In this in-depth view of China’s Smart Cities, we will see how China plans to tackle the biggest problem of modern cities and systematically support and improve the lives of all its citizens.
Overpopulation is becoming a serious issue. Especially in countries like China.
General introduction to the future Smart City
It’s estimated that by 2025 China will have more than 1 billion people living in urban areas. To sustain this incredibly large urban population, China has invested heavily in Smart Cities. There are more than 200 pilot smart cities and they offer us the chance to research how technology will impact our daily lives. This will allow for us to apply the lessons learned to future development and further refine what such futuristic concepts will require to function.
Many issues plague large, modern cities: traffic complexity, ever-increasing energy and water consumption, urban management. In China, where Urban growth affects more than 2/3 of the population, the country is concentrating and accelerating the adoption of IT. China is also heavily investing in the M2M (machine-to-machine) market – the technology which wirelessly interconnects machines, devices and appliances together in an intelligent network. The 2014 GSMA Intelligence report, saw China with 50 million M2M connections, followed by 32 million in the US and 9.3 million in Japan. The Chinese government has shown incredibly strong support and that has contributed greatly to the Chinese dominance in Smart City innovations. By August 2013 China’s Housing Ministry and Urban and Rural Development (MOHURD) announced over 190 national smart pilot projects, which included many core cities, towns, districts and counties. After 3-5 years of construction, MOHURD will assess the state of the pilots and rate them along 3 levels. The national evaluation model, which will be finished by the end of 2014 will emphasize a smart city infrastructure, built on a newer generation of IT. This will also feature social and industrial applications aimed at improving urban life and management. November 2013 saw China and the EU launch the China-EU Smart City Cooperation, which added 15 more pilot cities. By January 2015 China has already more than 200 smart city pilots under construction.
Despite some pilots making very impressive gains in smart technology and intelligent planning, it’s noted that many obstacles still require more intense cooperation and a larger-scale of implementation to complete. There is a lack of consensus when it comes to the definition of a Smart City. Everyone can agree they are built on intelligent sensing technology and decision platforms characterized by the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing. Everyone also can agree that these cities offer immense enrichment when it comes to material and cultural life. This is accompanied by social and economic progress. All these factors make it very hard for academics and experts to reach a mutual definition of “smart”. Evaluating the scale on such immense projects is also a great obstacle.
A large picture can be formed very hard given the macro nature of smart city development and the unevenly scattered smart projects. The transition from Digital to Smart is no easy task. Many people need to understand that digital cities are not smart in the truest sense. They integrate urban information and create public spaces for urban residents. For that they use digitization, networking, visualization and information technologies to collect information about the population, resources, environment, economics and social statistics. A correct example of a digital city would be Amsterdam, Helsinki and Kyoto – all of which were started in the late 90’s. Now when we look at the more futuristic approach, the smart city, we can see the contrast right away. A smart city will exploit the IT’s full potential in every walk of life. Integration of the older, digital city, the Internet the IoT and the sensors placed everywhere. China is focusing on both IoT and cloud computing as fundamentals in smart city technology. You can get further acquainted with IoT here.
Cloud computing is a little trickier. It’s based on a parallel, distributed and grid computing and thus provides a mix of virtualization, utility computing, software as a service and service-oriented architecture. It uses cluster applications, grid technology and the distributed file system. The system connects and facilitates collaboration between different network storage types. It’s ability to expand is infinite and it can support petabytes of data. It’s even available during a hardware malfunction.
Unlike other smart city models, China’s architecture separates information transmission and processing because having these functions in the same layer will result in a closed-loop application that is not conducive to resource sharing and reuse.
The four layers are the unique identity of the Chinese Smart City
The sensing layer is responsible for identifying objects and collecting information through two main components. The first is the basic sensor such as RFID tags, reader-writers, cameras, GPS and 2D barcode labels. The second is a fusion network with inductors, such as a sensor network. The sensing layer’s core is the IoT, through which sensors, notes, wireless routers and wireless gateways interact. The biggest issue lies in standardizing interaction protocols. However, standardizing IoT design and architecture at this level is problematic because the IoT industry’s boundaries are indistinct and the industry chain is long with scattered links.
The transmission layer is responsible for exchanging information and transmitting data through access and transport networks. The access network includes fiber, wireless, Ethernet and satellite access. It’s the last stage of the sensor network base and RFID network access. The transmission network includes the Internet, telecommunication, broadcast and television networks and a digital trunked system. Integrating multiple networks is the main challenge, but fusion between the IoT and mobile internet has the highest market potential.
