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HK govt launches a new HKeMobility app

The Transport Department (TD) announced that the all-in-one mobile application "HKeMobility" has been launched as one of the initiatives to take forward the Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint.       

The TD's three existing mobile applications, namely "Hong Kong eTransport", "Hong Kong eRouting" and "eTraffic News", are integrated into "HKeMobility", with the user interface improved and new features added.

The app cost about HK$600,000 (around S$104,000) to develop and is part of government plans to improve urban management and quality of life under a blueprint for a “smart city”.

Members of the public can acquire real-time traffic and transport information anytime and anywhere to plan their journeys.

The press release stated the public could also make use of "HKeMobility" to obtain and stay updated on traffic news with a voice-over function, snapshots of traffic conditions from about 180 CCTV cameras installed at major roads, and the estimated times of arrival of buses and trams.

Moreover, real-time parking vacancy information from about 220 car parks – more than 10 per cent of the total number in Hong Kong – has been included.

To promote the habit of walking, the walking route search feature, now covering the best walking routes in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, will be progressively extended to other districts.  "HKeMobility" has enhanced the walking route searching feature by offering the choice of barrier-free routes for people with visual and mobility disabilities.

Officials said they had conducted on-site inspections in these two districts to map out the best routes for people with special needs.

Visually impaired users can find advice on routes with traffic lights, to make crossing the road easier. Bridges not installed with lifts are excluded from recommendations for those with mobility problems.

The department said walking routes covering all districts would be available in two or three years.

The app would collect information on user behaviour, officials added, to improve transport planning in the future. But they stressed that personal information would not be collected and none would be handed to law enforcement agencies.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said that officials should get all transport operators to share their data with the government as well as private companies, as a condition for renewing their operating licences.

Open data was a key part of building a “smart city”, he added

However, there is a small issue with the new app that must not go unreported.

A recent report noted that while the app is a great step forward in boosting Hong Kong’ technological connectivity, its mission is hindered by the fact that some information from rail giants and major bus companies like KMB and Citybus is noticeably absent from the HKeMobility app.

The absent information pertains to the arrival times for services run by major players like KMB, New World First Bus, Citybus and rail operators like the MTR.

The app, which is an amalgamation of the Transport Department’s existing mobile platforms, HKeTransport, HKeRouting and eTraffic News, only displays the arrival times for trams, and buses run by New Lantao Bus Company.

For information on other operators, users need to relocate and switch to the companies’ own apps. This comes despite the government being the largest shareholder in the MTR Corporation.

However, despite the missing information, HKeMobility comes a welcome addition to Hong Kong’s mission of creating a smart city.

The “HKeMobility"  app can be downloaded for free on both Android smartphones and iPhones. Alternatively, members of the public can download the app through the link on the TD's website (www.td.gov.hk). Users of the TD's three existing mobile applications will also receive guidelines on how to download or update to "HKeMobility".

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