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Smart city takes roads to the future

Updated: Sep 6, 2023 By Zhang Yu in Shijiazhuang, Wang Songsong,Wang Songsong and Ma Qing in Xiong'an, Hebei China Daily Print
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The pilot site for the science and technology innovation center in Xiong'an New Area has adopted a solar power generation design. LIU GUANGYU/FOR CHINA DAILY

Intelligent solutions bring numerous benefits to companies and residents

The introduction of digital streets at a national-level development zone in Hebei province is making life much easier for drivers.

Traffic signals, 5G networks, radar, cameras and sensors positioned on top of lampposts in Rongdong, Xiong'an New Area, ensure drivers enjoy green lights throughout designated routes.

Liu Xiduo, a consultant at China Telecom Digital City Technology Co, which focuses on constructing smart facilities in the area, said one example of the routes is a 3-kilometer section of road in Rongdong's Le'an Street.

Statistics on traffic flow and vehicle density are gathered by the equipment, before being uploaded to a cloud center, the Rongdong Digital Road Intelligent Operations Center, and analyzed by algorithms, Liu said.

The results help adjust traffic lights intelligently at several intersections on the routes, he said.

"This optimization helps improve traffic efficiency by 20 percent to 30 percent during peak periods in the mornings and evenings," he added.

Liu said Rongdong is now home to more than 200 km of digital roads, with sensors on over 7,000 lampposts monitoring traffic to help reduce congestion and support autonomous driving. The lampposts are referred to as multifunctional intelligent information poles.

Hebei Radio and Television Station reported that the Xiong'an New Area will eventually boast some 500 km of digital roads. Autonomous buses are among such vehicles running on or undergoing tests on digital roads in use.

Liu, 36, who graduated from Tsinghua University with a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering in 2010, said, "Xiong'an seemed to be the most promising place for a successful smart city in China, so that's why I was determined to come here."

He arrived last year, five years after the Xiong'an New Area, which is situated about 100 km southwest of Beijing, was established.

In April 2017, China announced plans to set up the new area, which has become a sophisticated modern city covering about 1,770 square kilometers.

In May, the nation's leadership stressed the need to make smart, green and innovative development the trademark of Xiong'an, in line with China's high-quality development path.

Cloud metropolis

The intelligent traffic system in Xiong'an is evidence that the area is becoming a digital and smart city.

The Xiong'an Urban Computing Center is just one of many facilities providing smart solutions to the city's overall management, including transportation, water-related affairs, and energy and ecological governance.

Supercomputing, cloud and edge computing facilities at the center provide networking and storage provisions for big data, blockchain and the internet of things.

A metropolis on the cloud is complementing the physical city of Xiong'an, providing important support for construction of a smart city.

Liu Xin, general manager of China Xiong'an Group's Digital City Co, told China Central Television that if there is an accident at crossroads where there are natural gas or water pipelines, data can be quickly gathered on this underground infrastructure.

"With the data collected by the sensors, we can pinpoint the location of the incident and take appropriate measures," Liu said.

By 2035, the Xiong'an Urban Computing Center, which is located in Rongdong, will have some 3,600 cabinets housing servers to meet the city's computing demand, the CCTV report said.

Xiong'an also boasts many other intelligent features for use in a number of different fields.

At an intelligent charging space in the Jucun Urban Smart Energy Fusion Station, robots move efficiently to connect electric vehicles to charging points.

Qu Feng, a staff member at State Grid Xiong'an New Area Power Supply Co, said the station, which covers 1,618 square meters, is equipped with three-dimensional parking facilities that can accommodate up to 46 vehicles for simultaneous parking and charging.

"This is the first unmanned charging station in China for automatic parking and charging," Qu said, adding that the station is also the first in the country to use the digital RMB.

Yu Zewen, deputy general manager at Beijing Pulong Technology Co, which builds rail-mounted inspection robots, said, "We relocated to Xiong'an, as we have strong confidence in the region's development."

In 2019, the company became one of the first privately owned enterprises to relocate to the new area from Beijing.

Yu said the company's primary business is related to electricity, but after arriving in Xiong'an, it started to research and develop robots, transforming into a startup.

"The area's favorable policies and encouraging environment for smart development led us to develop our advanced inspection robot for use in tunnels and corridors," Yu said.

Cranes work at dusk in Xiong'an in September, 2020. CHINA DAILY

Green development

Xiong'an also aspires to become a green city with harmonious interaction between residents and the environment.

Since 2017, more than 31,300 hectares of trees have been added, raising the area's green space to 48,667 hectares and its forest coverage from 11 percent to 34 percent, the Xiong'an administrative committee said.

