Khon Kaen drives to goal of 'SMARTEST?CITY'

Tech December 03, 2017 13:16


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KHON KAEN PROVINCE is recognised as one of the "smartest" in Thailand, thanks to an initiative featuring collaboration between local business, government and educational institutes. The three sectors teamed up for a few years to develop the Khon Kaen Smart City masterplan to help guide the northeastern province into a the technological future.

The masterplan reflects a desire to become a global city, internationally recognised as the most advanced and innovative city in Thailand, said Somsak Jungtrakal, Khon Kaen Governor.

And in the process, of achieving that, he said, the province should land the headquarters offices of giant technology firms. 

Geography should help, too, he said. Khon Kaen will optimise its good location along the route connecting Europe to China in the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative.

The Khon Kaen Smart City masterplan would cover the next five years, 2018 to 2022, as the city and province turn increasingly digital.

The plan boasts six pillars of development, including smart mobility, smart living, smart citizens, smart economy, smart environment, and smart governance. 

The short-term focus would be on three main missions, said the governor: a medical hub, transportation, and a MICE (meeting, incentives, convention, and exhibition) city.

Khon Kaen is not renowned as a destination for tourist attractions, a windfall for some Thai cities and provinces. Instead, its strengths are in education, medicine, and transportation - a good fit for a MICE city. The result: construction of the Khon Kaen International Convention and Exposition Centre (KICE), operated by CP Land.

There will be a cost to fund the transformation, but there's a plan for that, as well.

"We will optimise a privilege tax on the digital and bio-economy to encourage the development of all new initiatives, which will support the city becoming a smart city and finally to be the global city," said the governor. 

Medical Hub

The health care sector in Khon Kaen province have already committed to develop projects to help in the drive to a "smart healthcare" city and medical hub.

Khon Kaen Hospital's Control Command Centre, which operates the Trauma Centre and Critical Care, is planning to implement seamless emergency medicine with the use of technologies and innovation.

Doctor Ratrawee Pattanarattanamolee, deputy director of the Trauma Centre and Critical Care at Khon Kaen Hospital said the facility aimed to increase its capacity to respond to emergency medical cases in the province by creating a "seamless" emergency medical system. Emergency medical cases now amount to around 120,000 yearly. 

Doctor Ratrawee said the future system would consists of an ambulance operation centre, the EMS 1669 app, and operation of the Control Command Centre - which are integrated and operated seamlessly. Currently, they are separated and operated manually.

Once integrated, people could ask for emergency help easily by using EMS 1669 app, the Command Control Centre could effectively manage all 26 ambulances in Khon Kaen, and the patient would be well cared for with a full-function ambulance. The ambulance would be equipped with necessary medical equipment and also be connected via voice and video with a doctor at the Trauma Centre and Critical Care throughout its journey to hospital. The in-hospital doctor could observe the patient's condition while being transported.

"All of the patient's conditions, including vital signs, are seen 'real time' by the doctor so patient could be treated similar as to being in the hospital while the patient is on the way to hospital," said Doctor Ratrawee.

As well, the Faculty of Medicine at Khon Kaen University is planning to develop a medical hub project on a 24-rais (3.84-hectare) area. The project would aim to establish a total-solution medical service in Khon Kaen Province as its part in driving the province toward achieving Smart City status. 

Moreover, its planning includes establishing a big-data centre for people who enjoy "smart living". The centre would keep people's healthcare information in an accessible format and shareable between hospitals in the city. 

Smart transportation

Khon Kaen Province has for two years run a "smart bus" project to facilitate bringing commuters into the city. The smart bus project raises the intelligence of the vehicles with technologies including a passenger counter, e-ticket, wifi, Internet of Things, sensors, and GPS tracking system.

All public buses in Khon Kaen, operated by Khon Kaen City Bus Company, are connected online. All information each bus collects will be utilised to develop and create future new services. For example, Jiamsak Tongrung, chief executive officer of Jump Up smart bus operator, said that in the future, all 33 bus stops would be smarter, including connected to the Internet via IoT, and equipped with digital signage showing realtime information about the incoming bus on the route. A bus with GPS, could utilise the exact location of the bus to time announcements about businesses and organisations that the bus is passing.

People can now download the KK Transit app to see the bus routes, while a future version of the app would allow people to request bus service while they are at the bus stop. This feature would help the bus company can better control bus timing during rush-hour, sending buses as sufficient number of passengers request them via the app rather than just sending one along every 15 minutes. Currently under testing, this app has been downloaded a total 30,000 times with 6,000 active users turning to it daily. 

Khon Kaen University, Jiamsak said, also provides a smart bus service that largely duplicates the city bus but without an e-ticket system since the university bus is free of charge. 

"We have plans to offer the smart bus system to other smart cities nationwide," said Jiamsak.

The company has also developed three more projects included a smart parking system, smart environment, and a flood management system. All three are scheduled to launch early next year. 

"All these three projects are part of driving Khon Kaen Province to be a smart city," said Jiamsak.

Active collaboration

Khon Kaen Smart City is also recognised for its model of public-private partnerships (PPP). In Khon Kaen, the government and private sector actively collaborate to drive all six pillars of Smart City development.

To actively drive toward the Khon Kaen Smart City goal, Kungwan Laovirojjannakul, co-founder of Khon Kaen City Development (KKTT) Company said the private sector actively joins hands with the province. Private companies in the province have jointly invested in a company, KKTT, to initiate and to operate projects to enhance the smart city. 

Meanwhile, in the government sector, five municipal governments have joined hands to set up a company called Khon Kaen Transit System (KKTS) to drive Khon Kaen's smart city. 

Khon Kaen and its masterplan are important, said Thawatchai Khotwong, district manager of Centre Northeastern Regional Office, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa). Depa was happy to provide multiple supports, including budget, consultants, and facilities to help drive the province to become a smart city, he said.

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