A Smart Vision for Smart Hong Kong: Intelligent, Connected and Trusted
The HKSAR Government unveiled its Smart City Blueprint last year, targeting the next five years to realise the vision. This is a very significant milestone for the city. More importantly, it will enable us to thrive as Asia’s most global city in the 21st century. Smart City is a concept that has gained plenty of traction over the past few years, but what does it mean for you, me, and the seven million residents of Hong Kong?
Why exactly do we need our cites to go smart? The simple answer is: to optimise the convenience in people’s lives, to offer a more enabling environment for businesses, and to build a greener and cleaner city. The smart city revolution will impact every single aspect of our lives, businesses and communities. It will create an enormous opportunity for sustainable economic growth. With Hong Kong set to become one of the first-movers in adopting 5G technology, people, devices, knowledge and data are all going to be more interconnected than they have ever been.
Working alongside global bodies like ITU and GSMA, Hong Kong regulator OFCA, operators and hardware vendors, ASTRI is playing its part to help set the scene for 5G. And it’s not just the impending arrival of 5G, other applications of advanced communication technologies – across areas such as smart traffic management, connected cars, disaster response, communication in railway, maritime and aviation etc – keep the researchers at ASTRI busy and thriving. 5G will unleash huge business potential for businesses, carriers and Governments. Ecosystem players must use innovative business solutions to build new capabilities and incubate new services, to achieve new growth in the coming 5G era. Simply put, this is an opportunity Hong Kong must seize; the consequences of being left behind will be terrible.
People around the world envy Hong Kong’s world-class infrastructure, fast internet services, and efficient public transport networks. Realising Hong Kong’s Smart City ambitions will require us taking the next big step in making technology work for our people. Unleashing the power of data is a key driver for that. In Hong Kong, we have an enormous pool of ‘data’ that - if accessed, mined and analysed adequately – can add great momentum to Smart City development efforts. Hong Kong must continue developing and integrating its policies and infrastructure to enable data-sharing across public and private sectors, while fully addressing concerns around privacy and intellectual properties. From offering intuitive citizen-friendly public services to improving traffic management and road safety, efficient retail to secure banking – we must make sense of big data and realise our ambition to live smartly.
As a society, we must exploit the latest and best AI and big data can offer; and streamline the cooperation between our public and private sectors. The day he was appointed as the HKSAR Government’s Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas Yang said, “Hong Kongers must work smart.” He added that. “Hong Kong should prepare for the growth of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and other disruptive technologies that will transform the way the city works.” The Government is clearly serious about forging ahead with the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong - built upon six pillars that will firmly place our city on the global map as a vanguard of R&D, innovation and technology. In her maiden policy speech, the HKSAR Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam promised to streamline Government institutions and operations, fostering innovations and collaborations, and embracing smart technologies across all levels of the administration. She put her faith in people: “it is the enterprising spirit of the brilliant Hong Kong people that has made the city so successful over the past half-century.” That, in my mind, it a clear recognition that Smart cities must be people-centric. To that end, we need ‘Smart People’ that are strong in STEM education, prolific in technological R&D, brave in entrepreneurship, and visionary in commercialising and branding technologies.
In addition to delivering market-ready solutions through FinTech, 5G, Health Technologies, AI and Robotics research, ASTRI strives to groom and nurture technology talents who will lead Hong Kong’s innovation endeavours for decades to come. At present, we have over 500 talented engineers and researchers who are working relentlessly to help enhance Hong Kong’s global competitiveness. What delights us the most is the success of some of our former colleagues – ASTRIANs – who win awards and accolades, and enjoy commercial success through their own enterprising ventures.
Indeed, Hong Kong will be transformed with the power of technology. With the wide adoption of 5G, extensive use of IoT and the opening of data, people will get more connected than ever. Our devices and appliances will be connected to the internet and "talk" to each other. We will be able to check real-time public transport schedule, weather conditions in a specific district, traffic congestion status, availability of parking space in a specific area, or the waiting time for an emergency medical consultation at a public hospital. At ASTRI, we are developing a wide range of smart-city applications, leveraging Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for Hong Kong’s overall Smart City development. To us, ICT also stands for Intelligent, Connected and Trusted. We believe, in the future Hong Kong, things will be intelligent, connected and reliable – that will make our city Smart in the true sense.
The Government's Smart City vision is clear, and the benefits it will bring – if fully implemented through strong synergy between Government Agencies as well as among private sector enterprises – will be absolutely compelling. As a city, we have to embrace the vision for a Smart City and propel our efforts in Innovation and Technology that will power it. A Smart Hong Kong will ensure that our economy remains strong and diverse for the foreseeable future, providing our residents with the high quality of life they deserve.
Hugh Chow is the Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI)