Suzhou Industrial Park: The Smart Path for Intelligent Cities
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’sSuzhou 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 eras.
“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 country.
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 invest.
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 application developers.