HK International ICT Expo 2018 brings smart city builders together
By Chong Jinn Xiung April 17, 2018
- Hong Kong aspires to be smart city by 2022
- Combination of automation, robotics and Electric Vehicles
CUTTING-edge technology that will power the smart cities of tomorrow were showcased at this year’s Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s International ICT Expo 2018.
Held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a total of 600 exhibitors from eight countries and regions, including Canada, China, India and South Korea participated. While envisioning the smart city of the future is no easy task, with Gartner forecasting Hong Kong’s ICT spending to grow 4.2% in 2018, the conditions look ripe for innovation from large corporations, small medium enterprises and even startups to throw their hat in the ring.
Many of these companies came together at the special Smart City Zone within the expo, a showcase of different technologies and solutions that aim to bolster Hong Kong’s aspirations to be a smart city by 2022.
Among notable exhibitors was Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group. It showcased its intelligent artificial intelligence (AI) platform, ET Brain that is able to utilise complex real-time city data and optimise urban public resources. Incidently, Kuala Lumpur is the first city outside of China to roll out its City Brain platform.
Acting as the brain of the city, the AI is said to intelligently detect events like accidents and congestions from video footage. It would then be able to dispatch emergency services and coordinate traffic lights to reduce congestion and allow the response team to reach the site quicker.
With Alibaba Cloud’s ET City Brain solution already deployed in its home city of Hangzhou, the company claims that the average travel time was reduced while emergency response time was shortened by half.
Ensuring public safety remains among the top priorities of any smart city. This requires eyes and ears to be on the ground. Hong Kong startup WildFaces.ai claims it can do this with the help of its facial recognition and tracking technology.
The company feels it is poised to disrupt the surveillance market as its solution is quick to deploy and recognises faces on the fly without the need for any fixed CCTV cameras or other IoT infrastructure.
This means it can analyse footage from any source be it from drones, body cameras and even smartphones to recognise people in real time. Adding to that, it does not require expensive graphics processing units (GPUs) to run on it, high-end computers or big data storage. WildFaces aims to be affordable yet versatile for price-sensitive markets.
Some use cases for this technology can come in the form of crowd control for long queues, locating key clients in a crowd, monitor suspects or to track foot traffic flow.
Robots and AI help to turn gears of the smart city
Addressing the growing need for labour in the smart city of the future, Hong Kong’s Logistics and Supply Chain Management (LSCM) Research and Development Centre plans to use a combination of automation and robots to achieve this.
It developed the “Follow-Me” robots, which are essentially robots on wheels that are meant to assist workers in carrying items. Each robot has a max load of 400kg, so it can carry its own weight and then some while minimising the risk of injury.
The robot is equipped with multiple sensors and a camera that allows it to track and follow an employee automatically allowing them to collect or distribute items in a warehouse, elderly care home or construction site.
LSCM also assisted the Hong Kong International Airport to stick RFID tags on all the bags that pass through its doors.
The normally repetitive labour intensive task was made easier thanks to a robotic system consisting a robot arm and depth-sensing camera that is able to correctly stick the tags onto any bag regardless of its shape, orientation and size.
Also getting into the action is Hong Kong’s Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), which revealed a wireless electric vehicle charger (WEVC), made in collaboration with an electric vehicle (EV) provider in Hong Kong. With it, EVs can drive over the WEVC to begin charging, negating the need to plug the car into a socket.
The solution is still being worked on and is to be made compatible with EVs from Europe, America, Japan and China to ensure it has a wide addressable market.
Companies like Japan’s NEC are also stepping up to lend their expertise in solutions for carrier networks, biometric identification, artificial intelligence and more to grow cities.
Solutions like Smart Transport help manage the key infrastructure like railways and bus networks to make rides smoother for passengers. This is thanks to onboard communications, telematics and transport control systems.
On a more human and personal level, NEC has developed a special robot called PaPeRo (pic, right). Though it has no arms or legs the AI powered PaPeRo is equipped with a variety of sensors and wide angle cameras with facial recognition technology.
NEC advisor TS Chui said the robot was primarily made to help care for senior citizens and even children. He said the PaPeRo is able to analyse the emotions of people around it, asking how they are feeling or if they need any assistance.
Users can interact with it as it speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and English. It even can dance, sing a song or ask a riddle. It even charges itself automatically when low on battery.
Chui adds that the PaPeRo can act as a stand in caretaker for senior citizens, reminding them to take their medication, advising to wear warmer clothing if the temperature drops and even call loved ones in case of an emergency.
The robot is currently distributed in Hong Kong and NEC has plans to bring it other regions. To address the affordability issue, PaPeRo is meant to be rented out as a service, between US$100 (RM388) to US$200 (RM777) a month, instead of being sold to end consumers.