Smart mobility is a key part of smart city development. And for smart mobility to be successfully realised, it is crucial that the necessary smart infrastructure is in place to support the flow of big data related to transport, logistics and the movement of people.
Last year, the Hong Kong Government released its “Smart City Blueprint” and proposed a list of smart mobility measures to ease traffic congestion. For the development of smart mobility, where should we start with Hong Kong’s smart infrastructure?
Creating an Internet of Vehicles
As an advanced information and communication hub with a mature IT infrastructure, Hong Kong’s 4G network coverage exceeds 90% and is ranked fourth in the world. However, the city’s public data is too fragmented, making the collection of real-time traffic information very difficult. Also, data collection efficiency is compromised when faulty sensors are not detected and repaired quickly. These two issues are the biggest barriers in promoting smart mobility.
Therefore, for the successful implementation of smart mobility, the first priority should be the creation of an Internet of Vehicles (IoV) to allow people, vehicles and roads to communicate with each other.
Through the sharing of real-time traffic data, IoV will create synergy effects and enhance traffic efficiency and safety.
In addition to networks and sensors in the vehicles, smart infrastructure on the roads is also integral to the collection and transfer of IoV big data. One way to enable the collection of data from roads would be to upgrade traditional street lamps into smart ones. This could be an important starting point for smart city development.
Precise repair for smart street lamps
There are more than 140,000 street lamps in Hong Kong’s 2,000-kilometre road network. Currently, they are turned on or off automatically with light sensors. As for checking street lamp failures, this relies on visual inspection by patrolling staff.
After being upgraded, the new smart street lamps can transfer real-time current and voltage data through the wireless network for remote monitoring of the lamps’ operation. The operators will then be able to turn the street lamps on and off using mobile devices, notify engineering personnel to promptly repair any faulty lamps, shorten their downtime and ensure better road safety.
For example, a typhoon may damage many street lamps. The system enables the engineering department to monitor the situation in real-time from a safe environment, then carry out the repair works once the weather has become stable. This means the days of having to wait until the typhoon has passed before visual inspection can proceed are over.
The present smart street lamp solution uses LoRa (Long Range Low Power Wide Area Network) wireless technology with a transmission radius of around 10 to 15 kilometres. Its benefits include low power consumption and anti-interference features; however, the signals may be blocked by buildings. A new solution is now in place to solve this limitation, which means that even in a densely populated city filled with high-rise buildings like Hong Kong, the signals can travel freely.
Lighting up the city with big data
Apart from making street lamp management smarter, the smart street lamp can also become a part of a city’s smart infrastructure. By adding cameras and sensors to the lamp, real-time public data such as traffic flow, pedestrian flow, road environment and weather can be collected for sharing with government departments. It can also be transmitted to IoV, which can enhance road design and alleviate traffic congestion.
The data collected from the advanced version of smart street lamps has various applications. These include road congestion monitoring, traffic signal system analysis, automatic issuance of illegal parking summons, air quality index and monitoring of roadside rubbish bin capacity. The increased amount of data used will require 5G mobile services, which are expected to be launched in Hong Kong in 2020 at the earliest. The introduction of 5G will offer a high-speed reliable transfer network for real-time data sharing, and facilitate the successful implementation of smart infrastructure.
Industry potential for rapid growth
Smart street lamps are one of the keys to smart city development and their growth is set to pick up pace. According to U.S. clean technology research company Navigant Research, the number of smart street lamps fitted around the world is expected to rise from 6.3 million in 2017 to 73 million by 2026. Another U.S. firm, Transparency Market Research, has forecast the market size of smart street lamps will expand from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$10 billion in 2022.
As more smart street lamps are being introduced in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific, there will be enormous demand for advanced optical parts, communication equipment, lamp controllers, electronic sensors and software. If Hong Kong companies can seize on the opportunities early, they will be able to grab a share of this multi-billion dollar market.