According to a report commissioned by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission
(USCC), China is rapidly rising as the world leader in smart city design and construction.
In fact, of the 1,000 or so smart cities planned worldwide, as many as half are being developed by
the Chinese, who have invested about $74 billion in the research and development of these
And it makes a good deal of sense that China is the place where this revolution is taking place.
Smart cities by design are uniquely capable of achieving two fundamental goals of the Chinese
Communist Party: efficiency and surveillance.
With millions of sensors hardwired into each of these cities’ streets, bridges, and buildings and
feeding information into centralized mainframes, common problems inherent to densely populated
urban centres will be directly addressed.
Traffic will be optimized, both for street and foot traffic; problems like structural failures and
common wear and tear issues for roads and bridges will be detected before they lead to
catastrophes; and future outbreaks of viruses like COVID 19 will be tracked on previously
And of course, with 5G stations positioned every couple hundred feet, citizens’ social and internet
activities will be monitored with microscope-level precision.
Seems like a win-win-win for a government that has held a boot over the throat of its citizenry for
more than seven decades.
Death, Taxes, and Communist Lies…
However, the reality of the situation is that the smart city, much like the rest of the Chinese
Communist Party’s promises and claims, is little more than a concept.
The problem with achieving something as complex and intricate as a true smart city is that one of
the most critical technological aspects remains elusive. And for China, this isn’t a problem that will
soon be resolved.
The issue goes to the heart of what makes a smart city, well, smart: its sensors.
A WiFi-capable sensor, even the highly specialized variety that’s designed to detect icing on a city
street, for example, is no different than any other internet-capable device.
Like your phone or tablet, they absorb and transmit data. To do this, they require internal memory.
As of today, internal memory storage requires a power source, either from a centralized power
supply or from its internal battery.
This already creates problems. While the battery in your phone can be charged daily, sensors buried
deep inside building walls or in the structure of a bridge present problems with accessibility.
Trillions of New Devices Across the Globe
Multiply this charging requirement by 10 or 20 million, which is how many such sensors will be
required to achieve anything approaching true smart city capability, and the goal of efficiency and
automation goes right out the window.
And this is only the start of the problem.
The heat that is generated as electricity is consumed, even if a sensor is hardwired into the city’s
power grid, is another problem. Going back to the example of your phone, a bit of heat emanating
from your pocket is hardly an issue at all, but multiply this by a factor of a few million, and you start
to run into major problems — the threat of fire being just one.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, is the cost of the energy it will take to power these
mountains of newly internet-capable devices. It has been estimated that just to achieve China’s
smart city goals alone, the country will need to double its total power output.
There are other issues stemming from all this. The issue of network outages due to blackouts, for
example, will make the whole system highly unstable.
The manpower necessary to maintain such a complex, cumbersome mechanism will defeat the
purpose from the get-go.
Put all of these technical hurdles together and you come to one inevitable conclusion: It’s not going