Among the smart city initiatives mentioned in the newly released Budget, the Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0 is one of the major highlights.
In response to the recent epidemic, I think the Blueprint should include an interactive map dashboard to promote communication between the government and the public, the use of mobile phone big data analysis for smart healthcare development, and a reference to Shanghai’s smart city submission.
When the epidemic was at its peak in China in early February, the Shanghai Government released a submission on speeding up the construction of its smart city infrastructure. The better use of big data and smart technology is suggested to enable more accurate and scientific decisions for epidemic control. Some of its recommendations deserving our attention are summarised as follows:
1. Share and open data for new applications: The submission proposes open urban public data sets, development of cross-departmental data sharing mechanisms and big data joint innovation laboratories among different industries for new data applications.
In Hong Kong, the government also has similar ideas to promote innovations. A Smart Government Innovation Lab was proposed in the Policy Address 2018, inviting the industry to put forward proposals on new information technology solutions and products. The latest Budget also reserves another HK$60 million to set up the first Geospatial Lab to encourage the public to make use of spatial data in developing mobile applications.
However, research and development require data. But the two labs need ample data. It would make eminent sense to make use of the existing set-up in the Hong Kong Science Park where a Data Studio, together with an online platform and its comprehensive facilities, has been established since 2017. I think the collaboration among the three will have a huge synergy effect.
2. Improve the standards system: Formulate standards and certification testing, and work with enterprises to establish the safety testing system and standards for smart city applications.
The submission from Shanghai is really competitive with respect to Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong’s international advantage indeed gives the city more leverage in first formulating smart city standards.
In fact, the Hong Kong government introduced advanced information technology for urban planning and management over 20 years ago. The city has been repeatedly ranked among the best Asian cities in different global smart city rankings, well ahead of all mainland cities. There is obviously an international recognition of Hong Kong’s achievements.
Furthermore, the industry is actively developing international standards. For example, the internet of things (IoT) is an important part of a smart city, but there is a lack of widely recognised standards for the IoT and related devices such as sensors, making the security, compatibility, and accuracy of IoT devices questionable. In view of this, some scholars in Hong Kong have worked with the industry to set up the first standard – IEEE P2668 “Standard for Maturity Index of Internet of Things", which has been approved by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as an international standard.
Although Hong Kong is still ahead of mainland cities in the development of a smart city, the gap is narrowing. Therefore, I hope Blueprint 2.0 can assist in re-establishing Hong Kong’s leadership position.
Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong