Smart cities in Asia: A Thailand perspective

Smart cities in Asia: A Thailand perspective
Thailand is among the nations in Asia that are active in smart city development. Part of the Thai government's Thailand 4.0 Initiative, smart city projects are being planned in various parts of the country to make municipalities cleaner, more energy-efficient and more livable.

Smart city projects are part of the Thailand 4.0 Initiative, which aims to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. According to the Thai government, Thailand 4.0 is the culmination of previous economic initiatives targeting agriculture (Thailand 1.0), light industry (Thailand 2.0) and advanced industry (Thailand 3.0). All these culminate in Thailand 4.0, which calls for the use of technology to improve the country's economy, social well-being, human values and environmental protection. Specifically, the initiative aims to increase research and development expenditure to 4 percent of GDP, increase economic growth rate to full capacity rate of 5 to 6 percent within five years and increase national income per capita from US$5,470 in 2014 to $15,000 by 2032, according to the Thai government.

Smart City Initiatives

Smart city projects, then, naturally become a part of Thailand 4.0 in the government's effort to make Thai cities more environmental-friendly, energy-efficient and livable via the use of technology.

To this end, Thailand has set some pretty ambitious targets. This year, the government has raised its goal of creating three smart cities, namely Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Phuket, to seven by including Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao, and the country plans to build no less than 100 smart cities within the next two decades, according to the web portal Investvine.

Ultimately, these projects are intended to improve the quality of life of residents living in Thai cities. How technologies are used to address issues in three major domains, namely transportation, environment and safety, are discussed as follows.


As in all other metropolises, transportation presents a major challenge in Thai cities. This problem is especially noticeable in Bangkok, which was ranked by Tomtom Traffic Index as having the world's No. 2 worst traffic congestion.

To reduce traffic congestions, municipal authorities have turned to various solutions, including electronic toll collection by way of CCTV and real-time information delivery to people's smart devices, so they can plan their travels accordingly. “The Ministry of Transport attempts to integrate many mechanisms to mitigate traffic congestion, such as reverse-lane traffic during rush hour, and ITS,” said Ekapon Akarapanitkorn, Civil Engineer at the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning under the Thai Ministry of Transport.


To ensure that citizens live in a clean and unpolluted environment, Thai cities again turn to technology to get actionable intelligence. One example is Phuket, designated as Thailand's first smart city, where officials have installed various sensors that measure carbon dioxide levels, water levels, humidity, temperatures and other factors. The data is transmitted via NB-IoT to the smart city data platform on the backend where the information is processed and turned into insights that help operators make related plans and policies accordingly.


Maintaining the security and safety of city residents is of utmost importance, and smart technologies are used in this regard as well. Phuket, again, serves as an example. According to information provided by the Thai Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA,) the following have been deployed to maintain the city's safety: some 1,300 video surveillance cameras with feeds processed at a main CCTV command center; license plate recognition and facial recognition systems that have thus far detected more than 59.38 million plates and 1.49 million faces; and a vessel tracking and monitoring system enabled with dozens of radars to keep track on boats coming in and out of the island.

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