Feature Story

Innovation has the smart city of Songdo living in the future

by Stephanie Chan


Cisco implements its own “living lab” into the South Korean smart city, helping create the newest innovations.

The city of Songdo, South Korea was a metropolis built with a purpose. With looming high-rises and a sparkling skyline, one of the world’s first “smart cities” aims to be entirely connected to technology. In the span between the year 2000 and 2003, South Korea filled 1,500 acres of land with sand in anticipation for Songdo, its newest International Business District. More than a decade and $35 billion later, the city is gaining traction with businesses and residents, quickly becoming a model for other smart city hopefuls around the world. 

What is known as “The City of the Future” is now equipped with an eco-friendly design, plenty of green spaces, and a lower energy footprint. Sensors in the city monitor temperature, energy use, and traffic flow.

See also: Go #InsideInnovation at Cisco Innovation Center Songdo

" Built with invention and development in mind, Songdo is truly a living, breathing lab." More than anything else, this new city serves as a testing ground for what the future may have in store. Startups and companies like Cisco find Songdo the perfect clean slate for developing technologies. Built with invention and development in mind, Songdo is truly a living, breathing lab.


Cisco’s Innovation Center in Songdo partners with universities, startups, and developers in a mission to create the best innovative solutions. An effort in the space of the Internet of Things, Songdo’s Innovation Center is currently working on solutions in healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and more.

“The nine global innovation centers are our hubs for innovation and play an essential role in executing on the five pillars of our corporate strategy: Build, Buy, Partner, Invest and Co-Develop. Such initiatives like the Living Lab by Cisco’s Innovation Center in Songdo is very disruptive and innovative. Together with our vibrant eco-system of customers, partners, startups, academia and developers, we help create new markets and transformational digital business opportunities for the benefit of all," says Maciej Kranz, Vice President of Corporate Strategic Innovation Group.

Driven by the Cisco Innovation Center in Songdo, a living lab called the “IoT (Internet of Things) Cube” debuted to the public in November 2015. The IoT Cube is a hub—a physical structure adorned in sleek glass windows and orange design and located on one of the busiest shopping streets in Songdo—where businesses and startups can pilot their developing solutions right to the public on the street. Cisco infrastructure was included in the IoT Cube, including solutions like Wi-Fi, fog computing, and security.  

This lab is then able to gather real-time data, feedback and analytics from Songdo’s real citizens, making the IoT Cube an essential testing ground for all of the city’s future solutions and innovations. This constant influx of information allows for the improvement of the smart city.

"The IoT Cube is all about user-centric evaluation. Real user feedback allows solutions to be placed back into the real environment," Says Ben Chung, the center leader for Songdo’s Cisco Innovation Center

Songdo’s living lab in the IoT Cube is a quick method to find the best solutions to the public’s needs. This first location of the IoT Cube on one of Songdo’s shopping streets will be followed by the construction of two other IoT Cubes within the city, allowing for even more data to be gathered in strategic locations. This will only aid in helping Songdo continuously evolve as one of the smartest cities in the world. 

Digital disruption is impacting all industries, cities and countries. Innovation and agility have become vitally important in the digital age

Cisco’s Ross Fowler, VP, Enterprise Segment and Digital Transformation, Asia Pacific and Japan

“Both governments and businesses require data analytics to respond effectively to the requirements of today’s digital citizens and to make fast business decisions.  The living lab that Cisco set up together with our partners in Songdo is a great initiative in getting real time user-centric data for analysis to fuel innovation, increase business agility and seize the opportunities in today’s fast-changing market.”