In­ter­net of cities can help build smart cities

China Daily (USA) - - COMMENT -

To­day, cities are home to 55 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. By 2050, the num­ber is ex­pected to reach 68 per­cent – that is, 2.5 bil­lion more peo­ple would be liv­ing in cities. Among coun­tries with the fastest pace of ur­ban­iza­tion, China will have an­other 255 mil­lion ur­ban dwellers by 2050.

It is not only an aca­demic premise but also so­ci­ety’s shared un­der­stand­ing that cities are the cra­dle and driv­ing en­gine of growth and in­no­va­tion. How­ever, they are fac­ing un­prece­dented chal­lenges due to the rapidly grow­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tion. Find­ing sus­tain­able so­lu­tions to the so­cial, eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, so that cities be­come bet­ter, more liv­able places, has be­come an im­por­tant topic at this mo­ment.

“Smart city” is a widely rec­og­nized and adopted so­lu­tion in­tro­duced by IBM in 2008 as part of its “smart planet” cam­paign. The idea was formed to solve the prob­lems fac­ing cities un­der the sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure of both the fi­nan­cial tur­moil and the rapid growth in ur­ban pop­u­la­tion world­wide. It said that to make the planet smarter, we need an “in­stru­mented, in­ter­con­nected and in­tel­li­gent” world with a tech­no­log­i­cal core com­posed of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy (ICT), in­ter­net of things, and ur­ban in­for­mat­ics.

Af­ter a decade of trial and er­ror in adopt­ing the smart city ini­tia­tive, Chi­nese re­searchers and pol­i­cy­mak­ers have grad­u­ally reached a con­sen­sus that the core of smart city should be the peo­ple, and a new smart city strat­egy is needed to bal­ance away from the cur­rent heavy tech­nol­o­gy­cen­tric fo­cus. A city’s smart­ness is not only about im­ple­ment­ing pow­er­ful ICT in­fra­struc­ture or re­design­ing ur­ban op­er­a­tions. It is also about how data-gen­er­ated in­tel­li­gence could em­power res­i­dents by trans­form­ing cities into a more liv­able en­vi­ron­ment.

In­spired by both China’s in­no­va­tion­driven growth strat­egy and the new smart city’s peo­ple-cen­tric per­spec­tive, the “in­ter­net of cities” (IOC) is a new the­o­ret­i­cal model that uses cloud-com­put­ing, data anal­y­sis and blockchain tech­nolo­gies, and in­te­grates in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, ur­ban­iza­tion and IT ap­pli­ca­tion to con­nect the gov­ern­ment, in­dus­tries and the peo­ple. It is a the­o­ret­i­cal in­no­va­tion un­der the frame­work of “holis­tic in­no­va­tion” with three fun­da­men­tal el­e­ments: city net, city brain and city en­gine.

City net con­nects the city. It for­mu­lates the IOC’s tech­no­log­i­cal foun­da­tion with an in­ter­con­nected net of sen­sors and smart de­vices through a high-speed com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work. Open data por­tals pow­ered by cloud com­put­ing plat­forms are also part of the city net, in which ev­ery ac­tiv­ity leaves a se­ries of data traces that are sub­se­quently cap­tured and stored. Sprawl­ing across the virtual and phys­i­cal worlds, the city net vir­tu­al­izes the city in a way to tran­scend or­ga­ni­za­tional bound­aries so that data can flow freely and cul­ti­vate in­no­va­tion.

City brain gen­er­ates in­tel­li­gence, en­abling cities to see, feel and op­er­ate with a strate­gic view. It is about find­ing in­sights in the data ocean cap­tured by the city net and fa­cil­i­tat­ing mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments to re­spond to emer­gen­cies, al­lo­cate re­sources, and plan for the fu­ture more in­tel­li­gently. Also, the city brain in­fuses real-time in­for­ma­tion into ur­ban res­i­dents’ daily life and pri­vate com­pa­nies’ day-to-day op­er­a­tion so they can make bet­ter de­ci­sions and ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in im­prov­ing cities’ per­for­mance. As cities get smarter, they evolve into more re­spon­sive and liv­able en­vi­ron­ments for the res­i­dents and even­tu­ally more prospec­tive set­tings for busi­nesses to thrive.

City en­gine em­pow­ers in­no­va­tions. With data from the city net and in­tel­li­gence from the city brain, the pub­lic sec­tor can col­lab­o­rate with both in­di­vid­u­als and pri­vate com­pa­nies to in­no­vate, ac­com­plish chal­leng­ing goals and achieve pros­per­ity in sus­tain­able ways.

