October 28, 2022

Alberta Stories

A Trip to Tomorrow: How Alberta Can Support Japan’s Smart City Efforts 

As daily life becomes more intimately connected with the technologies of tomorrow, and sustainability remains top-of-mind, some regions have taken the initiative to begin incorporating future-focused, long-term thinking into the heart of their urban and city development plans.  

Japan, a country known for embracing new-age technologies, has been working to shape how cities of the future are built through their domestic “smart city” initiatives.  

These series of projects aim to create new communities in Japan that are constructed with sustainable infrastructure, and where decision making is data-driven. This framework is designed to address traditional urbanization and societal issues, from general logistics to public health, while also being highly adaptable.  

Last month, Invest Alberta joined the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, Edmonton Global, and other regional partners in welcoming a delegation of senior business leaders and investors from the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) to the Edmonton International Airport (YEG), where they were shown what Alberta has to offer to their smart cities efforts, from clean energy to the latest advancements in logistics technology.  

This meeting is part of ongoing collaboration between Alberta and Japan in exploring future technologies. Last year, YEG announced their collaboration with Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) and the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN) to develop smart transportation projects.  

“YEG was pleased to collaborate with Invest Alberta in attracting this high-level delegation of business leaders and investors from Japan, led by the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This is a testament to the high impact our regional partners can drive when we all work together and showcase why Alberta is the destination of choice for cross-cutting opportunities in innovation, business development, and investment.” 

  • Myron Keehn, Vice President – Air Service, Business Development, ESG and Stakeholder Relations, Edmonton International Airport 
Invest Alberta COO Lynette Tremblay Speaks to the NCCI Delegation

Clean energy solutions are an important component of smart city infrastructure. With carbon and other legacy fuel sources being slowly phased out in nations such as Japan, the need for clean energy alternatives is increasingly important. Some smart city projects in Japan have already begun tackling this challenge, particularly through hydrogen fuel. Toyota’s “Woven City,” announced in 2020 to be built at the base of Mount Fuji, will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. 

In this, a partnership opportunity arises between Alberta and Japan. The pacific nation’s growing demand for hydrogen aligns with the Canadian province’s opportunity to be a leading hydrogen exporter. Alberta’s large and mature oil and gas sector allows for opportunities to produce blue hydrogen at a great scale, all while cutting back on carbon emissions.  

Hydrogen is relatively inexpensive to produce in Canada, and with provincial and federal government support through legislation and incentives, Alberta can be a main provider of hydrogen fuel for Japanese investors in their smart city initiatives. In recent years, YEG has shown its support for the hydrogen industry in the province, notably through their contributions to the Edmonton Hydrogen Hub initiative in terms of research, development, and implementation processes of hydrogen energy technologies.  

Japan’s smart city projects are also built to improve overall social well-being. An example is the challenge of delivering supplies, resources, and goods to and from hard-to-reach rural areas in Japan. In recent years, drone technology has been explored to tackle this issue due to their small size, environmental benefits, and remote-pilot functions.  

Onlookers observe one of Air Canada and Drone Delivery Canada’s delivery drones

During the NCCI’s visit to YEG, the delegation was able to see how Alberta could support drone solutions. This included a demonstration of Air Canada and Drone Delivery Canada’s specialized logistics drone, which is designed to transport small, sensitive cargo with low costs and quick delivery times. Aerium Analytics, an Albertan drone company, was also able to showcase their RoBird model, which was created to safely dissuade bird populations from rising in areas with high levels of aerial traffic, while also being able to track and gather data used for a wide range of purposes.  

“Events like this, facilitated by Invest Alberta, are a real game changer, allowing companies like ours to showcase why Alberta is on the cutting edge of innovation, one of the best places in the world to do business, and a leading destination of choice for investment attraction [and] entry point for the North American market.” 

  • Jordan Cicoria, CEO, AERIUM Analytics 
Photo: A demonstration of AERIUM Analytics’ specialized “Robird” drone

Ongoing collaborations with the right partners are essential for Alberta’s economy to grow. In this instance, Japan’s desire to build sustainable, tech-driven, and people-focused cities aligns with Alberta’s ability to supply them with the tools needed to succeed. Alberta can become an impactful player in building the cities of tomorrow, and through collaborating on innovative projects with international partners, the province will set a bright path for its future. 

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