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Cover Story: Building A Smart City (Part 1)
July 02, 2017

Interview with  Dr Hubert Chan, JP

Chairman of Hong Kong Communications Holding Limited 


Q. Smart City is becoming an integral part of sustainable city development.  What is the role of Hong Kong Communications in this? 


The Smart City concept involves using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a core consideration in urban planning and management. Hong Kong Communications is a leading ICT company in the field of home automation with nearly 60% of market share. 


Q. What is the home automation and how is it applied in Hong Kong?


The scope of home automation is extended to Security, Control, Energy Saving, and Healthcare. I categorize the application level into these four aspects, which are best presented in the following diagram:


Home is a mini-version of the city. Sensors are becoming an integral part of smart city, because we can collect the data and based on its analysis make predictions, so make it smart. Take an example of Hutchison: in their premises basic home automation is provided, including control and security. It includes also motion sensors. When there are no people, the light and aircon would be switched off automatically. 

We completed the project of design and build of an integrated care link system for The Tanner Hill in Hong Kong in 2016. It used ICT with applications of healthcare for realization of Ageing in Place. 


Q. What are the main challenges for the home automation in Hong Kong?


There are several challenges. One of them is not a necessity. People live comfortably without home automation. How to turn it become a necessity? It takes time to change habits,  adopt and use the technology. Not many people are aware and understand the concept of home automation. Of course, there are some early adopters. There are two elements of adoption: motivation and ability. Ability means people can use the technology almost intuitively, easily and almost without much training. For motivation part - why people have to adopt your product or service? You can save money, you can show off with state-of-the-art technology, decrease impact on the environment. So only minority would adopt it. It is easier from security perspective, because every house or compound needs a door phone. 


Q. What is the biggest success in the home automation area that HKC has achieved so far?


The biggest success for us is the Tanner Hill - three and half years, we made design with lot of customization. The hardware and software - we all made on our own. For example, if a person falls down and cannot move, but can call for help by voicing out - the system will detect the situation even if it is 20 feet away and send notice to caregiver or family member via an app. 


The software was developed with Housing Society. We tailor-made all the software according to the experience of caregivers, response to different scenarios, and the most efficient procedure to take care of the elderly according to past experience. 


Q. What is the future trends of home automation development? 


On current level of control, for example, one touch can activate multiple elements of home automation: the light, aircon, music and so on. But it is controlled manually. So the next level would be to control it without the touch - by voice. However, we are still in the transition period, because technology is not mature. For example, you say: “Turn on the light” and expect that light would switched on. But the problem it is not 100% accurate. Same with face recognition. We need 4-5 more years for technology to become more mature. Then we can make it more automated and smart. 


Q. How do you think about success and personal achievement? 


I define success when you achieve what you want to achieve. That’s why I always consider what is the priority. When people ask me how do I share time among all the activities: family, work, life-balance, volunteering… It all depends on priority, and priority changes according to your age. When you just graduate, you put more priority to your work and career development and less on your family. With age, priority shifts more towards the family, especially when you have children. After kids grew up, you have more time, so your priority shifts more towards the community. 


Q. What are your current goals? 


Currently we are promoting a concept of “Aging in Place”, which can be extended to “Dying in Place” with the application of ICT. Our aging at place solution can be explained by the following picture:


At my current stage, I want to do more volunteering work and influence other people in the positive way, where I believe this is right and good. I am involved in The Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care. We are promoting the concept of dying at home, because the most comfortable place to die is our own bed. We are looking for ways to bring higher awareness to the public about hospice and die-at-home concept, as well as some potential fundraising projects.