Smart city aim in drive for big data

Local | Stella Wong and Chuck Pang 6 Jan 2017

A group of Chinese University academics wants Hongkongers to take part in the collection of big data on air pollution, health and urban planning aimed at making Hong Kong a "smart city." The big-data platform is ready for trial once the financial and legal concerns are resolved.

"A smart city requires a competent platform that collects open and big data meticulously, with integration and automated analysis done on the central system," said Leung Yee, director of the CUHK Institute of Future Cities.

For air pollution, the institute has developed an air pollution decision support system, which integrates data from mobile sensors, ground-based stations of the Environmental Protection Department and the Hong Kong Observatory, remote sensors of satellites and social media.

It has invented the mobile sensor, which has five removable sensory blocks for measuring each air pollutant, and a main control unit which sends real-time data to the support system.

The institute wants the public to contribute to the big-data platform by carrying the sensor to different places. The institute also tested sensors carried by drones.

"The government can then observe the city's air pollution in real time and design policy for achieving sustainable urban development," Leung said.

Due to restraints in funding and potential legal concerns, the big-data platform is not ready for public use.

"The current Privacy Ordinance in Hong Kong does not allow the SAR government to release a lot of data as they have legal responsibilities," Leung said.

"There is also a lot of privacy concerns in releasing personal data among the general public which limits the platform."

He urged the government to review the ordinance, following the example in the United States which has laws to protect citizens' privacy when providing data to an open database.

The institute also developed a personalized health-care system for the platform, which collects health data from different sensors such as smartwatches, blood-pressure sensors and heart-rate sensors. The data will be uploaded to a server after integrating and analyzing the data, where physicians or fitness trainers can give advice to individuals.

The platform also has a database with three-dimensional mapping of 58 cities and regions in China, including Hong Kong.

Leung hoped that the platform can "achieve a win-win situation with continuous growth of the economy and a rise in living standards for the people."

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