Smart City careers are pre-defined by the environmental pressures and a steadily increasing population in many urban areas, including Hong Kong. The city of the near future needs to address numerous challenges and transform itself into a Smart City built on new tech like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, 5G, and fast data speeds. The growing popularity of the smart city trend is already having a profound effect on roles across construction and real estate in Hong Kong, Singapore, and broader Asia.
What Are Smart Cities
As the concept of the smart city is relatively new, having emerged in the past decade or so in mainstream discussions, there is ongoing debate as to what attributes make an urban area a smart city. However, there are lots of areas of agreement.
While some consider smart cities to encompass the process of becoming smart, others, such as the British Standards Institute, view them as the “effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in the built environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for its citizens.” Yet others focus on the technological aspects, including the optimal use of interconnected information and technology (ICT) to understand and control a city’s operations.
The UN forecasts that Asia will see 53% of its population living in urban areas by 2030, up from 31.5% in 1990. This huge move to cities, which has been underway for decades, is in a short period creating massive pressure on urban infrastructure and the environment, and it poses challenges for every city. In Asia, urbanization and an expanding population have created huge conurbations with a population exceeding 10 million people. The region is home to 16 of these mega cities, including Tokyo, Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai and Jakarta. No wonder smart city careers are making a noticeable entrance in Asia’s recruitment scene.
Hong Kong’s Ambitions
Hong Kong has well-established plans and strategies to develop its urban space into a smart city. It’s certainly very well placed to do so. It’s historic function as a gateway to China, and more recently as a gateway out of China for domestic businesses going global, drove the development of Hong Kong as a leading financial centre and transport and logistics hub. It is also part of the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macau Greater Bay Area, and is positioned close to tech powerhouse Shenzhen.
The SAR released a Smart City Blueprint back in 2017, and updated it with the release in 2020 of the Smart City Blueprint 2.0, which proposes over 70 initiatives to address its urban challenges. The plan covers numerous elements of a smart city, including:
- An Electronic Submission Hub for the processing of building plans;
- Internet of Things-enabled pest control solutions;
- An online dispute resolution and deal-making service; and
- A new pension management platform.
Smart in Action
To truly appreciate the revolutionary changes that interconnected tech solutions like autonomous driving, theIoT, blockchain, AI and big data will have on the urban environment, a few examples make a compelling case.
Smart City Careers in Construction
The use of Building Information Modelling is enabling design to be tech-driven. This is similar tech to the Computer-Aided Design piece of kit that engineers use. BIM takes CAD to a new level by creating digital representations of buildings and their functions. This enables designers and architects to create a model that can analyze a building’s electrical and ventilation systems, for example.
Some versions of BIM include AI functions that design many aspects of a building autonomously, within a set of input parameters, which increases efficiency.
Smart City Careers in Transportation
Smart traffic management and transportation are tackling congestion and pollution using sophisticated communication technologies, sensors, automation and speedy connectivity. This approach improves safety, allocates the use of resources more efficiently, improves the user experience and makes the city a nicer place to live.
For example, in Changsha City, China, the introduction of smart buses has reduced commuting times. The buses are connected to the traffic lights via the IoT along their routes, and when they approach, the traffic light turns green automatically, if it’s safe to do so.
In 2017, Dubai tested out a drone taxi service, a mode of transport it plans to roll out as soon as this year as part of its plans to become a smart city.
Smart City Careers in Healthcare
The application of technology to healthcare as part of the development of smart cities is beginning to transport the patient experience. For example, in Barcelona, the city’s Telecare Service system uses geo-localisation tech and safety terminals to enable vulnerable people to call an ambulance and get medical advice without leaving their homes.
In two other examples of smart healthcare, AI diagnostic and disease monitoring solutions can be set up to accurately identify diseases from symptoms, X-rays and CT scans, and automated assistants are helping pharmacists select, handle, package and distribute medications.
Implications for Construction
The rise of smart cities is an enduring theme that will impact the world of work for the foreseeable future. It will shape the way construction and real estate jobs develop and create new opportunities and new roles. Ride-sharing, smart public transportation systems, interconnected AI-enabled traffic management systems and micro-mobility services are taking over urban areas, and buildings in urban areas need to be smarter if they are to reduce their environmental footprint and better serve their users. These two aspects comprise the largest element of smart city development. Because of these, cities’ digital and physical infrastructure needs to be updated.
Digitalization is already making inroads into all areas of city planning, so this will need to be factored into career plans. Examples of roles that will likely see demand for talent rise quickly are energy efficiency engineer, urban informatics analyst, railway engineer, town planner and urban mechanic.
With many more years of rapid growth ahead, the expansion of smart cities is set to generate a whole range of exciting, challenging and rewarding career opportunities. And if you want to be ahead of the curve it’s high time to talk to us about investing in your education and career development.