More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and further urbanization is one of the most important social and economic phenomena around the world. The trend of urbanization continues to intensify and is causing the emergence of massively large metropolises and urban agglomerations, particularly in densely populated Asia. As the world’s most populous nation, China is in the process of developing at least 15 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants due to urbanization. It is natural to expect that projects operating at such scales will face many challenges.
‘Smart City’ Infrastructures Solve an Array of Issues
We’ve seen a variety of issues over the course of the urbanization process:
• The problem of land subsidence in ultra-large cities has become increasingly common. The gradual settling or sudden sinking of Earth’s surface due to subsurface movement is a serious natural disaster that has compromised the safety of the urban infrastructure in more than 50 Chinese cities.
• We are acutely aware that mega-cities have changed the nature of land use, and that urban disasters frequently occur in environments that have been extremely compromised by such large-scale developments. The impact of one such example is the fact that roadways and buildings create impermeable surfaces that fundamentally change the absorption of precipitation. When impermeable surfaces account for over 75 percent of a city’s land mass, we understand that only 55 percent of rainfall will drain away as surface runoff. Frequent and extraordinary rainstorms in recent years have caused severe hazards, inconveniences, and huge economic losses.
• Urban traffic development poses challenges to safety and efficiency. Congestion and other pressing issues like limited parking, public transportation delays, and traffic management difficulties are especially troublesome in the mega-cities of China and other rapidly urbanizing countries.
• The existing power grids in mega-cities face challenges in terms of unsustainably high energy consumption and low efficiency.
The above-listed urban issues can all be resolved by following the operating precedents programmed into today’s Smart City solutions — which have the potential to promote economic transformation, efficient city management, and high-availability public services for the purpose of supporting the harmonious development of people and nature.
Digital City + IoT + Cloud Computing = Smart City
Smart Cities are simple combinations of digital city, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing. A digital city, as a virtual space on the network, contains all the data about a physical infrastructure so we can view its information and dynamic characteristics on the Internet. However, this is not the whole story. A digital city needs the IoT to remain connected with the city’s physical assets to receive traffic and transportation status and other logistics information in real time. The data collected by hundreds of millions of IoT sensors must be calculated, analyzed, and managed — which is where cloud computing comes in to complete the picture. Think of the IoT and cloud computing as ‘twin brothers.’
In the construction and operation of smart cities, sensor networks will generate trillions of megabytes (or exabytes) of data about natural and human activities. We are truly operating in the Big Data era. Digital cities are the basis for civic organization, and Internet technologies are the means to facilitate connectivity. Smart cities require a new generation of information technologies — including the IoT, cloud computing, and the integration of spatio-temporal Big Data — to implement new concepts and models of smart city planning, construction, management, and service. The realization of seamless global intelligence is paramount to solving the problems of data collection and transmission, real-time processing, timely feedback, and so on.
We must make full use of spatio-temporal data to fully unleash the intelligence of a city, and spatio-temporal Big Data, once stored, processed, queried, and analyzed can be used by various applications to provide smart services.
On December 27, 2012, the BeiDou navigation-satellite cloud service platform started to officially provide services to China and its neighboring regions. The high-precision positioning and speed-test services can be used for vehicle control and intelligent driving in smart transportation. In the future, networks consisting of nearly eighty satellites will be deployed above China to enable multi-network convergence and real-time services, improve the precision of remote sensing and navigation, collect spatio-temporal Big Data, and form data models.
We are making breakthroughs to solve diverse city challenges with remote sensing and cloud-based Big Data technologies. For example, we can analyze the range of a city’s flood submergence, continuously locate indoor and outdoor mobile phones with precision, perform real-time navigation, and provide various location-based services and solutions.
Smart cities require the efficient management of spatio-temporal Big Data — processing, storing, and analyzing the data based on site requirements; and providing services to deliver various outdoor or indoor applications into space, or on the ground — by wire, fiber optics, or wirelessly.
Fully Explore the Value of Spatio-temporal Big Data
Multi-layer methods such as data expression, information organization, and knowledge discovery can be used to mine spatio-temporal Big Data. For example, Geographic Information System (GIS) data mining is used to form an ecological and intelligent management system as a modern control method to accelerate the resolution of flood prevention and comprehensive power generation.
For example, data from low-light city images at night, population density, and land coverage all indicate changes in urban population activities. Based on the data, we can establish models and analyze citizen behavior to solve urban construction problems. In addition, through video data mining and time-lapse sequence analysis, we can evaluate the impact of armed conflicts on different regions and maintain security.
Remote sensory data mining allows us to perform agricultural monitoring, extract crop information or yield estimations, and perform statistical analysis that provide references for economic development.
Construct Smart City Operation Centers
Smart City constructions are systematic projects. After the completion of the top-layer design, each city needs to plan their Smart City construction in a unified manner based on local characteristics.
Based on site requirements, Smart City operations centers become the command and dispatch hubs, and the smart service core for high-level monitoring. These centers are developed in a visualized, controllable, and intelligent manner for continuous optimization. In this way, enterprises can reorganize production resources and improve business models to gain greater benefits; and citizens can enjoy better social services that improve their well-being.
Smart City construction is a top leadership project.
We need to focus on the core of Smart City construction, promote development, and form technology, data, and value chains. The Big Data challenges that highlight many Smart City deployments reflect the cutting-edge concerns for scientific research, and a key driving force behind the continuing developments in the Smart City sector.
We need to accelerate the levels of Big Data research and technical innovation to promote the development of the smart service industries to make city operations more scientific, efficient, and secure — all with a lower carbon footprint.