25 January 2020
A smart lamppost after being damaged by protesters on Saturday. Photo: HKEJ
A smart lamppost after being damaged by protesters on Saturday. Photo: HKEJ

Smart lamppost supplier pulls out of project amid threats

Ticktack Technology Ltd., a supplier of devices for new smart lampposts being put up across the city, has decided to end its involvement in the government project.

The company’s move came after anti-government protesters caused damages to 20 of the installed smart lampposts on Sheung Yuet Road in Kowloon Bay on Saturday.

It said it decided to pull out of the project because of threats to the personal safety of family members of the company’s directors and employees, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday morning before a regular Executive Council meeting that the wanton damage of the smart lampposts by radical protesters has dealt a blow to government efforts toward building a smart city and also to the innovation and technology development that will offer young people with more employment opportunities.

Such damaging act grieves the government and those who support innovation and technology, she added.

In a statement on Monday, Ticktack, which supplied the Bluetooth beacons for the lampposts, also stressed that it was not affiliated with any mainland company.

Protesters accused Ticktack of having connections with a mainland company. They said the devices are being used for surveillance in the mainland, and could be used for the same purpose in Hong Kong. 

Ticktack said it is a local company while its two shareholders and all of its staff are Hongkongers.

It said it will stop supplying and installing the smart devices for the project upon completion of its work on the existing 50 smart lampposts.

Ticktack said it hopes its decision will allay the concerns of its clients as well as the public.

The company said it understands that people’s trust in various technologies has been undermined amid the social conflict in Hong Kong over the past few months, RTHK reported.

The Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB), through a spokesman, “expressed sympathy and understanding”, noting that it respects the company’s decision.

“We find it not acceptable and deeply regret that a local small enterprise has been doxxed and attacked because of its participation in the smart lampposts project. The incident is a serious blow to the hard work of the local innovation and technology industry,” the ITB spokesman added.

In a press conference on Monday, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung described the damage to 20 smart lampposts by protesters as “a dark day” for the local innovation and technology sector.

Yang said the smart lampposts were installed after discussions in the Legislative Council and related District Councils.

They are consistent with the requirements set in the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, he said, adding that the Bluetooth beacons inside them were 100 percent developed locally while the supplier and the installation company were also local small and medium-scale enterprises.

Yang reiterated that the smart lampposts are only used to collect data to prepare for the coming of the 5G era. They will never infringe on personal privacy or keep any raw data, he added. 

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