As a living laboratory for innovative technology, Hong Kong Science Park provides a real environment for free testing and fine-tuning all kinds of new technologies to help them go to market quickly. ThinXtra, an Internet of Things (IoT) network and solution provider from Australia and New Zealand, is the first to build a territory wide network in the Science Park and acrossHong Kong, and form partnerships with companies developing IoT applications to actively promote wider adoption of IoT.
Building a low-cost IoT network
ThinXtra Solutions Limited is the sole operator of French IoT enablerSigfox in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. ThinXtra’s Managing Director Asia, Murray Hankinson, says the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) developed with Sigfox technology has the unique attributes of being long-range, low frequency and low power, is built at one-tenth of the cost of traditional telecommunications networks meaning its purpose build for practical IoT solutions,. One Sigfox IoT antenna in the urban area can cover a radius of 3 km, and in the suburban area, 20 km. That’s why he thinks that Sigfox-compatible IoT devices and applications have an edge, be it in deployment or in daily operation for Hong Kong community , government and enterprise.
Aiming to cover most of Hong Kong
ThinXtra set up in Hong Kong in 2016 and moved into Science Park promptly. It built the first Sigfox LPWAN base station at Science Park in August 2017. In November, the company announced to extend the base station plans to cover the entire Hong Kong and set the goal of having 100 base stations in operation by June 2018, to cover 85% of the entire Hong Kong.
In late 2017, Hong Kong’s Communications Authority set up a licensing system for wireless IoT platforms and services in preparation for accommodating various forms of IoT and 5G mobile services for smart city applications. ThinXtra immediately won a five-year Wireless IoT service license in the same month, reflecting how keen it is to develop the Hong Kong market.
Cross-boundary IoT capabilities
Murray reveals that the company’s development in Hong Kong is going according to planl. They are closing in on the target of setting up 100 base stations. As Sigfox is already covering more than 50 countries and regions, including the Taiwan, Singapore, UK, France, Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong can connect with the networks of these countries and other networks in Malayasia and Thailand to enable borderless and ubiquitous IoT solutions and application operation and management. The network also serves as a platform to support Hong Kong’s IoT technological research, which in turn stimulates the development of the local IoT ecosystem.
Science Park partner companies forming an ecosystem
Since setting up at Science Park, ThinXtra has been collaborating with HKSTP to innovate IoT technology, including encouraging partner companies, especially start-ups, to involve in the R&D of relevant devices and solutions. Murray reveals that BeeInventor, Arrow Asia Pac Limited and Avnet are three of to name just a few of its partners in the park. The former uses trackers in construction sites to improve industrial safety and manpower management efficiency, and the latter provides sensor components to help different industries collect data. They have both used ThinXtra’s Sigfox network to conduct testing, which helps in their research work on related innovations and applications.
Murray also appreciates the open and positive approach that the HKSAR Government adopts towards IoT network development. He thinks that a wide range of industries in Hong Kong have the potential to adopt IoT technology to improve productivity with an array of applications. As the Government promotes reindustrialisation in recent years, IoT can be leveraged to achieve smart manufacturing, stringing together production processes to enhance agility and flexibility to enable quick response to market needs. In developing a truly smart city, IoT networks act as key enablers of the ecosystem letting solutions flourish in a way that private networking never can or will. Cities being dynamic need open and secure platforms to remain agile and grow.
Multiple applications underscore efficacy
In urban services, IoT can be used for real-time monitoring of logistics, power and water usage and traffic conditions. This will help public utility firms to quickly respond and reduce wastage, thus improving their service for the general public. In logistics, smart logistics solutions can make use of IoT networks to trace the transportation of frozen food and minimise wastage.
Murray thinks that Science Park has formed an innovation and technology ecosystem that lets ThinXtra effectively link Hong Kong’s IoT-related technology outfits. The company will continue to work with HKSTP to catalyse more localised IoT applications and promote the development of Hong Kong’s IoT-linked industries.