Numerous green spaces with parks dotted among them can be seen by driving through the area.

Liu Yaqing, a business supervisor at China Xiong'an Group's Ecological Construction Co, said Jinhu Park, located in Rongdong, is a picturesque urban oasis covering 87.4 hectares, adding, "It blends nature and culture to provide a tranquil and ecological haven for visitors."

Comprising greenbelts, a central lake area and five themed parks, Jinhu Park is affectionately known as the "urban green living room" of Xiong'an, Liu Yaqing added.

Yuerong Park, which covers about 160 hectares, is the first large comprehensive urban park in the area. It aims to promote traditional garden culture and play an important role in a number of ways, including ecological conservation, sightseeing, recreation, fitness and urban drainage.

An urban planning outline shows that residents in Xiong'an will need to travel no further than 300 meters from their homes to reach a park, with a greenbelt within 1 km, and a forest within 3 km.

"Residents will be able to access forests, greenbelts and parks more easily, making the vision of a green Xiong'an a gradual reality," Liu Yaqing said.

All-around efforts have also been made in the area to restore Baiyangdian Lake, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in northern China.

Data from the Xiong'an administrative committee show that following the establishment of Xiong'an, water quality in the wetland has risen from below Level V — the lowest on the national five-tier water assessment system — to Level III.

The water level in the lake is currently stable at 6.5 to 7 meters.

Zhang Dongsheng, who grew up near the wetland, said, "The sky here is bluer, the clouds are whiter, the water is clearer, and there are more fish and birds."

As a senior engineer at the Xiong'an New Area Ecological Environment Monitoring Center who has worked on environmental monitoring for more than 20 years, he is looking forward to seeing more beneficial changes in his hometown.

"If one day there is no longer any need to monitor the environment at Baiyangdian Lake and I become unemployed, it would be a dream come true for everyone in that area," Zhang said.

The pilot site for the science and technology innovation center in Xiong'an New Area has adopted a solar power generation design. LIU GUANGYU/FOR CHINA DAILY

Innovation hub

The Chinese leadership has said that pioneering policies and reform and opening-up measures, as well as forward-looking demonstration projects, should be carried out in the new area to attract innovation and business ventures.

Numerous policies have been introduced in Xiong'an to attract and support businesses.

One such initiative is an information industry internet platform, which combines online and offline resources, and centralizes all policies.

Wang Xinchi, an official at the new area's reform and development bureau, said the platform enables companies to easily access, apply and fulfill policies.

In addition, it recommends suitable policies based on a company's profile, Wang said.

"Moreover, Xiong'an promotes a preferential policy approach for enterprises, along with customized policies for key units transferred from Beijing," Wang said, adding that the entire process of setting up a business is coordinated by a dedicated team to ensure seamless collaboration among different departments.

The government plays an active role in helping companies throughout the land acquisition and construction process, Wang said.

Officials have said Xiong'an's key role is to relieve Beijing of nonessential functions as the national capital and advance coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

State-owned enterprises have set up more than 150 subsidiaries and branches in the area. Construction of headquarters buildings for large SOEs, including Sinochem Holdings, China Satellite Network Group, and China Huaneng Group, are at different phases, the Xiong'an administrative committee said.

The authorities in Hebei will provide considerable support for universities and enterprises from Beijing and Tianjin to establish scientific and technological platforms in Xiong'an.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences has set up its Xiong'an Innovation and Research Institute, while Hebei Daily reported that the University of Science and Technology Beijing will establish an innovation center in the area that will specialize in steel and carbon neutrality.

Wei Li, who is in charge of operations at a pilot base in the area for scientific and technological innovation, said the base serves as an intermediate stage between scientific research and large-scale production.

"The base is expected to attract more high-tech companies from Beijing and Tianjin, as the initial phase of the project has been put into operation," Wei said. She added that its main goal is to facilitate the transformation of scientific outcomes into productive forces by allowing small-scale trial production before mass-market commercialization.

From providing free factory spaces to premium services and policy support, the base is committed to cultivating an ecosystem that fosters technological advancement and business expansion, Wei added.

As Xiong'an is developing high-end industries and becoming an innovation hub, the area is also attracting talented professionals.

Feng Pengyao, from Cangzhou, Hebei, who recently gained a master's in gemology from China University of Geosciences in Beijing, plans to apply for a so-called Xiong'an talent card, which will entitle him to public services and benefits related to household registration, healthcare and children's education.

"The application period is from the 1st to the 10th of each month," he said, adding, "I am pleased with the attentive and detailed human resources service, and believe the card will offer great career prospects."

A total of 3,774 people, including Feng, all of whom are urgently needed in Xiong'an, had received such cards as of February, the administrative committee said.

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