Recently in this year Smart city has been becoming a heating topic and accelerating rapidly. we have seen many smart city projects initiating in not only major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, but also in eastern and south – eastern city close to the coast (Most of them has good manufacturing infrastructure or a service infrastructure). Large amounts of money have been invested into these projects, involving smart energy, smart health, and smart education.

However, there are many rising concerns for these projects.

1. Smart city project? Firstly getting a close look at the smart city projects, not that impressive as expected when compared with the smart city projects in EU, USA. A certain number of these projects are named as e-government, e-school, e-health, which is about building web information systems for school, government and companies, putting the information on the web and people can view them at home or by the mobile. As opposed to the ‘E system’, a ‘real meaning’ of smart city project should be integrated with the core elements such as sensing ability, open data principle, user participation. For example those who use the sensors to monitor the energy consumption, real time traffic status and so on. Merely building an e – system is not sufficient to consider as smart. The real smart projects that is still too few.

2. Service Scale. In order to play an effective role, the system needs a large scale of user or devices to function properly. Most of named ‘e system’ projects are essentially depending on the user generated content. Thinking if the system can’t be deployed and used in large scale, with little user information input, no people is interested in using them. In that sense, the system amounts to nothing when user scale is small. And that is truly a fact that many local governments have built their own system but end up with disappointment because few citizens know and use them. I am a little skeptical about the ability of how they are going to convince the citizens to use the public service and make the service with good usability; after all, they are not so much motivated like commercial company to run it as a business. The point is too often the smart city projects are still not learning to proactively approach to people, and make the people play a part into it.

3. Infrastructure cost is too high. Likewise some ‘smart city project’ which relies on sensor and device input also need to reach a certain scale to play its role. We can’t expect a system to be effective with only a few sensors and devices. However, a large deployment of infrastructure also leads to high cost but not that useful in the end. There are several large projects people used to brag about. For example, the Pudong airport in Shanghai, is now in deployment of large scale of sophisticated sensor networks around the airport. It can help to detect any intruder and distinguish whether it is caused by a human or animal. However it is accused of really high cost, which can’t be a role model simply because other airports in China can’t afford for such high expense on the construction, let alone the long-term maintenance. Being smart and beneficial is good, while at the same time keeping a mind of cost.

4. Lack of Transparency and evaluation. In most of time, the news concerning the projects is a few hundred of words, ever since that it will be lost in your eyes. We can guess what it is from its name. But still people have little knowledge about the projects, and limited channels to know what is going on, and when it is going to accomplished, how it is going to benefit us. Citizen as the stakeholder, they need to be informed about these information. There is , there projects is always in the secrecy. Even after the projects have been deployed, how it is being evaluated is still not known. But in fact, the outcome of smart city project can be significant to the scalability and future evolvement of this service. Who are going to judge and evaluate, of course is people. In the end, the lack of transparency and evaluation leads to minimal participation of public citizen.

5. Closed system, interoperability is a huge issue. Understandably, given the current situation in China, the web system infrastructure is far more lagging behind what is going on in the US and EU. Accelerating the pace of building e infrastructure is important and necessary. But the question is: web information system as a top level infrastructure of smart city, should more focus on the interoperability of different service when the standards are not in place. On the citizen perspective, consumers don’t want to work with many utilities; it will be good if one integrated utility can provide everything. And that requires the systems should be enabled to talk to each other. A fragmented or isolated system can’t consider as smart if different systems can’t talk to each other. That is a rising concern because it is often seen in different regions, even the neighbor regions; they all carried out the same smart city projects but implemented in different ways and by different company. It is highly likely to happen that if I am driving my car from one city to another; the car information can exchange within different cities. Moreover, not similar smart system can talk but also distinct smart system should exchange information as well. Germany has its own smart grid and smart car project, and one top requirement is to make smart grid and smart car project integrated. Currently, most system and projects are still closed and thus isolated from each other. We need an open system, not only accord with open standards but most importantly a uniform platform, so that to make system interoperable and reusable so we don’t waste reinventing the wheels.

6. Monopoly is still there. Weather it is internet of things or smart city, the major player in the China are always the state-owned companies. They control the resource, the government funding, the market, most important of all, government relationships. Like China telecom, many of these state background companies can easily get the projects and contracts. The monopoly is always the energy of open innovation, open system. Will they open themselves is still not known. Openness means they will lose the control of the market, the game will change. If still remain closed, we, citizen will end up with locking ourselves to only one vendor.

7. Protection of privacy is important but ignorant. Stealing the user privacy has been growing as a hidden industry, and starts to catch public awareness. As government stresses to accelerate the pace of industry chain of internet of things and smart city, the voice on the protection of privacy has been still too weak because that is not a major focus. Evidently in the future, it will be a great problem. China is going very rapidly but sometimes forgets to keep a balance on what is important. While in EU and USA the privacy is also a major focus and doing a lot effects, it is more believed it will go more smoothly in the future.

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