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One App for everything

NEC’s vision for future cities

When it comes to enhancing the lives of everyday inhabitants in a future city, perhaps one of the first things that come to mind is “convenience”. We might think about flying cars, autonomous vehicles, or remote surgeries. But to truly build a city based on the Internet of Things (IoT) connected by 5G and powered by state-of-the-art technology, we’ll first need to look at some successful case studies.

That brings us to Mori Building in Tokyo, Japan. The people behind the iconic skyscraper are taking on the challenge of promoting digital transformation (DX) and a new vision of the city through the Hills Network.

Here’s the idea: With just a single app and a single unique user ID, people who work and live in the city as well as visitors, can access and pay for an integrated network of services throughout the city. This includes public transport, access to government and banking services, entrance to their homes and workplaces, payments at participating merchants etc.

In this feature, we’ll be speaking to Mr. Shinya Kitao of Mori Building's Town Management Division, who led the project, and Mr. Kenki Takagi of NEC's Digital Service Solutions Division, who supported its construction. According to them, “The essence of a city lies in the people who live there.”

One ID, multiple services

Mr. Kitao:

Mori Building has developed and operates complex urban development projects such as Ark Hills, Roppongi Hills, and Omotesando Hills. At these locations, we offer various services, including offices, residential buildings, hotels, restaurants, and museums. To support these diverse activities, Mori Building has created the "Hills Network," which provides integrated services by combining IDs issued for each facility and service. This ensures a seamless experience for customers who work, live, or visit the Hills.

Mr. Takagi:

We needed to find a solution that connected various activities and supported the residents and visitors with a single ID that would improve convenience, offer a deeper understanding of individuals, and create new experience value.

Mr. Kitao:

That’s right. By using a single ID, we can observe the behavior and interests of workers, residents, and visitors. Analyzing this data helps us provide valuable information according to their preferences and deliver personalized services. This makes working, living, and playing at Hills a lot more convenient.

Digital innovations for people-centric cities

Mr. Kitao:

What we truly wanted was to create a city that was centred around its people – what they need, what they want, and what’s most useful for them.

Remaking all the individual systems already in place was unrealistic from a cost and schedule perspective. Hence, we decided to keep using the existing systems and connect them to form a single platform. NEC provided us with NEC Smart Connectivity, a solution that enables IDs to be connected safely and securely. The foundation for the Hills Network would not have been possible without this know-how.

Step by step towards the future

Mr. Kitao:

The Hills Network implementation consists of two steps, with Step 1 commencing in March 2021. During this stage, we created a single sign-on mechanism that enables users to access individual services without logging in using multiple IDs or applications. By this time, we were already providing personalized information through the platform.

Step 2 started in September the same year. Here, we expanded the range of available services. Specifically, we were able to provide more useful features for office workers, and also included restaurant and event reservations. The Hills Network's functionalities will continue to evolve alongside the development of the city and its facilities.

Partners to building a more connected world

Mr. Kitao:

The Toranomon-Azabudai Project redevelopment plan is currently underway. Our goal is to use digital platforms to provide various services in the new town – connecting ARK Hills, Roppongi Hills, and Toranomon Hills with the Hills Network – to create a new cultural economic zone, and make Tokyo the most attractive city in the world.

Mr. Takagi:

NEC definitely wants to support this vision. We are currently developing "Urban Real Estate DX", which provides multiple innovations for the digital transformation of real estate companies. The plan is to integrate visualizing customer contact points and using data with the data connection function. We want to work together and climb the "mountain" to reach the top as a partner.

At NEC, we aim to share our expertise across various industries, such as distribution, services, infrastructure, and healthcare, to contribute to the broader development of society. Many business leaders are looking to create value through data integration and utilization, and we hope to support them in creating a new society. And the first milestone is the pioneering project of Mori Building.

Translated by NEC based on the Wisdom article.