, Hong Kong

Transporting Hong Kong into the future

By Linda Hui

The unveiling by the HKSAR Government of its Smart City blueprint late last year gave an insight into the transformation that, if all goes to plan, will improve city management, quality of living, enhance economic growth and modernise Hong Kong.

Today, technology is helping achieve a smarter living like never before whether this is connecting with family and friends all over the world in a blink of an eye, or through smart appliances helping to improve home life. Wi-Fi advancements in speed and capacity have driven innovations inside and outside the home and provided a peek into what cities of the future may look like.

Around the world urban planners are evaluating how to integrate advanced technologies in areas such as mobility, living, environment, transport, people, government and economy and innovation to make these futuristic cities a reality.

Hong Kong’s city roads are creaking under the strain as they were designed for a bygone era and have struggled to cope with the increased road users. This has impacted residents, commuters, businesses, and visitors, and even Hong Kong’s reputation worldwide.

According to the HKSAR Transport Department , there were 766,200 licensed vehicles, and an average 12,986,000 public transport trips made every day in December 2017. This movement of people comes at a cost such as gridlocks, jams, high roadside pollution, lengthy travel times, delays and commuter frustration.

This is where transforming into a Smart City brings so many benefits and helps alleviate problems at the kerbside. For example, by harnessing vehicle location data, traffic management can become more intelligent, and smart parking solutions can help optimise traffic routes, thus reduce congestion and commute times.

At the heart of this transformation is a strong, reliable public Wi-Fi network, considered the glue to connected, smart cities by facilitating workloads and easing connectivity issues. Wi-Fi is the common denominator in connecting the public, businesses and visitors and enabling smart transport applications. These include collecting and delivering real-time data on, for example, roadside traffic and parking, air quality, franchised buses, weather, and more. This data can be used to reduce inefficiencies, help alleviate congestion and provide information to the public.

The huge advancements made in Wi-Fi mean deployments provide high performance, ample capacity and coverage for the network with the ability of serving thousands of concurrent users.

Wi-Fi provides a platform for Internet of Things (IoT) applications which go hand in hand in a Smart City deployment and lowers costs and increases efficiencies. But this is far from simple. When wireless technologies are combined with machine learning and cloud-based artificial intelligence is added, IoT infrastructure becomes a strategic asset rather than an expense.

This sophisticated infrastructure will predict problems and take action before the event occurs. For example, roadside traffic detectors in Central will be able to collect and analyse data to better understand peak and off-peak jam times.

But the actual deployment of a workable IoT solution, especially in Hong Kong, is made complex due to the fragmented ecosystem of standards, devices, and services from multiple vendors. In many cases, enterprise IoT vendors have developed single use case infrastructure silos that do not integrate with other silos.

This means the Wi-Fi solution vendor must find a way to simplify the creation of IoT access networks through the reuse of LAN and WAN infrastructure, giving shortened deployment duration, and simplifying the complexity through the ability of supporting multiple IoT solutions.

Smart Parking
Steps are already being taken to prepare Hong Kong for the transformation into a Smart City and there is a proposal to install new on-street parking metres to support multiple payment systems and provide real-time parking vacancy information. Commuters can expect to see bus shelters display real-time information on franchised buses and incorporate the data into a journey planning app. Even lampposts will have a role to play in detecting roadside traffic data in real-time and feeding this information into the city’s traffic management systems.

The impending rollout of 5G in Hong Kong will bring greater speed, capacity, machine-to-machine communications (i.e. IoT) and a key enabler in Smart City transformation.

Public Wi-Fi access points will be upgraded giving faster connections, greater coverage and integrate with other technologies including cloud, Big Data, mobile, and social media to enable government administrators to optimise and deliver modern, efficient and people-friendly services.

Power for Smart Hong Kong will come from natural gas, non-fossil fuel sources and renewable energy and even light pollution will be reduced thanks to a changeover to LED lamps used in public lighting systems aimed at conserving energy.

Hong Kong has so much potential for the incorporation of new and advanced technologies that will go a long way in improving society and truly reap the opportunities of a connected economy. This advanced urban planning benefits everyone and will deliver a personalised, connected experience to the public and take Hong Kong into the next era.

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