A solar-powered highway that charges cars as they drive along; an elevated public transit that runs above cars to avoid traffic; and an entire neighbourhood built with 3D printed houses.

These are all happening in cities across China. With over 500 smart city projects in the pipeline, the country is set to lead the way into a new era of city management.

These smart cities provide valuable lessons on how to turn complex urban environments into a seamless society which works for its people. Here are three key areas where China’s cities are leading the way.

Creating an ecosystem

In China, the private sector has played an important role in leading innovation. Most firms pitch ideas directly to the government. Value sharing and cooperation are the cornerstones of smart cities in China to help drive local innovation and create jobs.

Weifang city, renowned for its handicrafts and folk art, is also now leading the way for local tech innovation. It partnered with Huawei and other companies to create a city-wide services platform based on IoT technology. The city’s V App allows residents to pay for local healthcare, education, utilities and government services, and even apply for quick loans.

The Huawei-Weifang ecosystem incorporates over 52 domestic and international IoT partners in an industry alliance. Huawei also leverages more than 400 partner companies in its ecosystem to create access to a global pool of expertise for cities like Weifang.

The city also has its own digital identity known as the V Pass. Residents simply rely on a mobile app, instead of carrying around different cards for driving licenses, health insurance, bank cards, transport passes and library cards. The app has over 600,000 users, which could go up to 1 million by the end of this year.

Another example from China is Yingtan, a small city in the southeast of the country, which has partnered with small local companies to tackle a wide range of problems. In one project, the city installed smart filters to monitor water quality and leaks in real time. This system saves 2.5 billion litres of water annually – that’s equivalent to around 1,000 Olympic swimming pools!

Digital brain

Smart cities don’t have to rebuild systems from scratch. It is possible to incorporate new systems with old ones by integrating them into a new digital brain for the city.

In the city of Longgang, Huawei has built an Intelligent Operations Centre which helps to integrate and coordinate data sources in real time to allow a city operate at its maximum capacity. This functions as the ‘nervous system’ of the city. During a crisis, the system can back defence and police officials to integrate information from multiple sources and provide advanced data analytics. It has eliminated traditional government silos and has integrated over 50 government departments across three jurisdictional levels.

The centre also provides first responders to emergency situations with an integrated communication system, featuring real-time voice and video information from headquarters.

Saving money and time

Smart cities in China are also leading the way in reducing the time, effort and money needed to deliver services across the public and private sector. Smart cities are creating networks and leveraging new technologies such as artificial intelligence to speed up government services.

Shenzhen, once a fishing village, is now a benchmark for smart cities in China. It has adopted AI and is using big data to improve road safety and congestion. The city aims to take 330,000 vehicles off the road every day, and pinpoint traffic violators with 95% accuracy.

Home to Huawei, and several other large electronics company, the city has built a strong local industry to keep costs low. The Governor of Guangdong province, where Shenzhen is located, is headed by Ma Xingrui, the former chief of China’s moon mission who is now using his scientific expertise to turn the city into a world-class innovation hub.

But transforming a city is not rocket science, and with these three lessons from China, cities across Asia can get a kickstart.

Lei Hui is the Chief Executive Officer of Huawei International (Singapore) since March 2016. He has 13 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. Prior to his current role, Lei Hui was the deputy chief executive officer of Huawei Indonesia.

In 2010, he was the Director of Products and Solutions, Huawei Carrier Network Business Group, in Huawei Indonesia, overseeing the development of solutions for local operators such as Telkomsel. In 2005, he was transferred to Huawei Indonesia to serve as the Senior Product Manager of GU Products and Solutions department.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Computing from Tian Jin University, China in August 2004 and joined Huawei in the same year.

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