Business Travel

How Zhengzhou Is Pioneering Smart Technology

With its strong production lines in consumer tech and innovative use of AI and big data, Zhengzhou is becoming one of China's new breed of 'smart' cities

If you are one of the 700 million people worldwide with an iPhone, chances are your designer gadget was manufactured in Zhengzhou. Foxconn production lines in the city’s Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone (ZAEZ) can turn out 350 new mobile phones a minute, amounting to half of the world’s total output. But consumer tech is only part of the story in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, a megacity of nearly 10 million people that’s also an automotive centre producing Chinese-designed buses, trucks and SUVs. All those workers need to be fed, naturally, so it’s handy that Zhengzhou is also China’s frozen food production base, with one company alone able to make 100,000 frozen dumplings per hour.

On the southern bank of the Yellow River, Zhengzhou traces its history back to the near-mythical Shang Dynasty (from 1600 BC), an era that gave birth to Taoism and the first Chinese script scratched onto the shells of turtles. Today’s Zhengzhou is more concerned about the future than the ancient past, though tourists still flock to its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shaolin Temple, a centre of kung fu practice for 1,500 years.

As China seeks to move up the value chain, Zhengzhou is on track to becoming one of China’s new breed of ‘smart’ cities. Government-owned and private companies are increasingly employing AI and big data to streamline life in the city. In smart transportation, Chinese internet giant Tencent has chosen Zhengzhou to test a new bus-hailing app. The Zhengzhou Yutong bus company, which supplies school buses across China, has implemented GPS technology in its vehicles that allows parents to track movements and know when their children are on the way back home.

Zhengzhou police sporting high-tech sunglasses were widely reported in the global press in 2018; the glasses, with built-in facial recognition, were being used to track crime suspects at train stations in the city. Meanwhile, in the area of healthcare, a major hospital in Zhengzhou, one of the largest in China, has introduced consultation and medical care via smartphone, where patients can pay their medical bills, receive information about conditions and even have video-conferenced consultations via an app.

The People: Guo Jianguo

Guo Jianguo, Innovation Asia, Zhengzhou, China
Ryan Chan

With the massive influx of residents in China’s cities expected to continue for the next few decades, the challenges of housing, urban development and especially public transportation are more pressing than ever. That’s where Guo Jianguo comes in, presiding over Zhengzhou Tiamaes Technology, a company that provides a range of smart transportation solutions for bus systems, from electric vehicle supercharging stations to GPS vehicle monitoring, smart payment systems and onboard video systems.

In 2016, Guo was named ‘Person of the Year in Innovations’ by the Henan government, in recognition of the products and services from his company that are being used not just in Zhengzhou but nationwide. Appropriately, Guo started his career at the Zhengzhou tram company as a quality control inspector, later becoming a researcher at the Zhengzhou Bus Communication Corporation.

Guo, who became president of Tiamaes in 2014, has vowed to ‘push forward the transportation sector’ in China by committing considerable resources to research and development, improving public transit technology via big data, AI, blockchain and 5G mobile solutions. In March 2018, his company announced a partnership with Chinese internet giant Tencent to introduce bus fare payments via WeChat.

Innovation Asia, Zhengzhou, China
Ryan Chan

The District: Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone

An ‘Aerotropolis’, this landmark 2013 development is China’s first special economic zone to be centred around an airport – in this case, the high-tech, ever-expanding Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport. The area is a carefully designed package that could potentially provide a template for urban planning elsewhere in China.

Just a few years ago, the land surrounding the site was mostly fields and orchards; now it’s a vast industrial, commercial and logistics hub, housing everything from the world’s largest iPhone production facility to biomedicine, e-commerce and more, all based around the concept of speedy air logistics – parts flying in, and products flying out. A huge success, the ZAEZ is already five times the size of Manhattan and responsible for more than half the trade revenue of Henan province.

Ones to watch

Good for business‭ ‬

One of Zhengzhou’s property management companies developed the Xinya IoT office app, which uses cloud-computing and Internet of Things (giving objects connectivity) to offer smart integration for properties – everything from security surveillance to customer service operation

Golden age of TVs‭ ‬

The Hejia 4K smart TV from tech and telecom firm Henan Mobile employs voice recognition technology for programme searches and device controls, as well as AI and cloud computing to recommend shows based on viewing habits. It also supports 4K live-streaming and split-screen display, so you can watch four channels at once.

Bare your soles‭ ‬

An example of Zhengzhou’s obsession with Internet of Things, the Anlala Foot Massager is smartphone-controlled, with integrated payment system technology for use in business hotels.

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