China is steeped in centuries of rich history and culture. But in the modern era, it’s also a country with eyes to the future.
Today’s Chinese cities are forging a path for the world’s urban hubs of the future. This momentum is driven in part by predictions that more than 75% of China’s population (and a total of more than a billion people) will live in the country’s urban areas by the year 2050.
“The global city of the future will be a smart, interconnected environment where all the new transformative technologies, such as big data, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and renewable energy are combined,” says Mark Haefele, Global Chief Investment Officer of UBS Wealth Management. “And China is ready to embrace the tech revolution.”
Below are a few Chinese startups, concepts, and technologies that are defining what a global city of tomorrow might look like.
Cutting-edge “manned drone” technology with the potential to revolutionize ride-sharing.
City-dwellers who have long dreamed of flying cars just may get the next best thing with the Ehang 184, a quadcopter drone capable of reaching heights of up to 11,500 feet and carrying a human passenger. The fully electric vehicle contains one small cabin that can accommodate a person of up to 220 pounds, and it can fly 40 miles on just one charge.
The 184 is a self-flying machine, and the passenger doesn’t need to do anything to control the flight path. The drones are equipped to handle normal wind and weather patterns — but they’ll also be monitored by an on-the-ground control center that provides oversight for unforeseen obstacles.
The 184, which was still just a concept a couple of years ago, is now a real, functioning product that has completed hundreds of successful test flights.
China is paving the way for these drones to become an integrated part of city life: Ehang has already received permission for the revolutionary drones to take to the skies from the Chinese government. Ehang hopes that entire fleets of these drones will one day act as a futuristic ride-sharing service with functionality similar to that of Uber.
High-speed transportation that will connect cities quicker and more efficiently.
For travelers who prefer to stay closer to the ground, advanced high-speed rails are allowing for faster, more efficient travel between cities.
China currently holds the record for the fastest bullet-train technology on the planet, and CASIC (China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation) is in the process of developing a “high-speed flying train” that will be a competitor to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.
CASIC claims that the train will be capable of reaching peak speeds of 2,485 miles per hour (4,000 km per hour), which is about 10 times faster than current bullet-train technology, as well as four times faster than commercial flights and three times the speed of sound. The technology works via passenger pod, a near-vacuum tube, and magnetic levitation. Though there is currently no timeframe for how long it will take to bring this project to life, CASIC owns more than 200 patents for the technology, and plans to eventually integrate it into China’s One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiative.
Paperclip Startup Campus
A Hong Kong-based startup campus encouraging entrepreneurs to knowledge-swap.
Startup culture continues to take over the business world in global cities ranging from Silicon Valley to Shanghai. In Hong Kong, one company hopes to be a catalyst for the world’s most innovative startups: Paperclip Startup Campus encourages entrepreneurs to inspire one another through mutual, practical education and access to networking opportunities.
Founder Deepak Madnani based his model for Paperclip on the popular Lean Startup curriculum, which includes teaching entrepreneurs how to “fail fast” and iterate. Madnani designed Paperclip as a platform to “enable startup success.”
Madnani explains that Paperclip’s main mission is to give early-stage entrepreneurs the tools — best practices, networking opportunities with mentors and advisors, etc. — to build world-changing companies. “Paperclip is Hong Kong’s first dedicated startup campus, which uniquely combines innovation programs with serviced offices and co-work space,” he says.
“We want to be a global, ubiquitous entrepreneurship platform,” he adds. “We want to empower, educate, and provide tools to anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, from doctors and lawyers to farmers and villagers.”
A cutting-edge concept for innovative urban agriculture.
Design firm Sasaki is taking a progressive approach to one of the most practical concerns of increased urbanization: Sustainable food supply.
In the modern agriculture industry, building “up” is the new building out. Vertical farms have already been deployed in population-dense cities like Shanghai, but the Sunqaoi Shanghai concept promises to take urban farming to a whole new level. The 250-acre agricultural district will include things like algae farms, vertical seed banks, greenhouses, public plazas, parks, housing, stores and restaurants. Select crops will be grown indoors using hydroponics (without soil). The research-driven initiative will also include a science museum and cutting-edge “dynamic living laboratory.”
“As cities continue to expand, we must continue to challenge the dichotomy between what is urban and what is rural,” says Sasaki. “Sunqiao seeks to prove that you can have your kale and eat it too.”
The value of investments can go down as well as up. Your capital and income is at risk. Assets used for secured borrowing are at risk if you do not keep up with repayments. In the UK, UBS AG is authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority and subject to regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and limited regulation by the Prudential Regulation Authority. © UBS 2017. All rights reserved.