The tech effect

The tech effect

By becoming 'smart', Phuket has thrown itself into the future

The tech effect
Patong Beach.

Following the announcement that it has become the first "smart city" in the country, Phuket recently opened its Smart City Innovation Park to promote development and technology learning as two of their key functions.

Phuket Smart City Innovation Park will serve as the hub for both learning and the development of innovation, according to ICT minister Uttama Savanayana.

The park also promotes digital investment under the collaboration of the Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa) and the Board of Inverstment (BoI), providing business consultation for tech start-ups.

Located in Prince of Songkla University (Phuket campus), the Innovation Park houses four major zones, including the BoI co-ordination unit, IoT Lab, a co-working space for start-ups and incubation centre. The Building Information Modelling (BIM) innovation centre is also established here.

Pracha Asawateera, manager of the Sipa Phuket, explained that the BIM innovation centre serves Phuket as a virtualised city where the public and private sectors as well as creative entrepreneurs can learn about development and investment information.

The use of BIM, for instance, was applied at Patong Beach, where around 200,000 tourists visit each day. The virtualised Patong Beach, via the BIM system, allows relevant agencies and officials to see the city development. "The BIM can allow us to see all dimensions of the city, in case of public hearings, or decisions on investments. We can view each particular area in the city with accurate data," Pracha said.

At the Innovation Park, the Internet of Things (IoT) lab is now available for anyone who wants to learn and explore the potential of IoT. IoT is the fundamental technology of the smart city and now those who have worked at coffee shops can now work at the IoT lab, the space available at the Park where innovation technologies from global IT vendors like Cisco and Autodesk are accessible.

Phuket Old Town and Patong Beach are the first two spots in Phuket where free Wi-Fi is available. Photo: Sasiwimon Boonruang

Officially launched last week, Phuket Smart City supports the government's policy of building a digital economy and digital society. The smart city covers areas of economy, tourism, environment, healthcare, education, and smart governance, which all aim to achieve the target within 2020 under the ambition of "Smile, Smart and Sustainable Phuket".

In the city, some 1,000 public free Wi-Fi access points will be implemented, with the primary network service operated by CAT Telecom. The free Wi-Fi service not only facilitates tourists, but serves the local restaurants and coffee shops as a channel of digital marketing. At present, some 50 shops have joined the pilot service, with Patong and Phuket Old Town the first two areas where free Wi-Fi is available.

"The heat map shown on the software programme allows us to view tourist behaviour, and we can visualise their data deep down in each area, such as nationality, so we can apply the data for further usefulness," said the Sipa manager.

Chamroen Tipayapongtada, the Phuket governor, noted that the budget for Phuket Smart City is around 4.2 billion baht and will draw hundreds of billions of baht to the country once the project is complete in 2020.

"Phuket is a popular destination for tourists around the world. Each year there are more than 13 million people travelling to the province," he said.

Smart City will be unsuccessful without public participation, so the drive of the project should primarily concern itself with people in the city and how to provide them with a better life.

"Smart City does not only mean having high-speed internet, but human resource development," said the governor. As a host of digital industry, the province's focus includes software (embedded software, enterprise software, digital content), cloud services, a data centre, a software park and movie town.

The smart living community focuses on the safety and security in both the city and marine areas. In Phuket, for example, there are approximately 2,000 CCTVs operated by both public and private agencies.

The city has been working on the integration of all those CCTVs to run analytics, so that the CCTV system can monitor and provide alerts on upcoming conditions, allowing them to implement protective measures before an incident occurs. The live showing of Phuket's atmosphere through CCTVs was introduced last year via

Mobile applications have also been developed as part of the safe city protocol, including a feature called Police i lert u, an application alerting police to emergencies. Aside from safety, the application also provides marketing through ads meant to attract tourists.

To boost Phuket as a marine city, the project will integrate a tourist database of the yacht services in the Andaman at the marine-operation centre at Chalong Pier, the yacht checkpoint. The system, maintained by the Port Authority of Thailand, will link five southern provinces: Ranong, Surat Thani, Phangnga, Phuket and Krabi.

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