IoT and smart city: a perfectly matched pair in Hong Kong

Skyline of Kowloon East, Hong Kong (source: Energizing Kowloon East Office)Hong Kong's journey towards becoming a smart city is expected to mark a major milestone next year. After two years of laying down the groundwork, the Energizing Kowloon East Office (EKEO) which has been spearheading the territory's pilot smart city project will implement several proof-of-concept trials at Kowloon East (KE) in 2017.

KE consists of the former airport site -- the Kai Tak Development area, the Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay business areas.

The government wants to transform this largely industrial site into another core business district (CBD2), and it wants to do this with a visionary, coordinated and integrated approach.

"KE is an area with old and new buildings. It provides a platform to demonstrate the viability of implementing smart city initiatives in both new and existing communities," stated the preliminary consulting firm feasibility study issued by EKEO and consulting firm Arup in early November.

"Smart city initiatives can enhance its overall competitiveness by improving the mobility and walkability, environmental quality, infrastructure and experience of people living and working there," it added.

City-wide transformation

"Cities [government] don't often have the skills or resources to deploy, let alone operate an advanced data capture and analytic architecture"
-- Brian Cotton, partner, digital transformation, Frost & Sullivan

And while the EKEO is revving up the gears to take KE's smart city initiatives off the ground, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) is tasked with formulating and mapping out a framework for the smart city development of the whole territory.

Currently in the works is the blueprint for Hong Kong's smart city development.

In September of this year, the OGCIO commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services to conduct a consultancy study for this purpose. The company is to liaise with all stakeholders both from the public and private sectors, and it will make reference to the views collected when it puts forward recommendations for the blueprint.

The scope of the consultancy study covers policy objectives and strategy, development plans, governance arrangements, digital infrastructure, open data sharing and public-private collaboration models. The consultancy study is expected to be completed in mid-2017 at the cost of HK$5 million.

Already, advocacy groups such as the Smart City Consortium have submitted some opinions and recommendations to help develop the blueprint.

Hong Kong legislator for IT Charles Mok, meanwhile, has submitted in November a six-point key policy proposal for the smart city development ahead of the 2017 Policy Address and the 2017-2018 Budget. The proposals include the establishment of a smart city sandbox for innovative developments, and the development of a smart grid in new public housing and a test area for autopilot experiments.

Mok is also proposing a HK$300 million funding over three years to establish a smart city incubation program to foster the development of smart city through pilot projects, hackathons and events.

Smart city's role in IoT

The internet of things (IoT) is one of the foundational technologies -- alongside Wi-Fi infrastructure, centralized digital infrastructure and open data -- of the ICT layer of the KE smart city initiative. IoT is envisioned to collect static as well as real-time data through different sensor devices, communication networks and servers for conducting analysis and supporting planning and decision-making processes.

IoT sensors are expected to be used in some of the proof-of-concept trials to be carried out next year. For one, the proposed crowd management system will use CCTV surveillance cameras with advanced video analytics tools to automatically detect crowd flow and identify abnormal conditions.

The Streetathon @ Kowloon East 2017 that was just held January 2017 would be used for trial to show how this system can help crowd management during peak flow and at key bottlenecks.

Furthermore, the proposed energy efficiency data system will include the use of digital electricity meters and a building management system (BMS) to allow users to track real-time energy consumption. This can incentivize behavioral change and provide objective data on the effectiveness of energy-saving measures.