Earlier this year, the Hong Kong government raised in the chief executive’s policy address the feasibility of developing a “smart city” in Kowloon East.
In October, IDC Asia Pacific announced the most outstanding smart city initiatives in 14 functional categories in the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan, following the launch of the AP Smart City Evolution Index competition in July this year.
Singapore topped four categories and mainland China three categories.
Hong Kong won only one category, smart buildings, with its Science Park.
Is Hong Kong really lagging behind its counterparts in the region?
It’s hard to say so just from one result.
But it should be a concerted job – in which the Hong Kong government, end users and enterprises all play crucial roles — to transform Hong Kong into a smart city.
In the coming new year, how should we play our parts to help achieve this transformation?
A smart city initiative such as the one in Kowloon East aims to improve city management, enhance efficiency and provide transport/traffic information and high-quality public services to make city life smarter and more convenient.
It thus involves capturing and analyzing massive amounts of data.
A focus on infrastructure and services will serve as the framework.
The vision of connecting devices, things and people is a grand one and starts with ensuring the integrity of a framework built on a strong foundation.
Applications and connectivity are at the heart of this vision, and the technologies enabling flow of information are increasingly cloud-based.
Enterprises are fast adopting a hybrid cloud infrastructure, so sensitive data can be stored in a private cloud while the public cloud can be leveraged for computational resources to provide for the running of less critical applications.
To cloud or not to cloud?
The government is hardly the only user of cloud computing in Hong Kong.
Our recent survey examining enterprises’ perception and adoption of cloud computing in today’s app-driven era indicates that almost 95 percent of organizations in Hong Kong are using cloud computing in one form or another, or are at the planning or implementation stage.
Providing high levels of flexibility, agility and innovation, the cloud has become an integral fabric of modern society.
As technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) become mainstream and as Hong Kong explores becoming a smart city, the correct question to ask is “How do we effectively deploy and maximise the potential of the cloud?”
The four notable considerations for an enterprise cloud are:
(1) Applications — As cloud-based services mature and start to demonstrate their ability to run core workloads, confidence in off-premise solutions is increasing. Today, enterprises are more confident in migrating critical workloads to a cloud environment.
(2) Business decision-makers — More and more departmental heads play a major role in identifying needs and shortlisting cloud solutions. Compliance/risk directors, for example, need to take the lead in evaluating solutions and manage risks, while the entire C-suite makes the final purchase decision.
(3) Customers — Forward-thinking businesses are now beginning to evaluate what the cloud means to their customers. With the inclusion of customers in the IT user pool, enhancing customer experience through high availability and performance of business apps is crucial.
(4) Defence — Prior to any move to the cloud, “security first” migration planning will ensure that the transition does not cause any major operational or internal policy issues as well as ensure a smooth customer experience.
Where is the future of the cloud headed?
Today, the primary use of cloud services is to optimize and streamline conventional business processes, but enterprises will soon start leveraging cloud services to automate business processes and drive business transformation.
There will also be more collaborative decision-making in cloud service procurement, and the role of the chief information officer is set to shift from information to innovation.
Is the cloud safe?
As more applications and technology become increasingly cloud-based, especially as we mature into a smart city, how can we ensure information transfer over the cloud is safe?
Security continues to be one of the largest barriers to cloud adoption.
It is a key consideration in a hyperconnected environment, and the prolific use of applications adds an additional challenge.
Organizations generally do a decent job securing their infrastructure but face challenges when securing applications regardless of where they are hosted.
The security strategy should encompass considerations relating to the network/infrastructure area, applications and web assets, endpoints and device/user behaviours.
After all, security is everyone’s business.
What does the cloud mean to enterprises as Hong Kong moves to become a smart city?
Companies are investing in the cloud and using it for competitive reasons.
About 75 percent of the interviewed decision-makers in the Asia-Pacific agreed that cloud services are a solution for “faster speed to market and increased competitiveness”.
Improving operational excellence and customer experience are some of the reasons why cloud adoption is on the rise.
In a smart city, where hyperconnectivity is at the heart of everything, accessing information and applications in a secure and seamless manner is key, and the cloud will play a crucial part in its success.
Expectations for service on demand will increase as IoT adoption becomes mainstream and becomes interconnected with social platforms.
Architecting the infrastructure from this perspective allows better and efficient management and reduces costs in deploying the cloud.
Organizations and governments alike are already starting to build out their own cloud strategy in an attempt to drive business growth and city transformation.
In an increasingly connected world, where mobility is driving productivity and consumption of information, cloud adoption in a hyperconnected smart city will spur productivity and improve customer satisfaction, given the right considerations and strategy.
At the end of the day, a cloud strategy is just one of many means to an end – that of becoming a smart city, a city where citizens and corporations alike are empowered to harness technology to drive growth.
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