The Connected Cities Conference: How Smart Technologies and Smart People Will Shape the Future
People around the world have been wondering lately what the future holds for Hong Kong. Jayne Chan, Head of StartmeupHK, Invest Hong Kong, welcomed participants to dive into the question, setting an optimistic and forward-thinking tone for this year’s event.
Through the hardships of 2020 and the pandemic outbreak, for the first time, StartmeupHK Festival has gone virtual. The theme of Connected Cities highlights how technological innovations, adaptability and human compassion can unite us even when we cannot be together in person.
Alfred Sit, Secretary for Innovation and Technology, followed with a discussion of what it takes to build a smart city and the future of technology in our city. Hong Kong is already a strong competitor in the global race for innovation and technology, with over 36,000 wi-fi hot spots and one of the top three household internet speeds in the world. The plans for the future are outlined in a Smart City Blueprint which puts forth over 70 initiatives under six smart areas to maintain Hong Kong’s position as a leading city for innovation and technology.
Julian Vella, Co-Head, China – Global Infrastructure Advisory, KPMG China, introduced the Future Hong Kong 2030 report which outlines enhancement of Hong Kong’s technology infrastructure to build a smart city by 2030. The panel comprised of Dr. Saraansh Dave, Head of New Business Development, CLP, Jimalyn Yao, Digital Solution Manager, Siemens Advanta Solutions, Siemens, and Daniel Chun, Chairman of Research and Blueprint Committee, Smart City Consortium, discussed the factors needed to build an innovative and modern city and what that would look like for Hong Kong. Key targets include affordable housing, sustainable energy usage and innovative technology. These three factors should work collaboratively and be integrated in communities with initiatives and education for citizens. This also needs partnerships between businesses, government and the public.
Building a Smarter Hong Kong
Up next David Turkington, Head of Technology, APAC, GSMA and NiQ Lai, Co-Owner & CEO of HKBN, discussed the impact of 5G and why we innovate. Adaptability is key to success. We must learn from our mistakes and grow to make better decisions in the future. We can build an efficient, safe and prosperous future by utilising new technologies.
Speaking of smart cities and innovating for the future, Eunice Tse, Manager, Transport and Logistics, Google Cloud, and Jessica So, General Manager, Let’s Park, discussed how leveraging artificial intelligence is key to tackling the transport challenge. How can we reduce carbon emissions and still function as an efficient and fast paced city? Transport is the connecter between people, communities and places. In order for a city to function at its highest capability, we must have a strong transport network.
In addition to smart transport, a smart city needs smart services. Daniel Chun, Chairman of Research and Blueprint Committee, Smart City Consortium, and Andy Wong, Head of Innovation and Technology, discussed how the Hong Kong government is advocating for ‘smart city’ services. Wong noted that they were looking into how they could leverage the city’s facilities in a way that showcases Hong Kong to the world, adding that the government may borrow technology from overseas to solve problems with double aging and tackle aging building stock and an aging population.
Jean Baptiste Monnier, SVP Strategy Partners, Bentley Systems, and Dr. Eric Chong, President and CEO, Siemens Hong Kong and Macao, discussed how artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 5G integrate into the modern society and what tools can be used to build a smart city. Monnier explained how open sources, data sharing and reliability are fundamental. We must work collaboratively with each other and with technology to build cities of the future.
Of course, smart cities will have to be sustainable. Marissa Wong, Associate Director, Investments and Ventures, Innovation, CLP, Travis Kan, General Manager, Energy Management, CLPe Solutions, Amen Tong, General Manager, Airport Authority, and Charles Wong, Founder and CEO, R&B Technology looked at how we can take the steps towards a world free of carbon emissions. Hong Kong needs to follow the best practices of green cities such as Bristol (the UK) and Portland (the US) with more cycle lanes, efficient use of land and community initiatives for more sustainable behaviour. Tong outlined ways they plan on creating a smarter city airport, including introduction of e vehicle chargers and battery supplies to reduce fossil fuel usage.
Marcos Chow, Partner, Smart City Group at KPMG China, moderated a panel on smart city developments around the world, and was joined by Jaewon Peter Chun, President, World Smart Cities Forum, Professor Mee Kam Ng, Associate Director, Institute of Future Cities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sankar Villupuram, Director, Regional Digital Services and Products Leaders, East Asia, ARUP, Moon Park, Partner, Head of KPMG Digital Innovation Centre and Smart Cities, KPMG Korea, and Professor Sasu Tarkoma, Associate Director, Hong Kong-Helsinki Oasis for Innovation and Technology, University of Helsinki. A repeated theme in this discussion was the significance of data analytics and technology in encouraging sustainable behaviour. Prof. Ng introduced the Digital Social Market – an app to incentivise and reward users who act more environmentally conscious. Villupuram outlined the four strands of recovery: rapid adaptation, restarting operations, global vaccine development, and data, technology and modelling.
