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Smart buildings create smarter lives

By Shirley Lai

A new concept for smart buildings involves information technology and computer intelligence.

The two dimensions of this development are intelligent building management and smart home systems.

The former project began in May 1999. It was implemented for facility and estate administration in Hong Kong.

Intellinet Management and the Department of Electrical Engineering at the City University of Hong Kong jointly developed the intelligent management system.

Mr. Dominic Chau is managing director of Intellinet Management.

He said that the system unites information technology and property management.

According to him, the new system is a more advanced, network-based management system, whereas traditional management systems rely primarily on manual control.

To property services providers, the system facilitates building management.

Once a problem in the facilities is detected by computers, an e-mail message is sent to their computers or mobile phones, informing them to take remedial measures.

To facilitate security control, a remote video surveillance system is used.

Digital video recorders are installed at specific locations of some residential areas.

The digital recording function allows  authorised managing staff to retrieve records stored in the cameras.

The system also benefits residents.

By clicking a mouse, residents can check the progress of maintenance with online information.

Besides, they can monitor their children playing in the clubhouse and view shuttlebus schedules and notices from the management office through the Internet.

In addition, the system uses smart card sensors to identify residents and visitors.

Some smart buildings in Ma On Shan even accept Octopus cards as the residential smart cards.

Ms. Esther Mak is a resident of Vista Paradiso in Ma On Shan.

She said, “The smart card brings convenience to me, since I don’t need to remember the access passwords for both the lobby and podium entrances.”

Cash value can also be stored in the smart chip of the card.

Residents use their smart cards to pay shuttlebus fares and clubhouse booking fees.

Mr. Lawrence Fung has been living in East Point City in Junk Bay, in one of the smart buildings, for 2 years.

He said that there is still room for improvement in the system.

He said, “Sometimes the smart card sensors at the shuttlebus malfunction and not every shuttlebus is installed with sensor.”

Nevertheless, not all the residents are used to this system.

Conventional paper announcements are still posted on building’s notice board, said Mr. Chau.

The intelligent management system was first implemented in 37 residential sites and there will be more than 200 at a later stage.

By January 2001, it will be applied in all residential buildings owned by the Sun Hung Kai Properties.

The local smart home system is still being experimented with.

Recent applications are limited to using smart card system and buildings’ homepages.

Some residents in smart homes are able to use telephones to control the electrical appliances.

In the future, the intelligent system may apply to medical services and elderly care.

Care workers wish to utilise the remote control system to take care of patients and elderly.

In case of emergency, the network-based system will instantly signal for help.

Also, a planned intelligent toilet is designed for people to test urine samples at home.

Concerning the future development of the intelligent house, Mr. Chau is optimistic.

Said he: “There is a global trend toward automatic operation and artificial intelligence.

“As the Internet develops, people will certainly adapt to this kind of ‘e-living’ easily.

“However, the current system applies only in high-class private buildings.

“It takes time for acceptance and penetration of the new technology.”

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Shirley Lai

Octopus cards can be used as residential smart cards.