US Innotech companies shed light on Hong Kong Smart City initiative

AmCham pledges to join Hong Kong’s innotech parade by bridging US-based companies and local stakeholders.

(Photo: AmCham president Tara Joseph (mid) chairing the media luncheon alongside Holly Vineyard (left), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, and Kevin Tranbarger, Head of Retail Projects, Asia Pacific, JLL.)


As the Hong Kong government preaches the development of a ‘Smart City’, innotech companies across the Pacific are ready to put substance into the talks by offering their services and experiences.

Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, a US Commercial Service smart technologies business development mission visited the city recently as part of its tour to the Greater China South region. During their stay, the visiting business representatives were briefed by government officials on Hong Kong’s smart city plans and met with local entrepreneurs in search of partnership opportunities and potential customers.

In February this year, AmCham presented a detailed submission to the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer on developing Hong Kong into a smart city with key features and overseas case studies.

“As far as the American Chamber of Commerce goes, for us, the Smart City initiative is hugely important for Hong Kong […] not only because as Hong Kong residents we live here, but as one of the most efficient cities in the world, we’d also like to see Hong Kong becomes a smart city so it can remain competitive,” Tara Joseph, president of AmCham, stated at a media luncheon, adding that she was looking forward to receiving the Hong Kong government’s Smart City blueprint expected to come out in July under Carrie Lam’s administration.

Related: Tara Joseph: The President America needs (in Hong Kong)

The delegation, led by Holly Vineyard, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, consisted of eight companies with varying sizes and specialities.

 

Solution for IOT solutions

Among them was Pulzze Systems, Inc., a Silicon Valley-based startup that builds a software infrastructure for connected devices and sensors, applications and data for better analysis and management.

Peter Jung, the company’s Chief Product Officer, said their product is essentially an IOT enabler as it allows interaction between disparate sources or multi-vendor devices (such as street lights, video cameras, parking control systems) by decoding different protocols back to the very basics – binary code. This offers a much more efficient way to integrate different devices and have them work together.

“Instead of making dictionaries between English and German, we focus on the sounds,” Jung’s colleague, Clay Kim, explained.

Jung added that the trip had been fruitful and that the company, with a business footprint in the US, South Korea and Malaysia, would look into the possibility of setting up an office in Hong Kong.

 

Reverse regulatory sandbox

Like Pulzze Systems, many of the participating companies are offering services which are of most relevance to Hong Kong’s plans. But those on the fintech front were also actively seeking opportunities to explore the untapped market.

Sam Rosenblum, Director, Global Business Development of Coinbase, a digital currency platform and exchange, is optimistic about expanding the platform to Hong Kong despite that the Hong Kong Government is unlikely to introduce peer-to-peer lending regulation anytime soon. The company is already serving six million customers in 33 countries including Singapore.

“I don’t think [the Hong Kong government] wants to get in the way of innovation,” Rosenblum claimed. “A hands-off approach would be more appropriate for the time being instead of creating regulation before you understand how the issues evolve. But at some point certainly the regulation will become important. It is the question of timing.”

“For our part, we are prudent about running in those countries that have yet implemented a sound regulatory regime on fintech. What we would do is that we’d self implement the US regulation to prove to local authorities that we can be very productive to the economy.”

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Alex Fok

Alex Fok

Alex Fok is a Harbour Times journalist monitoring Hong Kong’s daily political scene and diplomatic updates. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Economics, Politics and International Studies from University of Warwick and his master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a former committee member of the Warwick-based Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society (WHKPASS) and was the chief editor of the society’s magazine – PASSTIMES.
Alex Fok