From kites to ferris wheel—how rural Wiefang became a smart city

I LOVE going to amusement parks—but I’m terrified of the rides.

Oh, yes, I’ve tried a lot of them. I even did Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland and that Transformers ride at Universal Studios, but I had to spend the next hour sitting down sniffing through an entire White Flower bottle just to get back on my feet. Ferris wheels are different; they get me sooo excited. That’s why I decided to do my P20 unboxing at the Mall of Asia Eye. I’ve also tried the London Eye and have made a list of other places to visit just because of these awesome giant wheels.

The Bohai Eye is built on top of a bridge, and the structure is 10 meters (32 feet) taller than the London Eye. The futuristic structure comes with 36 carts, each of which is able to carry eight to 10 passengers and equipped with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and a TV set and offers an unparalleled view of the Bailang River.

I was doing research about Weifang City—one of the Smart Cities mentioned during the recent Huawei Innovation Day held in Thailand, when I came across the Bohai Eye—the world’s largest spokeless ferris wheel—which is, you guessed it, located in Weifang.

Weifang ranks fourth in city size in Shandong with 9 million people, but its a surprising new landmark for a city known for its kite-making industry and a largely rural population.

Yes. Kites.  The drone equivalent of my generation.

Located in the center of the Shandong Peninsula, Weifang is famed as the birthplace of the kite over 2,400 years ago—legend has it that the philosopher Mozi created kites to send messages.

It was in 2014 when Weifang established a smart city department to promote smart city construction, with the aim of improving urban management, benefiting residents’ livelihoods, executing the strategy of informatization and building a new type of future-ready smart city.

As of October 2017 Huawei had completed construction of an NB-IoT network covering the whole city. The construction strategy was one network, one platform and multiple applications. Some 1,574 NB-IoT base stations were built across the city, providing 94-percent network coverage. At the same time, Huawei started to deploy a city-level IoT public service platform, the first of its kind. A total of 12 IoT city applications were launched on the platform, including smart parking, smart eGovernment, the Internet of Vehicles, smart building and smart lighting.

In the pioneering spirit of the philosopher Mozi, Weifang became the first city in China to build an urban smart lighting control system using Huawei’s NB-IoT technology. With smart lighting, the city can monitor the status of street lamps, automatically adjust brightness and light up only if there are passing vehicles and detect faults, with the system designed to save 80 percent of traditional electricity usage and 90 percent of previous maintenance costs.

The underlying connectivity in these smart cities will be critical to unlock the potential of the digital economy. Huawei is focused on improving connectivity capabilities within cities, and is creating the nervous system of  better-connected cities through an IoT platform, achieving better awareness (and) connectivity among smart devices.

Huawei and the Government of Weifang City have also established the Huawei-Weifang IoT Innovation R&D Center and the Huawei-Weifang Smart City IoT Industry Alliance.

The PC-based Internet provided information symmetry; mobile-Internet provided efficient connectivity; and now, IoT will deliver a fully connected world. It is what will make a smart city truly smart. Specifically, the thinking behind it is that constructing a smart city with IoT that connects everything will create a nervous system for the city that’s controlled by a management center that serves as its brain.


AFTER Shenzhen and Hangzhou, Weifang is also the third city in China to enable mobile payments for medical cards and the first to implement e-ID cards. As a result, the city started a three-pronged campaign: No Cards, No ID, No Cash.

Taking advantage of the growing popularity of mobile payments in the shape of WeChat and Alipay, Weifang took things to the next level with its online financial services platform Cloud Pay, which is available via the “V App.” Residents can use it to pay for local health care, education, public utilities, government services and other nontax revenue services. Cloud Pay also lets partner banks provide quick loans for residents and financial services for local e-commerce retailers.

Using their mobile phones to access the platform, users complete a comprehensive verification process to receive an electronic ID in the form of a dynamic QR code. With the e-ID, residents no longer have to carry a physical ID card when they go out. Using the Zhiji platform, Cloud Pay was upgraded into V Pass, a first-of-its-kind smart city pass for Weifang. The pass combines the user’s ID, driver’s license, health-insurance card, bank cards, bus pass, bicycle card, access control cards, library cards, travel card and other types of ID cards into a mobile app. Using just one app, residents can handle day-to-day affairs, travel around the city, and complete mobile payments for various public services, making life much more convenient.

Weifang’s V App represents the starting point of smart city construction in Weifang. It bypasses PC-based Internet, instead capitalizing on the rise of mobile Internet. If we define the smart city in the PC-based Internet era as smart city 1.0 and the mobile-based Internet era as smart city 2.0, then Weifang can proudly claim to have taken the first step toward smart city 3.0.

While we are currently enjoying the convenience of cashless payments thanks to GCash and Paymaya, having our own Smart City requires more than just investments in infrastructure but, more important, a strong political will for the government to initiate a concrete plan of action.


WITH the advent of 5G comes all the talk about artificial intelligence and it has become a hotly debated topic among business leaders, policy-makers, academics and industry experts.

Understandably, some take a cautious view when it comes to AI development, sometimes painting a grim, dystopic future. However, these concerns should not overshadow the enormous potential that AI offers society. Here are some key areas where AI has created remarkable developments and improvements in Asia.