The processing layer intelligently processes and controls information and provides services and other functions to industries and public users. It consists of business support, network management and information processing and security, among others. Usually it includes middleware, virtual and high-reliability technology and features, cloud computing and a service oriented architecture. Introducing semantic technology into the IoT can solve resource interoperability problems because it’s more suitable for machine processing and thus enables a greater degree of automatic processing and open sharing.
The application layer offers solution sets of widely intelligent applications. Smart cities can finally realize the depth of synergy between information technologies and industry-specialized technologies. This layer greatly infuses national, economic and social development. Key problems are widespread information resource sharing and the need to safeguard information security.
Smart cities must be able to handle an incredible amount of data. In order to enrich the life of their citizens and to also upgrade urban management and industry, while also protecting the environment.
The vision and perspectives in a Smart City
Home. Life enrichment will cover home and community as well as healthcare and education. At home, everyone enjoys a higher quality of life when home devices operate in an intelligent network. In China cities benefit from smart systems such as Haier’s U+ smart life operating system. It was released in 2014 and it offers a wide range of smart home solutions. Three interconnected platforms- home, cloud services and data analysis, allow for the interconnection between lightning, appliances and security systems regardless of their brand.
Community. In regards to its community, a smart city provides mechanisms for home care, property management and street monitoring. A prime example would be a Wuhan community, which uses a real-time monitoring system to warn government departments about issues, which impact the residents’ life. The residents can see live footage of streets and roads. The system can identify unusual behavior, events and abnormal object trajectories. The intercommunication is vital to the enhancement of the daily life. Residents can control lights, air conditioning, curtains and doors through their smart phones and intelligent household remotes. The energy consummation can also be displayed, with some systems even offering a real-time index of chemicals in the air. For the elderly, there are wearable sensors, which can alert their family members for health status and alerts.
Healthcare. Reaction time has always been the biggest worry when it comes to healthcare. With the medical integration platform, doctors can quickly see their patient’s medical history, which will ensure a faster, more accurate and consistent healthcare across hospitals. In Suzhou, the health bureau, hospitals, banks and wireless application center worked together to develop and implement a platform to integrate reservation services, community services, family health services, health records and payments. As a result, patients wait less time for service, citizens can easily access their health records from home and the overall hospital efficiency has greatly improved.
Education. Education is essential enriching life and many smart cities have invested in parent-student communication to ensure safety. In Hubei, middle school students carry a multipurpose card that works with the smart school system. The card informs their parents when they enter or leave school, how much they have spent on their card, their grades, teacher comments and the overall environment. The students of Huazhong University of Science use their smart phones as ID cards, consumer cards and information platforms. Through their smartphones, they get access to libraries, view courses, receive notifications about the campus, order goods from the campus supermarket and also access the university’s cafeteria, restroom and dormitory.
Public administration and service. The Haidan district uses a grid-based platform, which is operational since July 2013. The platform integrates government services, social management and data resource systems by consolidating services from over 70 bureaus and more than 8000 grid clerks in this Beijing district. Users from across the grid have access to data sharing and visualization tools to spot issues. Only 4 hours since it became operational, the platform was already handling over 300 000 issues such as landscaping, public security and environmental order. The information is shared on many levels and functions and it’s already building a service-oriented government, which can promote peace and harmony. Safety is very important in a smart city.
Public safety supervision. Sensors, GPS and mass-information processing technologies can ensure safety in every part of the city. The video surveillance will enhance the emergency response. In the Beijing district of Chaoyang, smart safety systems monitor heating to prevent gas explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Food safety supervision. Contamination is a big problem with food for large cities. With the smart safety management and tracking control systems, it can be sure that food is contamination-free from the source to the consumer. Everything is one click away, growth conditions, recipes, nutrition facts origins and even cooking methods. Traffic is always a huge problem in modern cities.
Smart traffic. The smart traffic system will exchange information between vehicles, people and the environment on states such as traffic, noise, accidents and temperature. The biggest goal is to improve safety and provide access to information, which will be used to enhance the driving experience, reduce energy consumption and also protect the environment. The system should be able to predict traffic flow and dynamically control road conditions so that drivers know about alternate routes in advance.
Environmental protection. In China pollution is a huge problem and it’s no secret to anyone. The traditional cities are built on an economy which consumes resources and devastates the environment. Smart cities will integrate resource development, clean production and waste disposal. Natural resource use will change from a single line or a chain to a reticular structure, in which the production and living environments don’t annihilate the natural ecosystem. The emphasis is on saving natural resources and constantly improving efficiency. In Wuxi, the lakewater-monitoring system of Taihu Lake is operational since 2010. The system integrates mobile networks and a wireless sensor network across the lake to gather data on water quality and microbial indicators to control basin pollution. Together with the Jiangu environmental monitoring center, the system traces pollution to its source. When the system detects algae blood, it sends signals to nearby cargo ships and salvage vessels so the bacteria can be treated quickly. The system is also in charge of supervising facilities, which are pollution sources to ensure that they fortify wastewater treatment, effectively controlling the activity of potential heavy polluters. Wide-scale resource management will also be very important.
