Chinese Version of “Sensing City- One of Ten Breakthrough Technologies 2018”

29 Aug,2019

2018, MIT listed “Sensing City” as one of the Ten Breakthrough Technologies. It is described as “one of the project’s goals is to base decisions about design, policy, and technology on information from an extensive network of sensors that gather data on everything from air quality to noise levels to people’s activities.”(MIT Technology Review)

To better understand the “Sensing City” concept in China, the “Digital China” must be mentioned to reveal the truths and ideas behind it. From Mr. Tong Qingxi, Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, he understands the digital China from three aspects: Electronic Government, Digital Economy, and smarter smart society. These three aspects are fully interpreting the Chinese version of “sensing city” in current stage.

Electronic Government

“Electronic Government is the use of technological communications devices, such as computers and the Internet to provide public services to citizens and other persons in a country or region.” (Wikipedia). In China, E-government has developed rapidly in recent years. It enables transparent and efficient governmental works, as well as the smooth interactions between citizens.

Digital Economy

The digital economy is basically an economic form based on intelligent manufacturing and data, which is the opposite side of entity economy. Mr. Tong interprets digital economy into three contents: first, the economic activity is no longer based on physical currency exchange. Customers buy things online without paying cash but trade in form of digital numbers, such as Alipay, WeChat payment, etc.. Second, the digital-based production activity. For instance, artificial intelligence, automatic assembly lines, digital communication equipment, etc., as well as satellite systems for communication, navigation, and remote sensing. Third, the variety of products, devices, components and complete machines are characterized by numbers. For instance, computers, chips, robots, various types of remote sensing and sensor devices.

Smarter Smart City

As a smart and intelligent urban form, smarter smart city should have the ability to sense, to intelligently think. At the same time, the message will be sent to the city commanding center. From Mr. Tong, the smarter smart city can be described with four words: feeling, pass on, thinking, acting.

  • Feeling

Smarter smart city enables city to feel. Once any part of one city occurs problem, the city nervous will detect it immediately. Therefore, cities should also have a large number of sensing systems, such as thermometers, anemometers, hygrometers, videos, etc., which is the original source of the urban data.

  • Pass on

Through the Internet, Internet of Things, wired network, wireless network, the data produced by sensing system can be transmitted to the city center completely and accurately through transportation channels.

  • Thinking

The city brain has the strong ability to sense, to think, and to study. Based on the former two process, it can make decision and solutions to solve problems through the processing data in city center.

  • Acting

Also, based on the decision and solutions made by city brains, an implementation and execution systems should be required as well. Through the execution of these decisions and solutions, the urban areas become more affordable, livable, and environmentally friendly. Till this stage, the smarter smart city can be defined as a complete feedback and decision system, as well as a information system.


In the construction process of building digital China, the most important and fundamental ability is to sense. While sensing ability combines many technologies, such as remote sensing, communication, navigation, and GIS (like SuperMap). The digital China perfectly interpret the sensing city concept with the key words: feeling, pass on, thinking and acting. To add more meaning to sensing city, it enables citizens to get the most benefits and advantages with the less costs. And the key points to Chinese version of sensing city is that the people's sense of well-being and sense of security will be greatly enhanced.


Mr. Tong Qingxi, Academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences


The whole article is based on the interview of Mr. Tong Qingxi, and his speech on 2018 Big Data Spatial Information Application Expo, as well as other references listed in the article.

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