Cisco is a Silicon Valley company that makes routers, and famously helped generate the "great firewall of China" to aid that country's government with internet censorship. Now they're creating an instant, high tech city in Korea, controlled entirely via internet.
Searching for a new business model, Cisco has turned to high tech city-building. Their beta test will be Korean city Songdo, which will be completely controlled via computer networks. Everything from cars to heating systems will be online, and the city built for a million people will also come pre-wired with videoconferencing capabilities called "Telepresence." Yes, you read that right: this instant city will come with 1984-esque video surveillance tech that sounds like Big Brother's Telescreens.
According to the San Jose Mercury News:
It's easy to see why Cisco is intoxicated with the possibilities: According to a study by investment bank CIBC World Markets, governments are expected to spend $35 trillion in public works projects during the next 20 years. In Songdo alone, Cisco sold 20,000 units of its advanced videoconferencing system called Telepresence - a billion-dollar order - almost before the ink had dried on the contract, said developer Stan Gale, the chief visionary of the project.
"Everything will be connected - buildings, cars, energy - everything," said Wim Elfrink, Cisco's Bangalore, India-based chief globalization officer. "This is the tipping point. When we start building cities with technology in the infrastructure, it's beyond my imagination what that will enable."
The audacious plan is rising up from former mud flats along the Yellow Sea. Cisco and New York City-based Gale International hope the privately funded $35 billion Songdo project leads to at least 20 similar developments in China, India, Vietnam and other countries in coming years. Much of Songdo will be completed in 2014.
"Five hundred cities are needed in China; 300 are needed in India," said managing partner Gale, an exuberant, arm-waving developer who believes Songdo will be his legacy.
So many people are moving from country towns into cities in Korea and China that these nations are looking for freshly-built, tech-ready "cities in a box" to deal with the situation. The idea of an instant city is intriguing, especially when you consider that Cisco pledges to make the cities' carbon footprints only a third of a typical city. But given Cisco's track record aiding countries with internet censorship, I can't help but wonder whether this isn't a really, really bad situation waiting to happen.