Wide-scale resource management in a Smart City
Through the management systems, organizations will be able to monitor resources such as water, electricity and agriculture to better regulate these resources in large areas.
Water. Smart water management will help a region respond quickly to water pollution emergencies and will intelligently allocate limited water serves. Xianjian’s system has 29 monitoring stations and a water center based on cloud computing and IoT. This allows monitoring of river water flow and water quality to deal with pollution and floods. The system’s hydrology information monitoring network uses a variety of sensors to collect real-time data, which is transmitted to the network center and then integrates to the monitoring, managing and control platform. Sensors relay characteristics of rainfall, water quality and underground water level and rivers. Data collection is real-time and transmission is through a range of methods from satellites to the Internet. Early warnings directly go to the manager’s staff so they can take direct action to address any abnormal conditions.
Electicity. Smart electric management allows on-demand power use without overload risks. The State Grid Corporation of China’s aim is to build a strong smart grid with an ultrahigh-voltage back-bone network frame, which connects large energy bases and main load centers and has transmission branches to coordinate various grid levels. To that end, China installed over 190 million smart meters which service more than 200 million households. During 2014, the country added 60 million newer smart meters and by 2015, 100 new smart substations. In Hebi, a grid supports smart city construction through chips installed on high-tension lines that monitor for temperature, running state, line loss and other real time information and transmit data through a general packet radio device. The smart grid also enables the delivery of power fiber to the home, through which citizens use high-bandwidth Internet access and an efficient information transmission channel for the intelligent use of electrical applications.
Agriculture. Smart agricultural management aims to reduce labor costs and improve crop quality while monitoring resource use, security and environmental impact. In Meilie, a district in San ming, four smart systems enable the intelligent control of grape production. The smart drip irrigation system automatically rations irrigation water and fertilizer, and a controllable pipeline system ensures that soil around the grapes’ main roots stays loose with the appropriate water and soil nutrients. Temperature and humidity monitoring equipment in steel-frame greenhouses acquires real-time environmental parameters so that grapes always have an environment suitable for growth. The cold storage control system monitors the storage temperature and humidity to guarantee quality once grapes are picked. Smart grape production has reduced irrigation water use by more than 30%, fertilizer use by 10-30% and annual labor costs by 600 000 Yuan. The smart system met it’s three 10% goals: reduce material amount used in production (seeds, fertilizer, and so on) by 10%, increase yield by 10% and improve product quality and safety by 10%.
The evolution of construction in a Smart City
National guidance and cooperation. The process of constructing smart cities is essentially the large-scale evolution of institutional systems and technical standards- involving capital, technology, individual talent, government, industry and academia. Smart city construction requires complex system engineering that demands large amounts of capital to solve a range of problems over the long term. Any one of them can result in huge losses.To avoid these losses, policy guidance and top design at the national level must come early in the project. Specific relevant policies, laws and regulations at the national level to direct technical top design and local projects could improve interconnection and information flow and promote the nationwide smart city development.
Information security. Because data transmission and interaction is on such a large scale, information security is a critical concern. Measures to strengthen it will include tightening relevant regulations and laws, enforcing information safety accreditation, implementing information security levels and risk assessment systems, improving the network’s monitoring and supervision capabilities, and strengthening network management.
People first mentality. The Smart city implementation must be people oriented at every step of the way. The city’s primary purpose is the use of limited resources in an optimal way to provide the best practical services for the most public benefit. Without this goal, the smart city because a vanity project to display technological progress or elegant engineering as the return on a massive hardware investment. Novel technology application and intelligent control should not be the sole aim, nor should economic growth and industrial upgrades.
Talent cultivation. The smart city will also require a variety of individual talent, which can be difficult to find and engage. Encouragement policies, such as innovation rewards and project funding can motivate professionals to participate in local smart city construction. Another method would be to build a high-end talent platform of well-known university and scientific research institutes in cooperation with local industries. The platform can serve as a formal structure for applying cutting-edge research to a local smart city project. These cities change the way government, enterprises and individuals interact, as networks and systems quickly and intelligently respond to a range of demands – from protection to entertainment. As more cities attempt to evolve into a place that can raise the quality of life and improve city comprehensive competitiveness, people-oriented concept and sustainable innovation are emphasized.
Summary. The world is changing faster than ever before. The future belongs to those who embrace change and with the heavy investment in futuristic technology and design, China is building a solid foundation for the future of its people.
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