of individual cars–to be analyzed with image-recognition software to identify older and larger cars that will pollute more.

Around the corner, a startup called Parking Friends showed off its own solution to Seoul’s painful parking: a circular sensor with a five-year battery life that’s made to be screwed into the pavement that detects the presence of a vehicle via microwave. The idea is to make it easier for citizens to rent out their reserved spots instead of leaving them empty part of the day; other drivers can reserve a space with a smartphone app.

The company says it has this system deployed in about 1,000 spots, with 15,000 more aimed for in 2020.

Replacing trips made in automobiles with ones made in smaller vehicles is another remedy for traffic. The battery-electric, app-rented scooters that have flooded many cities in the U.S. have provided one such alternative to the auto, but their random disposal on sidewalks has also annoyed residents. (Las Vegas has yet to license e-scooter services in part because of that concern.)

A startup named Dash showed off its own fix for that scooter side effect: docks to hold and charge scooters, much like the ones that bikeshare services use to secure bicycles when not in use. Dash intern Shinae Oh explained the advantage of this precisely: “The people cannot make random drops.” She said that in early tests around Seoul, scooter renters returned 99.5% of them to these docks.

Dash aims to let other scooter services employ its docks and is considering a peer-to-peer option in which people could rent out their own purchased e-scooters.

Should one car collide with another, yet another exhibitor in Seoul’s Eureka Park space showed off a new way for motorists to warn other drivers to avoid their stranded cars and then summon help. Kono Corporation’s S Light is a roughly two-foot wand with a series of bright, programmable LEDs that swings rapidly back and forth.

(Pro tip: Do not let your fingertips intersect with its path.)

That motion allows this gadget to draw out a message in the air–“Help,” “SOS,” a warning triangle icon, or hazard arrows. Its internal battery should keep it illuminated for two hours–which presumably would be more than enough time for the accident to show up on Seoul’s Smart City Platform screen and draw the attention of first responders.

Filed in General. Read more about CES, CES 2020, Editorspick and Korea.

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