Hong Kong citizens are heavy road users, with over 12.6 million passenger trips on public transport taken every day, and 354 licensed vehicles for every kilometer of road in the city. The congestion costs residents 36% of extra commuting time per year, compared to free-flowing traffic. The city is proud of its public transportation systems and citizen mobility in general, but it can still drive more efficiencies.
Besides, changing demographics are prompting demands for smart mobility solutions. The United Nations has forecasted that by 2050, more than 40% of Hong Kong’s population will be over 60, presenting a need for the development and deployment of smart mobility solutions to keep people mobile. These solutions can also improve security and ensure all citizens are better engaged in city life, with better access to medical and general services.
What is Hong Kong doing about it?
The government has laid out an ambitious roadmap to make the city smart. The city has a ‘Smart City Blueprint’ which encompasses public mobility, with multiple schemes and initiatives. One plan is to integrate existing public transport applications such as HKeTransport, HKeRouting and eTraffic News into one universal app that makes mobility simpler for all users.
“In-vehicle units”, also known as IVUs, enable motorists with real-time traffic information and let them pay tunnel fees remotely. Another traffic management scheme in the works is the installation of around 1,200 traffic detectors at various strategic junctions to provide real-time traffic information, scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Another public transport initiative is designed to release real-time bus information to mobile devices, and have it displayed at over 1,300 covered bus stops throughout Hong Kong by 2020. Mobile payments for parking meters, smart parking schemes that leverage smart city technology and real-time data are all also on the agenda.
Dropping the ‘optimal’ route for commuters
Whilst different types of transportation data are being gathered around Hong Kong daily, absence of a centralised platform for data integration remains a major challenge in optimizing transportation network efficiency.
In view of that, the government has funded the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s project of developing an intelligent and integrated transportation planning application with $6m, which is expected to go live in three years. The new integrated system will be able to account for traffic emergencies and create personalised “optimal” routes generated from a centralised data platform.
The open data factor
Open data is an area of big potential for smart cities: defined as data that anybody can access, use and share, from government bodies, businesses to individuals. The goal is to use this open data to drive social, economic and environmental benefits.
This can be a powerful tool for smart mobility. In addition to the bus stops and parking initiatives, Hong Kong can seek to collect mobile phone data of drivers and passengers to analyze traffic flow during peak hours, develop measures to reduce traffic congestion and enhance road safety in general. According to Nielsen research, 97% of Hong Kong citizens now use smartphones to access the internet, so the base is there from which to draw the data.
A smart, mobile future for all
A smart city vision can be at the center of Hong Kong enhancing its public sector mobility. The Smart City Blueprint is a great place to start, and the government has predicted that it will be amongst the world’s earliest adopters of 5G mobile technology in 2020.
More than 50% of Hong Kong internet users have stated their belief on the importance for Hong Kong to transform into a smart city, a home to smart mobility designed to save time, enhance quality of life and improve the environment. Leveraging digital tools to create seamless mobility will be at the heart of that.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Edmund Yick is General Manager of Orange Business Services in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He is responsible for developing and managing Orange Business Services’ portfolio of business solutions for multinational enterprises, and provides strategic direction to support the growth of Orange Business Services as the leading integrated communications provider in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Prior to his current role, Edmund was General Manager, Enterprise Market, of Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong. He was responsible for managing sales, product, key customer service and marketing teams for commercial market for both Mobile and Fixed Networks. With over 30 years of sales and management experience, Edmund specialises in telecom sales leadership and management, corporate customer service, call centre operation and product marketing.
Edmund is a Commerce and Business Administration graduate of the University of Toronto. He is currently based in Hong Kong.