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Insight into China's smart cities initiatives

First publishedin ITS International
March April 2013
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Ariel view of china
Demand is increasing in China for more efficient public transportation and traffic management

Schneider Electric, which has been playing an active role in smart transportation systems in China since 1990, provides an insight into smart city initiatives in the country.

Today, most cities across the world are facing unprecedented growth, which questions the viability of the current development model. They are immersed in a competition with each other, both domestically and internationally, in terms of investments, jobs and talents. Cities need to become more attractive and intelligent by becoming more efficient, more liveable and more sustainable. And they need to do all of this while ensuring resource efficiency and socially inclusive growth.

Thus, cities today need solutions that provide short-term visible and measurable results for citizens but which require a low initial investment. Given this, cities are bound to maximise their efficiency and optimise their resources and infrastructures to become more efficient and intelligent.

In 2011, the national census showed that China’s urban population reached over 665 million, which accounted for roughly 50 per cent of its total population. China has implemented a 12th Five-Year Plan – covering the period from 2011 to 2015 – which invests in projects dedicated to social and economic development. This plan includes initiatives to build 36 million apartments geared at low-income families; improve public services for urban and rural residents; grow GDP by seven per cent on average annually; and help coastal regions change from being the “world’s factories” to hosting R&D centres as well as high-tech and environmental protection industries.

Within the 12th Five-Year Plan, a target has been set to reduce the number of carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 17 per cent. Former President Hu Jintao had also committed to a 40–45 per cent reduction in the carbon intensity of GDP by 2020 relative to 2005.

Also included in the 12th Five-Year Plan is an increase in urbanisation to 51.5 per cent and the creation of 45 million jobs. With such an urban population growth, the level of carbon emissions will also rise, in line with power usage and transportation, among other variables.

Making both sides of this equation fit means making cities smarter.

Starting in 2006, the Chinese authorities became involved in several sustainable urban development initiatives. For instance, in 2008 the city of Tangshan and the Swedish Government signed an agreement for the construction of the Caofeidian Eco-City. In 2010, the Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Development (MOHURD) branded the city of Shenzhen as the first low-carbon city.

Another leading example is the seaport city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, which has developed a comprehensive Smart City plan to be implemented from 2011 to 2015. The plan includes building a modern metropolis, restructuring industrial areas and improving quality of life. The Smart Grid is also a strong point of focus with RMB16 billion (US$2.58 billion) planned investment in the power grid. These measures should enable Ningbo to achieve a 10 per cent share of clean energy – including wind power, solar energy and natural gas.

Within China today, more than 120 initiatives – under various titles such as Eco-Cities, Low-Carbon Cities and Smart Cities – have been launched by several government departments or government-related structures, including the National Development and Reform Committee; Ministry of Transportation; Ministry of Science and Technology; and MOHURD.
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Liuzhou Bridge
Liuzhou (pictured) and Wuzhou will transform their current mobility management and improve urban efficiency by optimising administration of municipal buildings
At the end of January 2013, MOHURD selected the first batch of 90 pilot smart cities, including 37 prefecture-level cities, 50 districts (and counties) and three townships.

Traffic management represents one of the key objectives in most of these projects. Demand is increasing for more efficient public transportation and traffic management.

This requires moving from current standalone management structures to more integrated and interconnected platforms. Such platforms allow better information collection and sharing, and enable both operators and end users to make better decisions.

Facilitating change

Schneider is one of several major companies which have moved to address the trend towards more tightly integrated management of cities’ utilities and transport networks.
In 2012, the company worked with the Chinese cities of Nanning, Fushun and Erdos to implement its SmartMobility technology. This technology aims at providing intelligent urban and mobility management, so as to enable local authorities to make the most of their road infrastructures.

A key part of the SmartMobility concept is centralised, real-time traffic infrastructure management and control. Because of the way in which information from disparate sources is gathered and combined, operators are more efficient and respond more rapidly to incidents or emergency situations that may occur throughout the road network.

Citizens and transport network users benefit from heightened security and significant reductions in the amount of time they spend on their daily travels as a result of the provision of real-time information.

In addition, Schneider Electric is collaborating with the cities of Liuzhou and Wuzhou to transform their current mobility management and improve urban efficiency by optimising administration of municipal buildings. With these two cities, the company will implement its efficient building management solutions and SmartMobility technology. There are ambitious targets to enable the local authorities to reduce traffic delays by over 35 per cent and achieve energy savings in excess of 30 per cent.

The projects to be carried out in Liuzhou and Wuzhou include implementation of Building Automation Systems (BAS) based on technology that will enable building owners to perform real-time monitoring of energy consumption. This will help increase employee productivity, achieve energy savings of up to 30 per cent and cut CO2 emissions, all of which will result in improved management of energy use as well as lower costs and environmental impact.

Schneider Electric has been playing an active role as a technological leader in smart transportation systems in China since 1990. It is currently executing similar projects in other Chinese cities, including Beijing, Chongqing, the largest city in China, where the company was recently contracted to implement its SmartMobility technology.

Envisaged collaboration also includes the implementation of a variety of systems geared towards reducing present road accident rates. This will involve red-light violation control systems and video surveillance and speed measurement systems that will monitor the traffic situation across metropolitan areas.

Also notable is the public transit prioritisation project the company is executing in the city of Urumqi, which will enable city authorities to effectively coordinate interaction between the new bus rapid transit network and city traffic, enabling priority to be given to public transportation over private transportation at any time. It is claimed this will lead to a maximum reduction in transit delays and unjustified stoppages, reinforcing the city’s road safety levels.

Companies in this article

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