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Internet Plus should mean smarter lives

Ma Zhiping
Updated: Jul 3,2015 4:39 PM     China Daily

The nation’s Internet Plus initiative has developers and Internet companies rushing to tie the knot. Industry observers say these “marriages” will create a smart-cities, smart-communities and smart-homes market worth trillions of yuan.

In one recent commercial move, Beijing-based developer Huayuan Property Co Ltd got hitched to Internet security software provider Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd, and together they plan to use Qihoo’s smart-home systems in communities built by Huayuan.

All the parties involved in these pairings believe that the Internet Plus strategy has huge potential to create smart communities that will sit on smart furnishings, and be protected by smart community security systems. Community entertainment facilities, medical and education services and community-based e-finance and e-commerce networks will be smarter and more efficient than ever before.

In the future, many more middle-class city dwellers will be yearning for better living conditions, and will expect their homes and communities to not only be safe and convenient, but also be smart to live in.

And the building and construction industries and the Internet sector are all promising their own blueprints for this, and much more.

But many of the so-called smart communities that already exist have weak security, poor communication services and lax management.

A friend who bought a so-called smart home in eastern Beijing in 2007 told me recently she was worried that the entry controls for her community and her own apartment building kept breaking. The gates were often left open, leaving any stranger free rein.

She complained that the security devices on her windows, even the smoke alarm in the kitchen, had never been tested, although many of the residents had complained to the management office to get the systems working.

The intercom system on her door was mostly “decoration”, she continued, adding that when she needed things fixed, she had to resort to endless calls.

I don’t think her trials are unique. But I hope that, through the Internet Plus strategy, the government can help solve these kinds of problems.

Developing smart communities is complicated, and involves almost every aspect of life, and so government planning and guidance is crucial.

The government should adopt an Internet mindset and provide top-level design, detailed planning and guidance in the development of genuinely smart communities-which will become the link between smart cities and smart homes.

The Ministry of Construction actually introduced the concept of smart communities at the turn of the century and drafted a plan in 2001.

That plan specified that a smart community should have an automated computer management center that offers information and communication services, collects utility payments and manages security systems, among other tasks.

But although Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing are reported to have developed some world-class smart communities, most have often ended up being barely clever.

Many key elements of smart communities, such as security monitoring, are often there just for show. In many cases they have never been connected or used, because the management companies at many communities consider fee collection more of a priority.

Some leading industry insiders have put forward serious recommendations to improve the situation, and their comments need to be taken seriously by government, homebuilders and Internet companies.

The key point that many make is that merely installing so-called smart systems is pointless unless they are used, maintained and managed wisely.

With vast fortunes being spent on buying their very own smart homes, too often purchasers are being left disappointed when they realize they simply have an expensive property, rather than a smart one.

Successful implementation of the Internet Plus strategy means everything concerned should be fully and thoroughly connected.

While piloting the strategy in the housing construction sector, the government must ensure the necessary levels of supervision and administration, so that plans for smart communities are actually implemented, and then studiously managed to serve their customers.

Would-be smart-home owners have to keep an eye out for fatal flaws in the model, too. Sorting out realty management services, or community services, for instance, can cause a huge bottleneck.

There is also a pressing need for talented people who know the Internet, and who can meet the expectations of residents in smart communities, to be employed to run them.

Smart living will require high-quality Internet systems and good, trustworthy, smart realty management teams able to get the job done.

Homebuilders and Internet companies must remember that everything in a smart community has to be functional, sustainable, reliable, economic, suitable and practical to operate.

The government, meanwhile, should ensure that these Internet Plus marriages give birth to genuinely smart communities, and more of the residents can enjoy the benefits.