As cities grow more com­plex, it has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to find a sus­tain­able way for them to flour­ish and for ur­ban res­i­dents to live a bet­ter-qual­ity life. Un­der the holis­tic in­no­va­tion par­a­digm, the IOC is a the­o­ret­i­cal in­no­va­tion that guides the har­mo­nious in­te­gra­tion of ur­ban­iza­tion, in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and IT ap­pli­ca­tion.

Putting the spot­light back on peo­ple and us­ing cut­ting-edge ICT tech­nolo­gies, this new con­cep­tual model em­pha­sizes the crit­i­cal role of mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments as well as the ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of pri­vate com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als in shap­ing a city’s over­all per­for­mance. We hope it will clear the fog and serve as a bea­con for China’s fu­ture ur­ban­iza­tion en­deavor. The au­thors are re­search schol­ars at the Re­search Cen­ter for Tech­no­log­i­cal In­no­va­tion, Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity.

Be­sides, in 2008, the start of “three di­rect links” of trade, trans­port and postal ser­vices marked eight years of pros­per­ity in crossS­traits ex­changes in all re­spects. Also, thanks to ge­neal­ogy, res­i­dents in Fu­jian province have strength­ened their re­la­tion­ships with many Tai­wan res­i­dents as they wor­ship their com­mon an­ces­tors to­gether.

The main­land has stuck to its stance of peace­ful re­uni­fi­ca­tion along with the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple. It has the con­fi­dence not only in its path, the­ory and sys­tem, but also in the cul­tural be­lief that both sides use the same lan­guage and char­ac­ters, and prac­tice the same cul­ture, which have helped boost ex­changes, co­op­er­a­tion and re­uni­fi­ca­tion ef­forts be­tween the two sides.

As for peace­ful re­uni­fi­ca­tion, the main­land has al­ways placed its hopes on Tai­wan com­pa­tri­ots. Due to the pa­tri­otic Chi­nese tra­di­tion and un­in­ter­rupted de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese cul­ture for more than 5,000 years, and the com­mon spir­i­tual home of the peo­ple on both sides, Tai­wan res­i­dents have al­ways been part of the cause of na­tional de­vel­op­ment, and helped safe­guard the sovereignty of Diaoyu Is­lands, as well as boost re­form and open­ing-up.

Thus, given the con­stant stream of co­he­sion cre­ated by Chi­nese cul­ture, the call of “Tai­wan in­de­pen­dence” by some is­land lead­ers is a blow to Chi­nese cul­ture and an at­tempt to “de-Sini­cize” the is­land, by fal­si­fy­ing mid­dleschool his­tory text­books. This in turn has prompted the main­land to lay greater em­pha­sis on Chi­nese cul­ture as the lead­ing fac­tor in cross-Straits ex­changes.

With eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and grow­ing na­tional strength be­ing crit­i­cal fac­tors in cross-Straits ties, the main­land can gain more ad­van­tages by tak­ing ini­tia­tives to deepen cross-Straits ex­changes in or­der to pre­vent the pro-in­de­pen­dent rul­ing Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party from cre­at­ing more chal­lenges for cross-Straits ties and mak­ing them more com­pli­cated.

There­fore, to in­creas­ingly im­prove the wel­fare of Tai­wan com­pa­tri­ots should be the fo­cus of the main­land, for ex­am­ple, by im­ple­ment­ing the 31 pref­er­en­tial poli­cies to at­tract more is­land res­i­dents to study, work and set­tle down on the main­land. Af­ter all, by cre­at­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, a com­mu­nity of shared fu­ture across the Straits could be fur­ther de­vel­oped.

And since pa­tri­o­tism forms the core of the na­tional spirit and grand uni­fi­ca­tion ac­cords with the con­cept of the na­tion, Chi­nese cul­ture has a strong in­flu­ence on Tai­wan com­pa­tri­ots and will help unite them to safe­guard na­tional unity. More­over, telling the main­land’s story well could also help spread the main­land’s con­tem­po­rary cul­ture across the Straits and win the sup­port of Tai­wan com­pa­tri­ots. The au­thor is the di­rec­tor of the re­search of­fice at the All-China Fed­er­a­tion of Tai­wan Com­pa­tri­ots.

/ CHINA DAILY

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