The Great Debate: What is the Future of Technology
One of the biggest highlights of the day was a dynamic, inspiring debate conducted and judged by Anson Bailey, Head of Consumer and Retail, ASPAC and Head of Technology, Media and Telecoms, Hong Kong, KPMG China. The red and blue teams discussed the journey of technology and where they see it going in the future. Blue team: Honnus Cheung, Co-Founder, Mojodomo Group, Fan Ho, Asia Pacific Chief of Staff and Head of Strategy, Lenovo, Max Song, Founder and President, Global Solutions Foundation, and Matthew Smith, Managing Director, Digital Insights. Red Team: Timothy Mak, General Manager, Signify, Charleston Sin, Executive Director, MIT Innovation Node, Sam Tan, CIO, HKBN, and Lucy Werner, Head of Cloud, Hong Kong, Google Cloud. The new wave of technology such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence is a journey which is opening more opportunities for human development. In the end, Ho brought the blue team to victory. She had some fantastic team-mates with well thought out ideas and punchy rebuttals. Song stood out as an articulate and passionate speaker with a wealth of knowledge on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and innovative technology tools.
Coping with Covid
The Covid-19 pandemic is accelerating the development and adaptation of a wide range of technologies. Peter Yan, CEO, Cyberport, began this panel by introducing Cyberport’s own initiatives and goals for the future, including sustainability efforts and community givebacks. Eva Chu, Co-Founder of iSTEM AI Lab, was able to offer her perspective as a technology educator. In this era of Covid-19, she has found that teachers need more support adjusting to digital learning than children do. Also on the panel was Chelsea Miu, Brand Director, MAD Gaze, Arthur Lam, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Director, Negawatt Utility and Ivan Ng, Chief Executive Officer, Time Creation. The discussion looked at how society will recover and what life might look like in the new normal. People must be agile, innovative and collaborative to be able to function and succeed in this time of uncertainty and unprecedented struggles.
Cynthia Chow, Associate Director, the Smart City Team at KPMG China, discussed with Curt Garrigan, Chief of the Sustainable Urban Development Section of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, on the critical importance of ESCAP and government collaboration in Covid-19 recovery. There need to be clear guidelines, recovery packages and best practice models for governments to follow.
The Human Factor
With all the discussion about technology, it is important not to lose sight of the human part of the equation. This session tackled questions like, is our education obsolete? And are we teaching our students the right things? Opinions of professionals and students alike reflected that there is seemingly a common understanding that the way we learn will undergo drastic change to keep up the pace. Student representative from King George V School Riccardo Caiulo started off with stating that ‘If we’ve learned anything from self-isolation, it’s that most of our work can be done mostly online.’
Our technology is ready, however it’s the mindset that needs to be changed. The skills of tomorrow are not necessarily the skills that youth are learning today. As Eric Chan, Chief Public Mission Officer, Cyberport said, ‘Nurturing entrepreneurship is something that can’t be taught in classrooms. We would want students to learn what changes these sectors are going to bring to the world and how it will affect our daily lives.’
Discussions about smart cities usually focus on networks – communications, transportation, energy, etc. But Professor Jason Pomeroy, Founding Principal of Pomeroy Studio spoke with Maria Vassilakou, Deputy Mayor and Executive City Councillor, Vienna, Austria, and Tim Stonor, Managing Director, Space Syntax, London, the UK on the more human side of networking, and the spaces where it happens. Vassilakou highlighted the importance of social integration to make citizens feel welcome and public spaces to meet and socialise. Stonor explained why a boulevard or main street is the backbone of a city, a place to gather and a connection to the rest of the city. A sense of community is not just the people but also the place.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals represent a fundamental shift in thinking as a framework to measure how we integrate development in everything we do, providing a much more direct link between advocacy in words and action at the grass roots level. Ellie Tang, Head of Sustainability, New World Development Company said that companies use SDGs to drive long term vision and the need to work with more stakeholders and start-ups in the future. Dorothy Lam, Co-Founder and Chief Catalyst, Dream Impact spoke on the future of young entrepreneurship, and the role of the government in reaching out more to community organisations.
Think you need to be a coding genius to build the technologies needed for smart cities? Think again. Keith Cheng, Head of Digital Hub, Siemens Advanta, Siemens discussed how low-code/no-code development platforms are encouraging rapid development and maintaining better life cycles through real time collaboration, full application life cycle support and faster prototyping. He said that ‘coding will no longer be entirely typed but a more visual process moving forward.’
The first day of the StartmeupHK Festival wrapped up with an inspiring address by Matt Phelan, Head of Global Happiness, The Happiness Index, who reminded us all that money cannot buy happiness and that the science of happiness lies in listening to people and understanding their needs. Employers and governments should listen to the voices of the people and work to provide them with the resources, time and salary they deserve. In hospitals, happier staff lead to better patient care and lower mortality rates. This was an insightful and calming way to close out a very busy day.