HKCSView: Moving towards a smart city

Barbara ChiuThe Hong Kong government has advocated smart city development for years. This much-anticipated initiative came into action a few months ago when a public consultancy study was launched to formulate a blueprint for the citywide development of Internet of Things (IoT), in Hong Kong up to 2030.

In the government’s endeavor to develop Kowloon East into a smart city district, trials of four smart city solutions were conducted. These trials include a smart parking app that can assist drivers to locate empty parking spaces within the district; a smart crowd management system; an energy efficient data system; and a curbside loading and unloading monitoring system. In this regard, I believe the need for IoT will grow substantially and, as such, the importance of connectivity will be fundamental to better support these new initiatives.

Prospects for IoT

IoT is emerging as the next technology mega-trend toward realizing the hyper-connected environment that will drive the development of a smart city forward. The global IoT solutions market is also expected to grow from US$1.9 trillion in 2013 to US$7.1 trillion in 2020. Cisco predicts that the global IoT market will reach US$14.4 trillion by 2022. An increasingly inter-connected world is laying a solid foundation to facilitate the development of smart cities.

Key Driving Forces for Smart Cities

There are four essential pre-requisite elements to capitalize on IoT through smart city development:

  • Security: A smart city consists of a connected system that manipulates a massive amount of data from multiple sources spanning both the public and private sectors. When one of the interconnected devices in the smart city system is compromised, it could be disastrous to the entire system. No one can afford the loss of sensitive data or public assets in the event of cybersecurity breaches in a smart city.
  • Cloud Computing: As today’s cloud models are not designed for the volume, variety and velocity of data that IoT generates, new kinds of computing architectures such as fog computing will emerge. Fog computing is capable of supporting smart city development with substantial storage and efficiency in capturing analyses and insights from huge amounts of data. It extends the cloud and processes IoT data closer to the devices, where data is collected. In other words, it is able to analyze a massive amount of data generated by thousands or millions of sensors across a large geographic area more efficiently with minimized latency. This definitely helps unify and simplify utilities management for smart city initiatives.
  • Big Data: Smart city architectures require seamless integration of sensors in a mutualized communication environment. These architectures must be capable of handling huge amounts of real-time data generated by millions of sensors and smart devices, which can be used by government bodies to help improve the efficiency of urban services and enhance the interactivity between citizens and local governments. The use and analytics of big data can certainly help create smart cities, where infrastructure and resources are used in a more efficient way.
  • Connectivity: With higher demand for connectivity, governments running smart city initiatives are exploring new networking technologies like LoRaWAN and Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) to strengthen their capability in accelerating the journey to an inter-connected smart city. LPWA is an emerging and promising wireless technology for both private and public IoT infrastructures. It is particularly useful in securely the connections within the city. Meanwhile, LoRaWAN is one of the technologies inside the LPWA landscape acting as an enabler for new services related to IoT and smart city. They can be used to support environment monitoring, smart parking, water and gas metering, and asset tracking.