Hong Kong needs 5G to ‘see’ to go Smart City Spatial

Hong Kong will need to be able to ‘see’ through IOT if the government smart city policy is to become a reality. 5G needs to happen now.

It is estimated that as much as 60% of the human brain is involved in processing what we see. The eye and brain coordination forms our spatial cognition.

To know where we are and the relative location with the outside world (vis a vis buildings, cars or other landmarks) is a very important ability. Our ancestors could not find food or procreate without spatial cognition.

Studies by Nobel Prize winning scientists found that human’s brains, like that of the migrating birds, have a very sophisticated tracking system, it is like a built-in global positioning system (GPS) that can lead us to travel around the earth. This instinct, which has allowed human beings to survive for millions of years, is very crucial. Today, the importance of spatial cognition continues unabated.

The geographic information system (GIS), also known as an electronic map, combines, organizes and analyzes diversified data based on spatial locations, transforming the data into valuable information to facilitate decision making. Today, many people talk about smart city while the flexible use of GIS form a critical foundation for building a smart city.

In many occasions, I have talked about Smart City 3.0 of which the essence is the collaboration among the public, the government, business organizations and academia. A common spatial data infrastructure (CSDI) is formed by information provided by the public, social media and sensor networks in public places while solving the problems of every metropolis, such as traffic congestion, elderly care and heat island effect.

If the sensor network is human eyes, the Internet of things (IoT) is like a brain wave transmission system. Today’s IoT is large in scale, the objects connecting to the network is getting more than the number of human beings on earth. It is estimated that by 2020, up to 50 billion objects will be connected, including smart phones, connected cars, roads and bridges, underground pipes, detectors on traffic of vehicles and pedestrian, air quality, field monitoring of atmospheric changes and movement of tectonic plates. At the same time, they are also connected with shopping malls, schools, office buildings, as well as all kinds of smart home appliances.

Together, these fragmented and real-time data forms a CSDI, while GIS software is used to analyze the data to discover the rules and patterns of things, turning it into useful information and insights. It not only promotes efficiency and facilitates the monitoring of governments, but also enables a smarter modern life.
The Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong released by the Government in mid-December announced its intention to open data of the public and private sectors to promote scientific research and innovations. This is a positive proposal. It also mentions that “Hong Kong is all geared up for the commercial launch of 5G services and applications in 2020” – 5G is a ultra-high speed and high-capacity data service that provides reliable and low-latency communication between IoTs. If 5G can be launched as quickly as possible, the above mentioned solutions to smart city problems will be available sooner.

In the past, our ancestors using the innate abilities of spatial thinking to hunt or procreate offspring. I expect that science and technology will further develop this instinct to a more profound level, and lead us and our coming generations to a better life.

“Spatial Thinking is Fundamental”, 02-11-2017, Jack Dangermond, Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/esri/2017/11/02/spatial-thinking-is-fundamental/#4e997aad7aab
“Nobel Prize in Medicine Is Awarded to Three Who Discovered Brain’s ‘Inner GPS’” , 06-10-2014, Lawrence K. Altman, The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/science/nobel-prize-medicine.html?action=click&contentCollection=Science&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article
“Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for finding brain’s ‘you are here’ cells”, 06-10-2014, Ian Sample and Aisha Gani, The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/06/nobel-prize-physiology-medicine-brain-navigation
“CEO to shareholders: 50 billion connections 2020”, 13-04-2010, Ericsson https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2010/4/ceo-to-shareholders-50-billion-connections-2020
“end-2017 estimates for all key ICT indicators”, ITU https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/facts/default.aspx
Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint, 15-12-2017, ITB, HKSAR https://www.smartcity.gov.hk/blueprint/HongKongSmartCityBlueprint_e-flipbook_EN/mobile/index.html#p=1

Winnie Tang

Dr Winnie Tang is Honorary Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of Hong Kong and Advisor of Our Hong Kong Foundation.

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