China's urbanization is advancing under a surging wave of scientific and technological revolution. The new generation of information, technology, represented by big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence, has not only changed the way people produce and communicate, but also fundamentally changed cities’ operation, management, and service modes. The new generation of information technology has made urban life more intelligent and given birth to the modern smart city.
Supported by the new generation of information technology
The vision of a “smart city” was first proposed by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 2010. It claimed that a city is mainly composed of six core systems that are related to its major functions, namely, organizations and people, businesses and government affairs, transportation, communication, water and energy. They cooperate and connect with each other, forming a macroscopic system. After that time various concepts, model frameworks and construction practices for smart city kept emerging around the world.
Smart cities employ advanced information technology to realize smart management and operations to create more sustainable harmonious urban lives for people. And the new generation of information technology represented by big data, artificial intelligence, IoT and cloud computing is key for their construction.
Construction of virtual city based on big data
Urban big data is the most valuable asset of a smart city. For urban administrators, various types of urban big data such as the population database, legal person database, geographic information database and economic databases have been formed. The sharing, integration and full exploitation of these databases are important information infrastructures helping improve the government's e-governance level, and promoting open and transparent government administration. They also improve the efficiency of traffic, the level of environmental protection inspection and supervision, and public security support capability. The construction of a smart city requires continuous enhancement of the ability to collect, store, share, mine, protect and utilize urban big data, and increased accuracy, integrity and intensification in utilizing the information.
Virtuality and reality of city connected by the IoT
Big data is of great importance for the construction of a smart city. The sources and collection of that data are fundamental because the real goals are feedback and control based on data analysis, which requires universal connections through the IoT. Over the years, different industries have embarked on the corresponding digital transformation process, forming a digital world (virtual world) in comparison with the physical world (real world), and it is the IoT that binds and blends them.
The construction of a smart city is inseparable from major changes to all aspects of the city brought by the IoT. In practice, the IoT has become the core element of smart cities in various countries, and is widely used in urban management, energy conservation and emission reduction, and smart transportation. In China, more than half of the smart city applications under construction, such as public safety, transportation, medical care, environmental protection, underground pipe network, water affairs, and education rely on the IoT. Based on automatic perception, they will realize integrated application of IoT technology by means of data acquisition, with intelligent control as the core.
‘City brain’ based on super computing power
When the emergency center receives a call, the city brain can plan the optimal route in real time, accurately predict the arrival time of each intersection along the way and control the traffic lights accordingly. This is a real effect of the Aliyun ET City Brain employed in smart cities. It is based on the super artificial intelligence developed by Aliyun and equipped with basic capabilities including machine learning, intelligent voice interaction, biometrics, and sentiment analysis. Besides, it deeply integrates with artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and big data processing capabilities, and helps city operations managers make better decisions quickly in complex situations through multi-dimensional perception, global insight, real-time decision-making and continuous evolution.
The intelligent processing of super computing power, especially artificial intelligence, has great significance for the construction of a smart city. The storage and processing of all kinds of data are collected through sensors and by other means, and are supported by the powerful information processing capability of supercomputers. Furthermore, quick analysis and processing of remote information can be realized through the cloud platform.
In recent years, China has made significant progress in the field of super-computing and developed world-class equipment such as the Sunway Taihu Light to provide important information infrastructure for the construction of smart cities. However, cloud computing power is still not developed enough for smart city construction. It needs to be closer to the terminal, which means that the information processing level must be reduced so that information processing is implemented at a lower level to reduce computing delay.