The Smart City@Kowloon East pilot project, part of the Hong Kong government’s Energizing East Kowloon initiative, is an important step for our city. I see smart cities as the future, enhancing quality of life and enriching work experiences for citizens. Several cities around the world already serve as inspirational examples, and with Hong Kong’s smart city pilot, we have an opportunity to move the city toward sustainable prosperity, with a competitive economy and quality of life for years to come.
Currently, Energizing East Kowloon’s “Smart Data and Technology” plans include free public Wi-Fi and smart parking systems, with other uses of data and technology as option. While these are promising and important initial steps, they are only part of what makes a city smart. Smart cities connect, interact and drive data effectively through comprehensive deployment of information and communication technologies.
In order to test the full potential of smart Hong Kong, connecting “things” should be a priority. The Internet of Things (IoT) applications are where smart cities’ power lies. They require a foundation of stronger wireless connectivity to support not only smartphones but a multitude of smart city sensors. What are the possibilities for Hong Kong if we have stronger wireless networks? Here are a few examples and suggestions:
According to the Census and Statistics Department, the percentage of Hong Kong residents aged 65 and above is projected to increase from 11% in 2003 to 27% in 2033. The city is expected to have an increasing demand for elderly care. In Singapore, sensors deployed in some elderlies’ publicly managed homes will alert family members if they stop moving, and attempt to monitor general health by recording toilet visits. This marriage of smart home and healthcare requires not only a strong in-building Wi-Fi connection, but also a high-speed network to send relevant data to family members. Given the aging population in Hong Kong, we should consider how a similar service can help the local elderly residents.
Environmental-aware smart port
In Hamburg Germany, the government has implemented smart technology at its port, the center of the country’s economy. Most commercial ships require information on water and wind conditions before entering the port, Hamburg’s government collects this data and share it with the crews in real-time. The application in Hamburg can be served as an inspiration for Hong Kong to bring competitiveness in its shipping industry, and enable the city to thrive as international trade becomes increasingly smart and technology-driven.
Looking at transportation, Hong Kong has a comprehensive transportation system. But commuters are yet to able to identify the fastest route for them holistically. How can you make a decision between walking, taking the bus, MTR, tram, light rail, ferry or taxi, depending on the traffic conditions? By collecting and analyzing data from IoT sensors and making it constantly available to the app developer community—as compare to the current Intelligent Road Network Package, available only by request—we have the potential to provide real-time transportation advice to citizens and tourists.
Real estate is an important part of Hong Kong’s economy. What if a property developer could use footfall and traffic data of their existing buildings to design its next development project?
Smart cities rely on IoT-enabled sensors to collect data, which can be shared across the developer community to bring innovative applications. To bring this transformation into reality, it has never been more important than now to rely on data and wireless networks. The centralized cellular network architecture being used around the world today was designed to connect millions of smartphones, but not to handle billions of IoT sensors that smart cities projects and enterprises are going to deploy. Additionally, with the growing popularity of cloud computing, more smartphone and IoT applications are hosted in the cloud. With most centralized cloud servers are located far from the endpoint devices—ranging from smartphones, IoT sensors to smart building camera or motion detector in an elderly resident’s home—the application performance and connectivity could be affected.
MEC brings stronger wireless networks
The solution is to bring a stronger wireless network across Hong Kong, including the use of mobile edge computing (MEC). MEC addresses issues with capacity, congestion and latency by managing mobile traffic intelligently at the network edge. These capabilities enable service providers to deliver an instant and seamless mobile broadband experience necessary for smart city applications, where speed is essential.
In summary, we support Hong Kong’s smart city pilot in East Kowloon. All the livable and economically viable cities in the future will be smart, and we look forward to helping build a smarter Hong Kong. But the value of building a smart city lies in the improvement of citizens’ daily lives, which rely on data collected from IoT-enabled sensors. If Hong Kong is dedicated to its smart city development, a strong wireless connectivity is an integral part of our aspirations.