Municipal officials in Shanghai now take pride in the litany of Internet of Things applications in their city that make streets and homes safer.

For instance, they say cameras at the entrance to a residential estate can scan the face of a driver and his car plate and instantly open the gate if he is verified as a resident living there, or request a visitor to register his or her details.

More than half a million Internet of Things sensors have reportedly been installed throughout the city, on streets, in subway trains, plus residential communities and skyscrapers, according to Shanghai Daily.

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Cameras and facial scanners are seen at an entrance to a residential estate in Shanghai. Photo: Shanghai Daily

A data center houses all details collected by these sensors for police and data crunchers to track fugitives and analyze potential threats to public security.

The center reportedly boasts a capacity of 17.9 petabytes – a petabyte is roughly a million megabytes – on its 5,000 servers, plus the ability to undertake 400 algorithms. The neural center of a digitalized Shanghai is part amulti-billion-yuan initiative by the municipal government.

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A touchscreen display in a security control room shows real-time data on power usage, natural gas supply, parking lots, identity of visitors, etc. Photo: Shanghai Daily

The “smart” border control systems at 123 interchange points between Shanghai and its neighboring provinces Zhejiang and Jiangsu are said to be four times more efficient than the previous generation. The new system has identified and contributed to the capture of 194 fugitives, as well as 13,400 illegal or dangerous items since September 2017.

Shanghai’s 1,712 residential quarters and estates also have “smart” sensors and closed-circuit television cameras to detect burglars.

High-rise blocks also have cameras to immediately warn citizens and catch residents who throw things over their balcony.

But it has also raised concerns about privacy and if the government is prying on the daily lives of its residents, since these legions of cameras boost high-definition optical and digital zooms, and even if people close their windows and draw their curtains, the government can still find out a lot about them, such as who visits them at home or when they go to bed, if it wants to.

Sensors have also been put inside Shanghai’s 3,500 high-rise blocks to detect smoke and fire, as well as monitor structural integrity.

The Shanghai Police Force said they would speed up the installation of smart devices to cover virtually all corners and alleyways in a city of 25 million residents.

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