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The path to smart cities

Writer: Winton Dong  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2018-08-27

Email of the writer: dht0620@126.com

The Fourth China Smart City International Expo was held in Shenzhen from Aug. 21 to 23.

At present, the definition of smart city remains unclear and therefore is open to many interpretations. Other terms such as digital city, wired city, flexible city and knowledge-based city are also used to describe its characteristics. Generally speaking, a smart city represents a new model that makes full use of high and new technologies, such as cloud computing, big data analysis, the Internet and Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence and blockchain, to supply information that is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. This includes data collected from citizens, devices and assets that is processed and analyzed to monitor traffic and transportation systems, predict future demands, manage power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, schools, hospitals, community services and other information systems, so as to change the way we live and give new momentum to economic and social development.

The Chinese Government has made the development of smart cities a key national policy. As we all know, Chinese people have a habit of coming forth with a rush to new concepts and novel ideas. According to concerned statistics, about 500 cities in the country have so far clearly proposed speeding up their transformation into smart cities.

If China really wants to gear up its smart city construction, the experience and expertise of two benchmark cities, namely Shenzhen and Hangzhou, cannot be ignored. According to a recent report on urban intelligent governance levels among 294 Chinese cities, Shenzhen ranks No. 1 nationwide, followed by Hangzhou.

Located in the Pearl River Delta, Shenzhen was originally a small fishing town under the jurisdiction of the former Bao’an County. During China’s planned economy period, Shenzhen was doomed to be lackluster and a poor place. At that time, all infrastructure construction within the area such as the airport, highways and railways were centered around Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province. The situation of Hangzhou in the Yangtze River Delta is very similar to that of Shenzhen. As a metropolitan and globally famous city, Shanghai has an indisputably dominant position in the region. As the capital of Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou is on a lower level of the hierarchy.

The thriving of the Internet in the past decades has given wonderful opportunities for innovation-driven cities like Shenzhen and Hangzhou to serve as incubators and lead China’s smart city transformation, thus challenging their “big brothers” such as Guangzhou and Shanghai.

In my point of view, four big multinational companies in the two cities (three in Shenzhen and one in Hangzhou) — Ping An Insurance, Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei — with an acronym of “path,” will join efforts to offer a realistic path for the country’s smart city construction.

As an insurance company that has also expanded into banking, securities and fintech, Ping An boasts deep-rooted and far-reaching influence in the lives of Chinese people. It has also accumulated many applications in government, finance, medicine, real estate and other sectors. With Alipay and its ET city management model as core technologies, Alibaba will mainly dedicate the development of the Internet of Things. As for Tencent, its powerful social messaging platform WeChat and its strong data processing capability will greatly enhance China’s human-to-human intelligent connectivity in the future. As an influential telecom gear maker, the role of Huawei is surely to build qualified telecom infrastructure networks.

Instead of competing with each other, Shenzhen and Hangzhou are quite complementary during the process. As an immigrant city, Shenzhen is good at innovation and pioneering. As a wonderful representative of the Zhejiang commerce culture, Hangzhou is apt in doing business and integrating various resources. If the Chinese Government can make full use of the advantages of these two cities and the four companies, the prospect of the country’s smart city construction will be promising.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)