Internet of cities can help build smart cities
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.