by Paul Chan, Managing Director, BAI Communications HK
This blog is part of our series for World Cities Day 2021 — sharing perspectives from major centers around the world on how connected infrastructure is making cities smarter, more resilient, and more sustainable.
Surrounded by the sea, at the foot of mountainous parkland, Hong Kong is growing fast but doesn’t have much room to sprawl. Instead of spreading out, the city has had to grow ‘up’. Connected public transport plays a key role in helping ensure the city’s increasing densification is environmentally sustainable, and BAI Communications is a proud partner in building the smart transport network that connects it.
Like many large cities, Hong Kong is experiencing the effects of climate change. Summers are hotter, the city recently experienced its coldest winter on record, and typhoons have become stronger and more frequent. The construction of many tall buildings has disrupted airflows and, while progress is being made, air quality remains a concern after decades of heavy industrial activity.
To adapt, factories have been converted into residential and office buildings. There are more electric vehicles on the roads and more people are taking public transport; thanks in part to the availability of reliable wireless connectivity, which allows them to stay in touch with loved ones or get work done while traveling around the city.
The effects are noticeable, and there are more days with blue skies now. But connectivity still has lots of potential to bring even more climate resilience and positive environmental impacts to Hong Kong by supporting a range of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
Toward a true smart city vision
Sensor-based IoT solutions make it possible to respond faster to changing conditions, anticipate future situations before they arise and optimize whole systems in ways that can’t be done manually.
For example, tracking power consumption across a transport network in real time can help authorities make more informed decisions about scheduling, capacity and upgrade plans. Networked arrays of sensors can be deployed to keep a watch on temperature levels in subway tunnels or other urban infrastructure environments, issuing alerts when thresholds get crossed so maintenance crews can be dispatched before a particular piece of equipment fails. And the public at large can benefit from notifications about weather conditions — again, based on sensor data from around the city and pushed to users’ applications and devices.
Networks can also make passengers’ journeys smoother by enabling real-time notifications about the status of transport system elements such as elevators. Knowing ahead of time if any elevators are out of service prevents people getting stranded when they arrive at a station.
These kinds of solutions can contribute to greater city-wide sustainability and help promote public transport use to further sustainability goals. They can also play a direct role in making cities like Hong Kong more resilient; — especially as extreme weather events become more common.
Responding to climate instability
Reliable communications are critical for first responders, maintenance crews and other transit officials, especially during an emergency. Today, these groups manage their own separate networks, but a single shared backbone built on the existing transport network and expanded out into a broad smart city infrastructure would provide greater stability and free them from having to include network management among their responsibilities. As a result, they would be able to handle incidents and emergencies more effectively, coordinate responses more easily, and contribute to a more resilient city.
Hong Kong is on an exciting journey of connected transformation, and BAI is here to help. With stable, effective connectivity underground as well as along above-ground rail routes, bus routes, highways, airports and more, we can help deliver a seamless transport experience and the foundation for a smart, sustainable, resilient future.