China warns against IBM slogan 'Smarter Planet'

An official raised national security concerns over projects like citywide networks of sensors for analytics

A Chinese official appeared to take aim at IBM as he warned recently against "Smarter Planet" projects, or the use of technology like networks of sensors in cities to gather and analyze data.

IBM has used the "Smarter Planet" slogan for wide-ranging projects including a green city lab in northeastern China. The concept, along with others like "reindustrialization" and "low-carbon economy" also put forth by developed countries, could constrain China, Li Yizhong, China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology, said in a speech summarized on the ministry Web site.

"Regarding these new ideas and strategies from abroad, we must be enlightened and vigorously develop strategic emerging industries, but also must raise our vigilance and cannot fall under the control of anyone," Li said in comments that were dated early last week, but appeared to have gone unreported outside China.

An IBM spokeswoman declined to comment, citing a lack of context for the statements.

IBM last year said it would work with the city of Shenyang, in Liaoning province, on computer applications for tasks like plotting efficient traffic plans and devising caps on industrial carbon output. IBM also planned to choose locations for sensors that would track water quality in city mains. It said it was talking with other local Chinese governments about launching similar joint labs.

But national security concerns often make it hard to get material as simple as a map from Chinese authorities, raising a potential obstacle for any effort to gather and analyze data from across a Chinese region or industry.

"The U.S. tries to use its information network technology, for things as small as controlling one computer or one generator, and as large as controlling a whole industry, to control every country's economy," Li said.

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Owen Fletcher

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