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Smart Cities, Innovation: Next-Gen Urbanism

6 Minutes Read

Smart cities are changing the way urban development will operate in the next century, and things are just getting started. Businesses can take advantage of growth and opportunity in these cities, particularly in China, as digital infrastructure takes hold.

The Internet of Things (IoT) increasingly gives consumers options to make their lives easier by connecting devices that think and act on their preferences and anticipate behavior.

The same is happening in cities around the world – with leaders considering how implementing these major technological changes could transform their cities into working hubs of smart technology.

The goal is to create “smart” cities that allow citizens to work, play, interact and travel by using technology as much as possible.

The National Development and Reform Commission of China defines a smart city as a “new idea and new mode of promoting smart city planning, construction, management and service, using the Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data and spatial geographic information integration, etc.”

A smart city takes information from layers of digital services and then uses it to make better decisions about how to plan a variety of services, such as transport, energy and healthcare.

For instance, the Malaysian Government and China Telecom Americas launched SMARTXP, a Smart City Experiential Centre, which allowed citizens to come and interact with technology, showing how such a smart city would work. Virtual reality, screen displays and interactive games all demonstrated what living in a smart city would be like.

This might seem like a futuristic concept – but that future isn’t as far away as you might think.

As China Telecom Americas explains, technologies like smart home gateways can turn homes into smart homes, allowing multiple devices and apps to control various everyday aspects of a home – including kitchen appliances, beds, or even power sockets that can be turned off or on.

“Technology is permeating into every aspect of our lives – yet how can we utilise the smart devices in our palm to enhance our living standard?”

How a Smart City Works

The creation of a smart city takes a significant amount of infrastructure. For instance, to provide digital services a city must be able to develop “layers” of digital infrastructure:

  • Sensors: Cameras, sensors and smartphones help to gather data from users. This can then help create massive repositories of information that feed into subsequent layers, enabling better and more data-driven decision-making.
  • Networks: This layer requires partnering with trusted, local networks and providers, such as electricity grids, the internet itself and telecommunication networks to spread and gather the information from users.
  • Platforms: To provide smart services, underlying platforms need to be created, requiring expertise in security, network management and information processing. This requires strong and reliable cloud services from a trusted provider that can ensure security.
  • Applications: Whether a citizen is looking up a bus timetable that is updated in real-time to account for traffic or monitoring their own electricity use, applications need to feed the information gathered in the previous three categories.

These advances are crucial for expanding economic activity. According to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the creation of such experiences as the SMARTXP centre, created in conjunction with China Telecom Americas, will help people envision a more connected future. He points to studies showing 90 percent of Malaysians will be living in cities by 2020.

“So, the demand for smart city infrastructure will be tremendous and vital,” he told the Malay Mail Online, also saying he was “pleased” to see the creation of the SMARTXP concept.

What a Smart City Can Do

From a citizen’s perspective, the types of services a smart city could provide would involve information about everyday activities. Taking public transport, for instance, would be a far more enjoyable experience with sensors on trains and buses that provide real-time location updates.

In Zhenjiang, citizens are able to make hospital appointments and rent bicycles from their smartphones. Information is sent to a “control center”, which then helps planners and operators reduce inefficiencies. Using cloud services, China will develop these smart cities further.

As the China-Britain Business Council explains, businesses around the world could find opportunities to digitize infrastructure relating to transport, water, energy and healthcare, along with a need for massive digital storage.

This evolution could see substantial changes in the way cities are run and managed in decades to come. As MIT has pointed out in its own analysis, telecommunication providers such as China Telecom are playing a crucial role in developing smart cities.

“They are not only extending their network coverage and improving their network quality, but also exploring new technologies to build new network layers.”

Discover how technology is fuelling this development with the help of trusted Chinese telecommunications providers like China Telecom Americas.