Taylor Burrell Barnett

South Korea’s smart city program


Jeremy Versaico
Graduate Consultant

27 Jun 2023

How can digital technology change they way we develop our movement networks in highly populated cities?

In this article, Jeremy shares some insights from his study tour in South Korea with a highlight on innovative transportation systems and how they implement smart city programs into its urban development.

During June I was fortunate to take part in a research study tour of South Korea through the NCP funding program. Led by Courtney Babb and Parisa Izadpanahi from Curtin School of Design and the Built Environment , we have been undertaking research into how South Korea implements smart city programs into its urban development.

My specific focus area has been on transportation and mobility, and how the challenges of developing movement networks in such a dense and highly populated city like Seoul are made more robust through the implementation of digital technology. There are two key strategies which seek to achieve this, which are integrated systems which utilise the collection of big data, and machine learning which automates and responds to certain external inputs.

This appeared to really come together at the Seoul Transport Operation and Information Service (TOPIS), where a demonstration was shown which details how the various transportation systems integrate together, which include providing accurate and real-time traffic data to commuters, which suggests alternative routes, and going beyond that, automatically diverts traffic when the system detects events like a break down or crash on a major road.

Over 821 million pieces of data is collected each day by the TOPIS system, which includes vehicle movements and speed, heavy rail capacity, and bus timings. Data is collected through commuters using the transit card (which has a 100% use rate on public transport), to understand transit movements, and to identify blockages or services which either need further infrastructure capacity, or are being underutilised.

Furthermore, TOPIS includes several autonomous driving testing areas, with one being Sangam. While these busses still have an assistant driver for unforeseen events, the fact that they are integrated into the digital transport infrastructure means that these vehicles are receiving real-time data on the state of the road ahead, including traffic, incidents, as well as the upcoming phases on the next set of traffic lights.

This only scratches the surface of how TOPIS seeks to utilise digital technology to enhance transportation to not only be more efficient, but more user-friendly.

You may like to watch this 15 minute video which shows just how intricate this system is.

There is so much that can be learned from this exemplar, and while the context of Perth needs to be considered, there are a plethora of opportunities to have small wins along the way as we try to make our extremely long city a more efficient place to move through.


Jeremy Versaico
Graduate Consultant