In the two years that followed, the Songdo IBD's first-phase build-out continued. On a parallel path, using construction of five Cisco buildings in Bangalore as a test bed, Cisco was establishing its Smart+Connected Communities enterprise with the purpose of providing integrated, citywide technology solutions.

Gale and Cisco's chairman, John Chambers, reconnected in 2008 and ultimately agreed to a partnership. It paves the way for Cisco to form a living laboratory for smart cities in the Songdo IBD, with the project serving as a test site. The goal is to export the U.Life Solutions services to developments in Asia.

Cisco's Menon says that getting all of a building's systems to work together in a seamless manner "is not a trivial challenge." That's the reason Cisco tried it out first on its Bangalore campus.


NSIC had planned to complete Songdo IBD in 2015. The target year is currently 2016. "As with any real estate development of this scale, each parcel is developed based on market demand and economic factors," says Murcott.

NSIC is delaying some residential projects due to the recession. "We have taken a studied approach, working closely with the Incheon authorities, to assure that the new development does not exceed demand and potentially soften the market," says Murcott.

Gale—a developer-owner—sees Songdo IBD as a model for U.S.-Korean trade collaboration . "Our conversation with multinational corporations is really not about real estate—it's about business opportunities," says Murcott. That's why there is celebration now that both the U.S. Congress and the Korean National Assembly have ratified the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile, the managed smart-city concept already has spilled outside the virtual fences of the Songdo IBD. On Nov. 22, Cisco announced it acquired a minority stake in a subsidiary of KT, a South Korean telecommunications services company called KT Smart Service (KTSS). The smart infrastructure services company will develop an integrated approach to management of public utilities and services, such as water, security and traffic. KTSS' first customer is the city of Incheon.

The U.Life model is also spreading beyond South Korea's borders. Gale and its planning team, including Cisco, already have developed a master plan for a new town in China that integrates technology from the very beginning. That development is not going forward at this time. But Gale and its team are optimistic that others will.

"One example of a city that achieves even half of its goals serves as a tremendous spur to the next generation," says KPF's Von Klemperer. "Songdo gave us faith."

jetway to asia The Incheon Free Economic Zone (right) includes three free-trade zones, each proximal to the 10-year-old international airport, for easy export of goods. Incheon is trying to attract global companies, seeking to break into markets in China, Japan or other Asian countries to set up Asian operations in one of the zones.