Often in modern society, “smart” technology is defined as technology that has access to the internet. However, “smart” technology can have many different definitions. One such definition is the ability for a technology to self-monitor and respond to certain stimuli. Another, which I choose to adopt for this discussion, is any technology that is more beneficial, economical, or convenient than the technology it replaces.
Japan is well known for their transportation network; their train systems are fast, reliable, and convenient. It is no surprise that they are constantly improving their technologies. Japan has prepaid cards can be used almost universally in the transportation realm and even in some non-transit applications. The cards are applicable all around Japan, making transit easy and accessible. The more convenient public transit is, the more people will use it, and the more sustainable the system is. The cards are also becoming compatible with newer smart phones, allowing the phone to replace the card. The amount of information available at the train stations also makes the stations more convenient and user friendly. In larger train stations, there are interactive screens that will display destinations inside the station and directions on how to get there. The information screens are extremely helpful to non-locals and keep the stations running efficiently.
During my stay in Japan, I’ve also noticed automatic fixtures are very common. Automated air conditioning, lights, sinks, and toilets are conventional in America, but in Japan they are almost universal. These devices are energy saving by nature. However, Japan has automatic doors that don’t have a sensor. Instead the doors have a button that you can push, and they automatically open. This is better than the standard automatic doors since they are much less likely to be triggered accidentally. Another notable aspect of Japan is the universal free Wi-Fi. The widespread Wi-Fi makes it easy to get around the city, talk to locals, and find information. The most unfamiliar characteristic of Japanese smart technology is the sinks resting atop the toilets. Once the toilet is flushed, the sink tap turns on, allowing the user to wash their hands while the runoff water fills the toilet tank. This significantly reduces water usage.
Even with all of these smart technologies, Japan could benefit from smart technologies that currently exist in America. Japan has a large issue surrounding plastic consumption; everything is wrapped in plastic, sometimes in two or three different wrappers. Smart garbage technology could make this trash more manageable or even reduce the amount of trash altogether. In the Atlanta airports, trashcans are self-compacting. Such garbage bins could automatically crush cans and bottles, reducing the space they require. An alternative to compacting garbage cans is “Pay as You Throw” garbage system. With these trash cans, a fee is required to deposit trash. These disposal bins would not be effective in many countries because people would litter instead of paying a small fee. However, in Japan, littering is nonexistent. Having to pay to throw garbage away may reduce the amount of disposables consumed. Another smart technology growing in the U.S.A. are water fountains with reusable bottle refilling capabilities. Japan has very few water fountains, and none I have encountered have the tap for water bottles. These fountains could promote reusable water bottles reduce the amount of plastic water bottles purchased. A final smart technology that Japan could benefit from is found on Georgia Tech’s own campus. On west campus, just outside the Love Building, is a picnic bench shaded by two solar panels situated above the table. The picnic table is also equipped with four outlets. Japan has many parks and outdoor areas where such tables could be placed, generating clean energy and using that energy to charge peoples devices.
People all around the world value convenience. Smart technology consistently makes life more convenient and is constantly evolving. Japan has many desirable smart technologies that also make the country more sustainable, but they could also benefit from observing and implementing smart technologies from other countries.