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  • Connected networks of sensors and communication devices make management of resources and services more efficient and effective
  • Cities are adopting advanced technologies and innovative approaches to urban planning and management

At some new subway stations in Beijing, Guangzhou and a number of other Chinese cities, people no longer need to swipe a card or scan their phone to catch a train. The gate opens following a quick scan of their face, with the process taking less than two seconds.

Big screens show how crowded each subway carriage is, allowing passengers to decide which one to board.

Such technologies have seeped into everyday infrastructure systems in big Chinese cities following a recent push to develop smart cities.

The development of smart cities integrates advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and cloud computing in various areas, such as transport, public security, the environment and manufacturing.

And the connected network of sensors and communication devices enables real-time data collection, analysis and feedback, leading to more efficient and effective management of resources and services.

Cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou are leading the way in adopting advanced technologies and innovative approaches to urban planning and management.

More than 500 Chinese cities have said they are pushing for the development of smart cities, according to media reports.

The Post recently toured a few artificial intelligence companies in Guangzhou to get a peek at the technologies and networks embedded in the country’s smart city strategies.

1. The Internet of Things

A screen at Techphant, an IoT solution and equipment provider, shows real-time shots of trees growing across Guangzhou. The moisture level of the soil is monitored through sensors, and the information is uploaded into an intelligent management system that allows the trees to be cared for properly.

IoT describes networks of everyday objects, including vehicles and home appliances, that are connected to the internet and can communicate with each other.

The objects have processing abilities and can exchange data to optimise daily lives. People have grown familiar with devices in their homes – such as smart thermostats – that are connected to the internet and can be controlled using a smartphone app while also communicating with other devices such as smart lighting systems to coordinate and optimise energy usage.

But the technology can be extended to a much wider network.

For example, in the past, a worker would go from door-to-door to collect gas meter readings, but now a smart gas meter does the work and can even facilitate automatic payment.

From improving efficiency in manufacturing and transport to enhancing healthcare and home automation, the use of IoT technology is becoming more evident in helping to streamline processes, reduce costs and improve decision-making in the development of China’s smart cities.

When more things can be connected to each other, we will enter a stage of intelligent connection, which will improve efficiency and reduce labour inputs, Techphant’s chief technology officer, Zheng Lin, said.

2. Facial recognition

The application of facial recognition technology is widely known to Chinese people as such scans are required at airport and hotel check-ins. The Covid-19 pandemic also shone a spotlight on the technology thanks to a code that tracked a person’s travel history.

However, the technology is being used even more extensively in smart city infrastructure.

Pcitech is a provider of artificial intelligence technology and products, including facial recognition and intelligent big data technology.

The company has contributed to the development of smart transport systems in Guangzhou and Changsha that use advanced facial recognition technology which allows commuters to pay for their subway fare by simply scanning their face.

How facial recognition works: Your face is becoming your key to accessing your money, your devices and passing through security checks. Unlike a fingerprint, your face can be scanned from a distance without your knowledge.

But facial recognition technology is not limited to transport. It is also being used in the security sector to collect real-time data for use in ensuring public safety.

The company applies 3D recognition algorithms for more precise matches and the technology can even detect a person’s identity when their face is obstructed. It can also analyse body shape and clothing colour to identify someone and help police predict high-risk behaviour based on movements, such as physical altercations.

Concerns have been raised about privacy issues, as the technology collects personal data without individuals’ explicit consent.

3. Smart factories

As a welding robot in Changsha lowers its welding torch, various indicators show up in real time on the large screen connected to the headquarters of Rootcloud Technology, an industrial IoT platform provider 600km (373 miles) away in Guangzhou.

The screen displays the real-time working status of workers and equipment in different Sany construction machinery factories and production lines across the country.

Smart factories, highly automated and digitised manufacturing facilities, have become ubiquitous in China, thanks to the use of advanced technologies such as the IoT, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics to optimise production processes and improve efficiency.

The development of smart factories in China is also driven by the country’s “Made in China 2025” plan, which aims to transform China from a low-cost manufacturing hub to a global leader in advanced manufacturing technologies. The plan encourages the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies and supports the development of a strong domestic hi-tech industry.

By integrating smart manufacturing technologies and digital platforms, Chinese factories aim to achieve higher levels of automation, productivity and flexibility while reducing costs and waste.

Smart factories in China are often part of larger industrial estates or clusters, which provide infrastructure, logistics and other support services to help manufacturers adopt smart technologies and improve their competitiveness.

4. The future of agriculture

Lychee farmers in the suburbs of Guangzhou no longer need to do laborious work in the plantation. Instead, they can use a drone to spray pesticides and apply fertilisers thanks to a smart agriculture system from XAG, a provider of drones, robots, artificial intelligence and IoT in agricultural production.

Smallholders and farm owners with smart farm management solutions can now reduce labour costs and improve sustainability. The monitoring logs and precision farming tools also make production management more meticulous.

The extensive network of digital farming infrastructure built by the company can be connected to remote sensing tools and agricultural IoT devices, enabling farmers to increase farming efficiency, manage production plans and achieve objectives.

As of the end of last year, XAG’s smart agricultural products covered an area of 966,666 sq km (373,232 square miles), serving 194 million people.

Its unstaffed equipment, such as automatic spraying and flow control systems, has saved 520 million litres (137.37 million gallons) of fuel and more than 49.08 million tonnes (48.3 tons) of water, the company said, helping to reduce carbon emissions from agricultural production by 1.4 million tonnes.

“In the field of agriculture, the application of AI has just begun,” said Qian Shuting, XAG’s senior brand manager.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Luna Sun

Quelle/Source: South China Morning Post, 02.05.2023

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