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Call to make Hong Kong resilient, smart city

Hong Kong Night Skyline 23

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is urging civil engineers to redouble their efforts in helping the city state become more climate resilient and embracing of smart technologies.

Lam, who was elected as chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region last summer, addressed delegates at an ICE innovation summit in Hong Kong as the Institution kicks off its bicentenary events.

She told delegates that the ICE has long been a valued partner of the Hong Kong government in creating a quality environment for its citizens, but that the challenge of climate change and her administration’s drive around smart cities mean the need for engineering expertise is greater than ever.

“I am glad that as part of its global bicentenary celebrations the ICE is hosting its innovation summit in our city and has chosen smart city and climate change as its main themes,” she said.

“This echoes our commitments to smart city development and environment sustainability, as evidenced by the initiatives announced in my maiden policy address delivered in October last year.”

Lam’s policy address focused heavily on her desire to double spending on R&D as a percentage of GDP from the current 0.73% to 1.5% within the current government’s five year term as part of a drive for Hong Kong to become an international innovation and technology hub.

On smart cities she announced plans to immediately invest $700M to take forward several projects to develop Hong Kong’s expertise in that area.

“In the coming years we will strive to transform Hong Kong into a smart city by upgrading our capability in innovation and technology,” she said. “We will also seek to reduce the impact of climate change on our city by taking forward a series of measures on mitigation, adaption on resilience.

“These are important goals that need the support and participation of all sectors of the community, not least our skilled professionals in civil engineering,” she added.

“Collaboration brings synergy. We look forward to continuing our close co-operation with the ICE to make Hong Kong a more liveable smart city.”

In response ICE president Lord Mair explained how civil engineers are now beginning to realise the value and role of smart infrastructure.

“Historically we have built without fully understanding our creations; but now we are beginning to,” he said. “But what are the implications of this technology? And what does it mean to build ‘smart’?”

Citing the Tsing Ma Bridge, the longest suspension bridge with both rail and road traffic in the world. It is equipped with more than 350 sensor channels. This data is monitored in real-time to check the health of various components, “ultimately doing all it can to protect the safety of those who use it”, he explained.

“New technologies must be part of the future for civil engineering,” he will say, citing as examples in addition to sensors robotics, drones, tidal energy, new materials and 3D printing, mixed reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“We can no longer just build infrastructure without knowing more about its long-term performance, and its ability to be smart and modern,” he said. “We need to embrace new technologies such as routinely incorporating sensors in both old and new infrastructure. We need to be agile and create living assets. We must not be old and slow - we need to be new and fast.”

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