Guangzhou opens ‘Smart Stations’

Guangzhou media are buzzing today with the opening of the provincial capital’s first “smart station” demonstration, delivered by tech giant Tencent.

The demo was set up at two stations – Tianhe Smart City Station and Guangzhou Tower. Features on display included “brush-face” scanners, customer service robots, auto-adjusted lighting. “More importantly, however,” the local media pointed out, station managers can manage everything going on in the station, including scheduling, without much direct involvement, i.e. letting the algorithms do the work.

Guangzhou Metro and Tencent are calling the new transit system software “the nation’s first rail transit brain”. Its official name is the Sui Teng OS. Its unveiling was a grand enough occasion to attract the heads of more than 40 subway companies, local and international. Even Shanghai sent a representative.

According to Cai Changjun, deputy general manager of Guangzhou Metro Group, “The implementation of the Smart Metro Demonstration Station takes Guangzhou Metro into a new era, and will help to gather experience for the mutual benefit of the nation’s subways.” 

The “brush face” system is clearly going to be most popular with passengers. The function has already been in use in Tencent’s hometown, at the Futian Station in Shenzhen, and now Guangzhou riders can download an app, bind to their WeChat account to pay, and then simply walk through the turnstile – although they need to stoop slightly to “brush face”.

The station’s ambience can be automatically adjusted according to density of traffic as well as varying weather conditions. Moreover, lighting “guides” can be used to move passengers around better and ease congestion at peak hours.

Equipment will no longer require guys in overalls going around every so often. Everything is equipped with sensors to detect breakdowns, both in emergencies and in predicting future maintenance. 

Those who fear all this data being gathered and used by artificially intelligent machines need not be worried, apparently. The article pointed out that the Sui Teng OS is based on the “principle of openness, cooperation and win-win that Tencent has long adhered to”.

What this apparently means is that, at the industry level, Sui Teng OS will provide IoT access standards, big data standards and service open standards for urban rail transit, and attract more industry partners to participate in application development and plug-in development. 

Those worried more about the loss of jobs that such smart systems will inevitably bring need not worry, either. “In the future, the development of Sui Teng OS will drive the formation of urban rail transit industry clusters and create hundreds of billions of value,” the report said.

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