While COVID-19 remains a threat to public health in the Asia Pacific region, new solutions that make people’s lives safer are essential. Digital technology has proved its worth during the pandemic, from enabling millions of people to do their jobs from home to keeping families entertained with streamed video, it is difficult to imagine lockdowns without digital.
On top of that, in Hong Kong we have been focusing on how IoT solutions can make life better for all as we continue to fight our way out of the pandemic. In December 2020 the Hong Kong Government announced an update to its Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong, which lays out new initiatives for smart mobility, smart living and more. Digital infrastructure projects are central to them, and Hong Kong wants residents and visitors to enjoy the benefits and convenience from smart city innovation and technology (I&T) in their daily lives. IoT has a big part to play in the plans.
Citizens and communities in Hong Kong will need smart schemes and services to help them readjust to life after COVID-19. We’ve seen IoT solutions come to prominence during the pandemic, and with people’s confidence about being out in public being damaged by the virus, we will need more tools to move forward.
Use cases emerging all the time
IoT technologies have played a key role in the pandemic by ensuring safe movement around the city. Hong Kong deployed GPS-enabled applications to track and restrict people’s movements, meaning quarantine protocols were enacted from the airport. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong were given wristbands and a unique QR code to track their movements and geofence them if required. A smartphone application called StayHome Safe was also able to scan the QR, which turned the mobile device into a tracker.
In a similar vein, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong retailers and businesses deployed smart IoT-enabled thermal detection solutions to help detect abnormal body temperature in people entering offices, stores and restaurants. The systems raised alerts and uploaded records via 4G mobile networks.
Innovation is alive and well in Hong Kong. Students from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education demonstrated this during COVID-19, developing an IoT-based U-trap Refill Automator, a device fitted with an ultrasonic sensor that detects the water level in U-traps in building drainage systems. This device is valuable because it makes sure water in U-traps and drainage pipes does not dry out, preventing bacteria and viruses passing into living areas, as happened during the SARS outbreak.
Patients have also been able to self-monitor at home thanks to IoT solutions in Hong Kong. Medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes require regular monitoring and frequent visits to see healthcare professionals, but obviously this was not viable during lockdowns. IoT solutions have been able to connect patients and medical practitioners, enabling frequent, low-cost collection, submission and analysis of readings.
What might be coming?
Hong Kong is a densely populated city, so IoT systems that leverage data to improve life for people here will be essential in my view. The Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong includes smart buildings, which not only contribute to the evolution of Hong Kong as a city but can play a key role in overall health and well-being post-COVID-19. IoT sensors, married to artificial intelligence (AI) tools can gather a host of data like air quality and temperature to inform decisions on sanitization or sterilization in buildings. It is an idea that began life in Asia Pacific back in 2003 during the SARS epidemic, when the Sustainable Immunized Building (SIB) concept was developed.
IoT tools and solutions can help tackle pollution, food and water safety, and many other areas of life in Hong Kong. Research in 2020 found that 84% of businesses claimed IoT was essential for their survival during the COVID-19 pandemic. IDC forecasts that IoT spending in Asia Pacific will reach around $289 billion in 2021 and grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.7% from now to 2024. IoT is going to keep playing a bigger and bigger role in helping us power through COVID-19 and get back to a more normal way of life. I see Hong Kong being at the forefront of that growth.
If you would like to talk further about IoT, smart cities, or any other digital transformation issues in Hong Kong, please contact me.
Edmund Yick is General Manager of Orange Business Services in Hong Kong and Taiwan. He is responsible for developing and managing the Orange Business Services portfolio of business solutions for multinational enterprises.
He has over 30 years of sales and management experience and is a Commerce and Business Administration graduate of the University of Toronto.