Accessibility: Asia Pacific is currently home to 690 million people with disabilities. AI can help people with vision, hearing, cognitive, learning, and mobility disabilities perform daily tasks more independently, lead a richer, more productive life and participate more fully in society. For example, seeing AI is a free app that leverages AI capabilities to identify a broad range of visual cues, including faces, emotions and handwriting. That data is then converted into audio descriptions for the visually impaired. This enables the 285 million people in the world with low vision to better navigate their day, making the visual world more accessible.

Agriculture: Asia is the world’s most populous region with more than 4.5 billion inhabitants, approximately 60 percent of the global population, and this number is forecasted to grow to over 5 billion by 2030. In India Microsoft has partnered with a nonprofit organization, International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, to develop an AI Sowing App that sends advisories to farmers on the optimal date to sow their crops, based on weather conditions, soil and other indicators.

Climate Change: Microsoft is embracing the responsibility to operate sustainably and reduce the environmental impact of its business. One of the ways it does this is by enlisting AI’s help to manage the operations and infrastructure of our data centers. As a result, less electricity is needed to fuel data centers’ computing and cooling requirements. In fact, cloud services are 93 percent more energy efficient and up to 98 percent more carbon efficient than traditional enterprise data centers.

Education: Education is one of the building blocks for creating a better future, and AI is being leveraged to enhance the education experience for students and improve outcomes in schools. In Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India, Microsoft is partnering with the government to launch a new app that predicts which students are most likely to drop out of school. Powered by machine learning, AI capabilities and the cloud, this solution enables administrators and educators to intervene early and target the most at-risk students with programs and counseling to prevent dropouts.

Health care: Last, AI technology has the potential to assist health-care providers in their quest to tackle some of the most prevalent diseases we face today, as well as improve the quality of life for Asia’s growing population. In India Microsoft is collaborating with one of the largest health organizations in the country, Apollo Hospitals, to develop an AI-focused network aimed at tackling cardiovascular disease, which contributes to nearly one-third of deaths worldwide. By bringing together Microsoft’s AI expertise and Apollo Hospitals’ experience and knowledge in the field of cardiology, this partnership aims to develop new machine learning models to predict patient risk for heart diseases and assists doctors with treatment plans.


SMART, in partnership with Huawei, gives customers a chance to win a photo printer with every purchase of any Huawei smartphone with a postpaid plan via the Smart Online Store.

This time, Smart Online Store customers who sign up for a Huawei smartphone bundled with an All-In Plan or a GigaX Plan on or before August 15 instantly earn raffle entries. The higher the plan, the more raffle entries earned. Huawei handsets available on the Smart Online Store and valid for the raffle are the Nova 2i, Nova 2 Lite, Y6, Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, and its latest flagship devices, the P20 Series, which includes the P20 Lite, P20 and P20 Pro.

To make a purchase, simply go to, select your desired smartphone and Smart Postpaid Plan from the menu and fill out the required information before checking out.

Once your application is approved, you will receive a link for payment via e-mail. Raffle entries will be credited to you after you settle your payment through its easy and secure payment options via MasterCard, Visa, ECPay, PayPal, Bancnet, LBC, SM, Cebuana Lhuillier or Cash on Delivery.

Aside from letting you buy the latest devices with a Smart Postpaid Plan, the Smart Online Store also enables you to track your orders, pay bills, renew or upgrade your existing plan, top-up with Smart Prepaid load, buy phone accessories and add-ons, among others.


LAST week I got a text from the very active National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council about an earthquake that was recorded in Batangas. I know a lot of people have become quite scared (me included) since the Phivolcs warned about the possibility of the “Big One”: a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that could hit Metro Manila and its nearby provinces under the west valley faults in the next three to four years. Emergency drills have been in place to get the people ready, but are we also doing enough to check the integrity of our buildings and other structures?

In a forum presided by Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez a couple of months ago, Engr. Emilio Morales presented his study, titled “A Clear And Present Danger 2—The Use Of QT Or TMT In Seismic Zone 4.”  The eight-year-old study that has been presented in various structural engineers fora warning the public of the use of QT/TMT for high rise buildings, as these bars have a brittle outer layer and a weaker inner core after welding, threading, bending and galvanizing. These bars are also shown to have easily failed in cyclic loading tests. Former Sen. Nikki Coseteng also asked critical questions that were not answered at all by the steel industry representatives as has been their predisposition for over 10 years.

Despite the long and detailed technical presentation on how quenched steel bars are being manufactured, the steel manufacturers failed to prove that quenched steel bars in high rises can withstand cyclic loading in the event of a severe earthquake Seismic Zone 4 country such as the Philippines. No tests were presented to prove otherwise.

Furthermore, the QT/TMT rebars, according to the Metals Industry Research and Development Center, cannot be heated over 500 degrees centigrade and cannot be butt-welded.

Coseteng, who was present in the forum and who represented herself as a concerned consumer, reiterated her need for a clear and categorical answer from the steel manufacturers that QT/TMT rebars are safe to use in high rises in Seismic Zone 4. She also wants the steel manufacturers to submit proof of tests done to substantiate such claim.

Coseteng added that, while further tests are being done, the use of this rebar in high rises continue unabated to the detriment of public safety and is just like playing Russian Roulette.

Turning Points 2018
Suntrust banner2