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UPDATED: July 18, 2011 NO. 29 JULY 21, 2011
That Internet of Things
China begins accelerating development of the Internet of Things, but has many technological obstacles to overcome

THINGS ON DISPLAY: The exhibition area of the Internet of Things union of Jiangsu at an international software expo held in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province (WANG QIMING)

Last January, Xijing Transformer Substation in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, the State Grid's first intelligent transformer substation, came online. The substation is almost complete, automated with computers, not humans, operating and monitoring the facility. Sensors within the substation communicate with each other to make snap decisions should a problem arise.

In March, Gree Electric Appliances Inc. and China Mobile Ltd. began cooperating to produce "smart" air conditioners that interact with other wireless devices in office buildings and homes. If the temperature in a room drops below a certain threshold, or sensors in other parts of the building notice any temperature change, the air conditioning units will switch on or off accordingly.

Other companies are following suit, quickly jumping on the smart technology bandwagon and researching new wireless gadgets to keep people, and now things, connected.

The trend is called the Internet of Things, a global network infrastructure that provides anytime, anywhere connectivity with anything that has a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag—and it's working its way into people's everyday lives in unimaginable ways.

Recent events concerning the Internet of Things in China have captured the attention of tech-savvy users and communications experts.

Unfolding developments

In early June, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) implemented measures to administer and protect the security of the Internet of Things and regulate market competition. It also designated certain sectors for future development and integration into the Internet of Things.

Later that month, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and China Electronic Chamber of Commerce (CECC) gathered industrial experts at the 2011 China Summit for Development of the Internet of Things in Beijing to brainstorm applications and development of smart technology in China.

On June 22, Shenzhen in south China hosted an exchange meeting on the Internet of Things for Chinese managers' unions to focus on widespread connectivity in smart transportation systems, smart power grids, smart medical treatment, smart logistics and smart housing sectors.

The Shenzhen Municipal Government also outlined its plan for two industrial parks in Longgang and Nanshan districts with integrated and connected "things" to demonstrate the efficacy of smart systems. Preliminary work on the two parks has already begun.

"The Internet of Things has turned from a vague concept into an intangible hand pushing industrial transformation," said Quan Chunlai, Deputy Director of the Second Institute of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.

'Things' in China

China began developing a network to allow wireless devices to communicate, or "talk," with each other as early as 1999 under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). At the time, the concept was known simply as a "sensor network."

At the UN World Summit on the Information Society held in Tunis in 2005, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) officially introduced the concept of the Internet of Things, which has also been adopted by China.

Today, China's progress in smart technology development far exceeds the scope the ITU defined in 2005.

"Unlike its involvement in the computer and Internet industries, China will have an international say when it comes to this field of the Internet of Things," said Liu Haitao, Director of the CAS Wuxi Institute of the Internet of Things.

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