How smart cities could improve quality of life in Southeast Asia

Contributor 28 Jul 2018

map of southeast asia vector crop

Southeast Asia is ripe for problem-solving, smart-city tech. Visual society/Shutterstock

From emerging champs to agile seedbeds, ASEAN economic centres are ripe test grounds for innovative urban solutions.

By Property Report

Smart city technologies have matured to a point where they are ready to address the most pressing issues related to urbanisation in Southeast Asia, a new discussion paper released this week by McKinsey Global Institute contended.

Opportunities to make the built environment smarter in Southeast Asia are now valued up to USD26 billion, as smart solutions like precast, prefab, and 3-D printing; drone-enabled construction survey; 5-D BIM; and IoT-enabled construction sites continue to gain traction, according to McKinsey estimates.

Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian market for smart mobility applications such as traffic command and control centres; intelligent traffic lights; real-time road navigation; and dynamic smart parking is now worth as much as USD70 billion.

The next generation of smart city technologies can improve many quality-of-life indicators by 10 to 30 percent, the paper noted. “They can save time, improve public health and safety, create a cleaner and more sustainable environment, and foster a sense of community and civic engagement.”

Among other benefits, smart solutions could eliminate up to some 270,000 kilotons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually — equal to the total emissions generated by Laos.

They can avert up to 5,000 unnatural deaths, equivalent to 50 percent of Malaysia’s yearly total, and reduce the region’s disease burden by 12 million disability-adjusted life years (DALY).

Smart solutions also offer up to USD16 billion in savings on living costs annually as well as save up to eight million man-years in commuting time.

They can also generate up to 1.5 million new jobs, equivalent to up to 30 percent of the workforce in Jakarta, Bangkok, and Manila.

More: For Asia’s super-affluent, luxury now means smart and green

Having installed ultra-high-speed communication networks and many smart applications covering every domain of urban life, Singapore qualified as the only “smart city sandbox” in the region.

Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, and Manila were classed as “prime movers,” cities where simply retrofitting existing infrastructure systems with smart technologies can optimise their performance and extend their lifespan.

The sheer scale of prime movers makes smart city initiatives viable even at modest levels of adoption, unlike “emerging champions” like Cebu, Davao, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Yangon which require large-scale investment, especially from private sector partners.  

Both prime movers and emerging champions have “big potential to deliver results and touch millions of lives,” McKinsey stated.

Meanwhile, “agile seedbeds” like Bandar Seri Begawan, Banyuwangi, Da Nang, Luang Prabang, Phuket, Siem Reap, and Vientiane can pilot and scale up smart city applications targeted toward their main industries.

“Because these cities may have swaths of greenfield land, master-planned districts that are built smart from the start can help set a strong foundation,” McKinsey stated.


This article was originally published on For more stories from Asia’s most trusted and enduring luxury real estate, architecture and design publication, visit


You may also like these articles

Singaporean companies ink 14 belt and road deals in Zhejiang

Xihoumen bridge in Zhejiang province, China. lightrain/ShutterstockSome of Singapore's biggest developers sign MOUs to develop townships in the Chinese province. By Property Report Singapore-based com

Continue Reading8 May 2018

Singaporean condo on North Korean border enjoys boost from Trump-Kim summit

US President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un met in Singapore on 12 June. kirkchai benjarusameeros/ShutterstockDiplomatic talks have seen this little-known Chinese town enjo

Continue Reading13 Jun 2018

New Zealand: We don't want foreign buyers — except Singaporeans?

View from the Auckland Sky Tower. mbrand85/ShutterstockSingapore nationals to be exempted from controversial law banning home sales to foreigners. By Property ReportThe New Zealand government has anno

Continue Reading20 Jun 2018