|[September 18, 2013]
Suzhou Industrial Park: The Smart Path for Intelligent Cities
SUZHOU, China --(Business Wire)--
With advances in computing and wireless technology the dream of creating
'smart cities' grows more realistic each day. Nowhere is this more true
than in eastern China's Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) - where schools,
hospitals, hotels, administration buildings, restaurants and public
transportation systems are all being plugged in to a smart grid that SIP
Chairman Yang Zhiping believes will see the power of information
harnessed in the same way that steam and electricity were in previous
"Information will change the relationship between governments, people,
countries and enterprises," Yang says. "And the great thing is, the more
you use it, the more efficiency you have. It breaks the isolation
between departments, authorities and different entities."
It is that very philosophy and can-do mindset that has helped SIP muscle
its way up the value chain, attracting by 2012 US$21.67 billion in
foreign investment and US$42.7 billion in domestic Chinese investment
since it was created nearly two decades ago as a joint-venture project
between the Chinese and Singapore government. And the Chinese Ministry
of Commerce ranks SIP as the most competitive industrial park in the
Today the industrial park has developed thriving hubs for high-tech and
high-value industries such as nanotechnology and bio-pharmaceuticals, is
home to projects with investment from 86 Fortune 500 enterprises, and
boasts GDP north of US$25 billion. SIP's roughly 3,000 start-up
companies have attracted China's biggest venture capital and private
equity community with 200 VC firms in the park and US$5.5 billion to
Just as a move up the value chain was all part of the plan when this
city-within-a-city was set up in 1994, so was the creation of a smart
city. SIP has already synthesized nearly 100 data centers -- ranging
from geographics to corporate and census infomation -- run by 20-some
local government-entities, and is one of ten smart city pilot projects
in China accredited by the Ministry of Housing and Construction.
And at SIP, stakeholders, as well as members of the public, all have a
say in how the systems can improve their lives - exactly the kind of
multi-level buy in that is essential to the success of smart city
projects, according to Charbel Aoun, Senior Vice President of Schneider
Electric's Smart Cities, Strategy and Innovation.
"No single company or organization can build a smart city alone," Aoun
says. "All communities must involve each of their most important
stakeholders, including government officials, citizens, and the private
sector, in the process, or face tremendously difficult obstacles in
making its vision a reality."
Today SIP is at the forefront when it comes to the collection,
management and practical application of 'big data'. Currently, SIP's
Geoinformation Services (GIS) is taking data and building a map of the
city that contains 660 layers of information ranging from power lines to
green areas to population demographics. The aim is for each layer to be
managed by the relevant agency and for it to be gathered by the system
to form a complete package which can be selectively open to third-party
SIP is in a better position than many other cities to implement its
smart city dream thanks to its master-plan, says Tao Hong, the chief
architect of GIS. The master-plan means that SIP doesn't have to deal
with legacy issues, he explains, and can essentially start "from a clean
Indeed, central planning does distinguish SIP from smart city models in
Europe and the US. Cities like Amsterdam and Boston are working to
improve feedback systems and energy efficiency - while preserving the
existing community and culture - but they face challenges that SIP
easily overcomes. Politics and fragmented government agencies, combined
with uncoordinated regional planning, dissuade the implementation of
SIP-like smart city innovations elsewhere.
"Other cities may also have multiple companies providing systems and
services, creating a silo effect when it comes to data," Tao says. "In
SIP, GIS is the sole geoinformation provider. We have a seamless
integration of data."
Examples of how such data has already been put to use include managing
peak-time traffic flows by intelligently adjusting the timing of traffic
lights. Four main roads and about 70 crossings are piloting the system
and the results have been impressive. The changes have resulted in a
15-20% reduction in travel times during peak hours.
Bus stops also will have screens giving travelers real-time information
such as how long they must wait for the next bus. Then there are the
green bikes that can be seen at docking stations across the city, free
to use for citizens that have a special SIM card. A computer system
keeps track of bike flows between docking stations so those running low
on bikes can be replenished. Xu Jinfang, deputy head of SIP's urban
planning bureau, notes that by the end of 2013 there will be 400 docking
stations with 10,000 bikes available for free use.
"The unique design that differentiates SIP's green bike program from
that of other cities is that the docking stations are placed in such a
way that they correlate with the must-go destinations of commuters, such
as residential blocks, transit points in the public transport network,
and other places where they can bridge the last-mile of frequently
undertaken journeys," Xu says.
Other plans include connecting the city's clinics and hospitals to a
cloud system that will allow them to access and update centralized
medical records via laptops, I-pads and telephones.
"We have a dream that, with your ID number, you will be able to access
all your information on healthcare, education, social security and tax,"
Eventually the goal is that everyone will have their digital assets on
the net and that they will be protected. "This is a big step," says
Yang, "a revolutionary step."
Of course, security is a major concern and stringent security measures
have been put in place, according to Li Feiyuan, head of SIP's IT
Development Bureau. Li notes that T-4 Certified Data Storage employed at
SIP provides the equivalent storage security financial institutions
enjoy. SIP also takes further measures to ensure that users can only
access data relevant to them, and that the data privacy of individuals
"We need to know that any move to a cloud provider is reversible," says
Anthony Plewes, an expert at Orange Business Services (News - Alert), a world-class
SmartCity solution provider. "The future's evolution of cloud, mobile
services, and all smart city technologies will give new opportunities to
everybody, including hackers."
To be sure it's not as easy as simply plugging different systems in to
each other. As well as the practicalities of ironing out discrepancies
in information that have built up between long-separated systems, Yang
says the most important thing is to have a clear vision of exactly what
you hope to achieve with the data. In SIP's case, this involved laying
down a master-plan that set out how to organize the data, and what its
final application would be. It's a fluid plan that is constantly under
discussion and review and divided into five-year segments.
The dream for five to ten years down the line is for all this to be
integrated in to one system "that will see efficiency squared," Yang
says. "We need a long-term strategy from the very beginning, along with
continuous execution. While every road may lead to Rome, you have to
stick to one route rather than going back and starting another,
otherwise you will never get there."
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