Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the most celebrated festivals in Hong Kong. Every year, the city welcomes local residents and visitors from around the globe, hosting flower markets, night parades and firework displays across its various popular districts like Central, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui.
This isn’t without its challenges, and in a city ranked fourth globally by population density, ensuring the smooth mobility of people and vehicular traffic during this time can be challenging. Add to this the estimated 5.94 million passengers that traversed the city’s land, sea and air transportation hubs during the CNY period, and you begin to understand the strain being placed on the city’s resources.
With urban populations expected to rapidly increase across Asia in coming years, many are looking at how best to manage these population booms whilst still delivering enjoyable experiences for citizens. In Hong Kong, Smart City initiatives have recently become a heated topic for many, especially after the government announced the Smart City Blueprint for the city last December.
Central to this initiative will be the integration of multiple systems to support increased traffic to ensure that government and transport providers can deliver efficient and agile services that can respond to real-time changes or delays.
Interconnection – A journey into possibility
Interconnection is key to making government and transportation systems more intelligent. By interconnecting multiple systems with data repositories, daily experiences can be made more immediate and seamless. In fact, during this year’s CNY celebrations there were numerous areas where interconnection could have helped to facilitate and enhance the experience of all parties involved, such as:
1. Smarter Transportation – With high volumes of people trying to move rapidly across the city to various locations, some modes of mass transport like the MTR became highly congested. In this case, interconnection could offer a smart approach, providing networks that are capable of predicting the flow of human traffic and account for changes in capacity before citizens embark on their journeys. Technology like this comes into its own during events like CNY, allowing instant data exchange across a multitude of sources, and generating close-to-instantaneous analysis. This analysis can then be used, for example, to change the frequency of trains or buses to ease transport congestion.
2. Smarter Crowd Control – Hong Kong’s population density is both a blessing and a curse. While it gives the city a vibrant feel, it also causes stress during busy times like countdowns and celebrations. Unexpected network delays can also have a huge impact during peak times – from triggering overcrowding that ruins the festive mood, to damaging the reputation of Hong Kong as a modern world city. Whilst it is easy to anticipate the areas of the city that will face overcrowding, trying to change the flow of people to these areas to keep this to a minimum is a pain point. By interconnecting intelligent monitoring systems with social media platforms and mobile apps, governments and transport providers can easily give alerts and recommendations to the public on alternative routes or flashpoints to ensure easier movement throughout the city. This is equally beneficial to stores trying to maximize value or transit authorities, in order to make life easier for everyone.
3. Safeguarding the City – Monitoring systems should be fully integrated, smart, scalable and reactive to optimize security for citizens. Interconnection makes this integration easily achievable, facilitating quicker and easier information and resource sharing as well as rapid exchanges between police and government. By interconnecting cameras and sensors alongside real-time data transfer, emergency services and authorities are able to quickly get a clear picture of the situation on the ground and deploy resources accordingly to ensure security and the safety of those in the city.
The bedrock upon which smarter cities are built
One of the obstacles to truly becoming a Smart City is that so many of the resources needed to deliver on this vision are siloed, and to varying degrees, fixed. Deploying IoT as a solution can ‘localize’ data requirements and balance access with protection, in addition to giving real-time feedback to operators and the government. A secure, scalable and interconnected framework plays a key role in localizing security services and managing multi-party flows across boundaries and inspection zones, bringing citywide WAN and LAN together at the edge.
Traditional models of city growth create issues with scalability, demand and access, which will hamper economic development and impacting quality of life. The concept of Smart Cities may appear aspirational, but what it sets to achieve is effectively simple – to provide services which people can depend on, and the security of knowing that these daily-life-supporting initiatives can achieve what they set out to do – making life better for all.
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