You can instantly recognize the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP) by the unmistakable Charles Kao Auditorium, built in the shape of a golden egg (picture above from Meinhardt Group). But the real golden egg in the Park could be its work on making use of data to build businesses.
Vast amounts of data is being collected, and it could be a fantastically valuable resource - but a lot of it is either not useful, or not exploited. HKSTP set up an Open Data initiative to turn the information into gold, by encouraging partnerships which share data with third parties. At the DCD>Converged Hong Kong conference earlier this month Peter Tin Chung Yeung, head of ICT for smart cities at HKSTP, explained why open data was needed - and how HKSTP set it up.
Getting the right data
Many companies in Hong Kong and the region are already using IT to digitalize their processes and internal operations, noted Yeung. However, successful digital transformation needs good data, along with rigorous analysis to enable the right business decisions. Unfortunately, most data collected today is consumer-oriented and is of limited use to businesses.
“I guess what we would really like to focus on is how do we get more value from the business and industry related data, how do we use [IoT] sensors and capture all this data? More importantly, how do we analyze this data? How do we make good sense of data to improve our business efficiency?” he asked.
In an ideal world, front-line employees would be able to harness the data, and use associated intelligence to make instant decisions that benefit the business. “By doing that, we will be able to improve what we call the customer touch point and customer experience,” said Yeung. ”I think that is the core of digital transformation in terms of relating to customers.”
Data capabilities should be developed in-house, and not left solely to technology suppliers, he said. However, organizations should also consider liaising with external parties – including their competitors, so as to develop inter-company or industry standards. “With that, you will be able to apply those things across the industry,” he said.
Bridging partners in
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP) - a non-profit statutory body set up by the Hong Kong Government - established an Open Data Studio to bridge the data gap. The studio, located at the Hong Kong Science Park in Shatin, is intended to bring businesses and innovators together to develop Smart City solutions.
Businesses brainstorm with innovators. In a 90-day window, they come back with a proof of concept
“We create the physical [and digital] infrastructure to enable the enterprise to own their data and innovate with data to address new challenges and growth,” explained Yeung, adding that the studio provides a secure platform for businesses to share their data with innovators: “We have developed a data acquisition platform to enable innovators to work with organizations in data engineering and data modeling.”
Businesses are encouraged to define their business challenges or pain points, and offer up a dataset. The studio then sets up a meeting with innovators and software developers to better understand the issues and brainstorm on how they may be addressed.
“Within a 90-day window - or less - innovators come back and present their proof of concept or initial solutions. Organizations can then decide whether to terminate the data sharing or continue. Our platform will help you manage these interactions. This is already happening in the Science Park,” he said.
Innovation through data
“We would like to nurture a new generation of innovation in this data-driven economy. That’s why we have set this up to facilitate work with the community, the government, the private sector, and the non-governmental organization sector.”
For instance, the popular Ocean Park theme park in Hong Kong shared Wi-Fi data, which has been used to build a heat-map which can help the flow of visitors, he said.
Updated in real-time, the map shows visitors the waiting times they can expect at various attractions – and helps them find sections of the park which have fewer people. The business also improved its visitor tracking system with mobile and real-time sensor information to help employees streamline operations and improve the overall experience.
Ultimately, the Open Data Studio will use data to enhance businesses and provide services to organizations both in Hong Kong and around the world said Yeung: “We [currently] have data sets in the mobility area, energy area, as well as some in the finance and retail sectors.”
The industrial base
Of course, a successful data economy doesn’t come from nowhere. The Science Park includes over 600 companies with a deliberate mix of startups, small and mid-sized businesses of 100 employees or less, as well as large, multi-national organizations, anchored by the data centers of Hong Kong.
Yeung pointed to Tseung Kwan O (TKO) with its cluster of 12 data centers, ticking off facilities such as those belonging to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and HSBC, as well as operators such as China Unicom, Digital Realty. He also mentioned the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) submarine cable linking Los Angeles and Hong Kong, which lands at TKO, saying: “This is a critical infrastructure that could propel Hong Kong into the next generation of data centers, infrastructure, cloud computing and the data-driven economy.”
The government is not about to rest on its laurels though. In June this year it published a blueprint to establish Hong Kong as a smart city, which will be revised and beefed up soon. No matter how the data economy shapes up, Hong Kong intends to keep a place at the forefront.