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China's safe cities serve as solutions and opportunities for growth

China's safe cities serve as solutions and opportunities for growth
As China’s economy and city population continues to rise, so will security issues such as crime and violence. Going beyond basic video surveillance, the nation is moving towards creating networks that will allow for better data retrieval and interpretation, providing law enforcement and government agencies the information they need to respond effectively.
Over the past few decades, China has emerged to become a formidable economic superpower. Currently considered to be the second largest economy in the world, China's gross domestic product (GDP) reached US$17.6 trillion in 2014, based on figures from the IMF, while latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics showed a 6.9 percent GDP growth year-on-year in the third quarter of 2015.

Economic growth goes hand-in-hand with urbanization and Chinese cities are growing at extraordinary rates to answer the need for more manpower and consumerism. The government has plans to restructure its nation by relocating 250 million people from the countryside into the cities by 2025 to ensure further economic growth.

Rapid urbanization has its price though. China has been forced to contend with growing pains typical of a developing country, "The most critical issues facing China's booming cities include: ensuring the safety and security of people and assets, lowering crime rate, housing affordability, alleviating traffic congestion, combating worsening pollution and optimizing energy efficiency," commented Derek Tan, Director of Integrated Solutions, Asia, at Tyco International. "All these issues present threats to social, economic and political security if not managed adequately in time." 

Safe Cities as a Solution
The Chinese government launched a comprehensive nationwide program aimed at improving public safety infrastructures in 650 cities with state-of-the-art technology and this gradually developed into what is now referred to as safe city projects. "Many are beginning to manage these issues by leveraging on harvesting big data to provide insights and analysis to the causes, extent, trends, and forecasts of these challenges. With the scale and complexity of these issues in the megalopolises, the advantage of leveraging on technology is clear to all," continued Tan.

Currently, majority of government-backed large-scale safe city projects are handled locally by telecommunications operators with or without a system integrator. The rest of the projects are then largely awarded to different domestic security product and service providers.

Safe Cities as a Trigger for Economic Growth
The resulting massive government investment in safe city infrastructure has become the biggest driver of growth in the security sector and this, according to Tan, has become the main vertical market for video surveillance equipment. This fact, coupled with rising demands for the same in both the commercial and banking sector, led KEN research to report that the nation's electronic security market is set to grow at 16.4 percent CAGR by 2019.

China's national safe city market is also poised to become a cumulative $138 billion market from 2012 to 2022, which will make it the largest one in the world, according to Homeland Security Research. Recent events, though, should be taken into account when assessing the future of China's safe cities. Reports are pointing toward an economic slowdown and this would most likely result to certain safe city projects and developments being temporarily put on hold due to government budget constraints.

Developmental Phases
The construction of China's safe cities dates back to 2003 with four pilot cities Beijing, Jinan, Hangzhou, and Suzhou. Since then, these projects has increased in complexity and scope. "From the perspective of China's safe city business operators, safe city construction can be divided into four phases: basic infrastructure, network integration, high-level applications and integration of all these applications," noted Yan-Xin Xu, Industry Consultant at Hikvision Digital Technology. "There would be a gradual move toward big data in security applications in the future."

This move is reflective of the need to effectively leverage, manage, and store information gained from video surveillance cameras and image capture devices, along with eliminating the need for manual frame-by-frame viewing of video surveillance feeds. "China's safe city projects are facing a need for applications that can efficiently manage huge volumes of complicated video surveillance information yielded by China's safe cities," said Sher Ye, New Media Marketing Director at KEDACOM. "Today's monitoring systems need to be efficient operating systems that can automatically discern important image content and export this valuable information to the user."

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