“Smart city” attacks China

In a small city named Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, you can check the arrival time of the next bus, make an appointment at a city hospital, and find parking spaces or public bicycles — all from your smartphone.

In Zhenjiang, the city buses can continuously report their position and operating characteristics to a “smart dispatch” control center, so that the operators can get enough information to improve scheduling efficiency and reducing fuel use and emissions.

Zhenjiang city buses continuously report their position and operating characteristics to a “smart dispatch” control center, helping operators improve scheduling efficiency and reducing fuel use and emissions. In a pilot project, some buses are now also sporting fast 4G wireless internet for riders. According to the city, half a million riders a day are checking bus arrival times using smartphone apps, and the city is saving 6,700 tons of carbon dioxide and ¥17 million ($2.7 million) in fuel costs per year.

Although it was an early adopter, Zhenjiang is far from the only city in China trying to improve efficiency and service through technology. The central government has made development of smart city technology and projects a key national policy, and it’s now difficult to find a Chinese city of any size that does not have aspirations to be “smart.” With millions of rural migrants arriving every year and environmental and economic pressures mounting, Chinese cities can surely use all the smart they can get.

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