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Hong Kong government releases report on smart lampposts

The Multi-functional Smart Lampposts Technical Advisory Ad Hoc Committee has unanimously agreed that the Government should continue to take forward the pilot scheme to install multi-functional smart lampposts.

The Government released the committee’s report submitted to the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer.

The report noted that smart lampposts are key digital infrastructure for promoting smart city development and facilitating 5G mobile network implementation in Hong Kong.

After reviewing various details comprehensively, the design and operation of smart lampposts as well as the functions and technologies employed for applications, the committee supported the Government to install the devices which do not have privacy concerns in the smart lampposts.

They include LED lighting, meteorological sensors, air quality sensors, thermal detectors as well as radio-frequency identification tags, Geo-QR codes and Bluetooth beacons to identify a lamppost’s geo-location.

While the committee noted that the Government has strictly complied with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance’s requirements, it recommended some measures to address public concern over potential privacy issues on some of the applications.

The committee suggested using more privacy-friendly technologies as substitutes for cameras and Bluetooth detectors.

It also advised setting up a rigorous, credible and transparent governance mechanism to review and approve any new smart lamppost application before installation and make the decision fully transparent to the public.

The Government should engage independent third-party professionals to conduct regular security and privacy reviews of smart lamppost technologies, functions, applications and devices following relevant laws and international standards, the committee added.

The Government Chief Information Officer and committee convenor stated that the Government would refine the pilot scheme’s applications and implementation arrangements by the committee’s recommendations.

He added that the Government will seek the support of District Councils for continuing with the implementation work.

Set up in August 2019, the committee is tasked to strengthen data security and personal privacy protection and instil public confidence in smart lampposts.

In December 2019 OpenGov Asia reported that at the committee convened its fifth meeting.

Even then, the members reached a consensus that while the Government should continue with the smart lamppost project for smart city development in Hong Kong, cameras on the smart lampposts should be replaced by other technology solutions.

It was noted that the five meetings that have been held so far were held to review in detail the functions and technologies employed in smart lampposts as well as to make recommendations in response to public concerns over privacy.

The Committee unanimously agreed that replacement technology solutions for cameras, such as LIDAR and thermal detectors, should be adopted to enlist wider community support for smart lampposts as well as smart city development.

The Committee agreed that the Government should continue with the smart lamppost project after taking out cameras, especially given the rollout of the fifth-generation mobile service shortly.

To avoid lagging, Hong Kong must catch up at full steam in smart city development. The city will also continue to open up city data collected by smart lampposts to drive smart city development.

The original design of smart lampposts included panoramic cameras which aim to collect real-time traffic data and traffic snapshot images and surveillance cameras which aim to monitor traffic conditions and tackle illegal dumping of construction waste.

The Committee proposed that each new smart device to be installed on smart lampposts in future should go through a third-party review and assessment to ensure compliance with international privacy and security standards (ISO 27000 series).

The Committee also suggested that the Government enhance public education and promotion on smart lampposts. As always, the Government will only commence installation of new devices after consulting relevant stakeholders, including the Legislative Council and concerned District Councils.

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