Mark Lunt is Group Managing Director of JOS, one of Asia’s leading IT service and solution providers, with a team of 2,000 professionals serving more than 10,000 customers in Greater China and Southeast Asia. In this role he heads the JOS senior leadership team, driving the company’s vision, strategy and growth.
Aligning technology with purpose to make cities smarter
Building a smart city means tackling the real problems people and companies face day to day in ways that add value. For Hong Kong and other Asia Pacific cities, this means finding incremental, practical solutions that can improve sustainability and boost life quality for residents.
Hong Kong-based JOS, part of the Jardine Matheson Group, is a systems integrator, solutions provider and technology consultancy with extensive experience across Asia and a history dating back more than 60 years.
Mark Lunt, group managing director of JOS, says his company’s approach towards helping clients find the best solutions can best be described as ‘pragmatic’: it is not just about implementing the latest technology – it is carefully understanding how the right technologies can solve problems, improve performance and give companies the best return. Cities should apply a similar philosophy when considering ‘smart’ solutions, he says.
At JOS, one way this approach has been put to work is in harvesting and analysing information. The combination of greater availability of a wide variety of data with powerful and increasingly affordable hardware means more sophisticated software can be run – making new kinds of answers available to businesses. For example, by asking questions based on probabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) solutions can help detect fraudulent insurance claims and credit card transactions speedily and accurately. “AI Chatbots, which just a few years ago were often a source of major frustration for many customers, can now handle more complex queries – and decide when they can’t answer a question and should transfer the customer to a real person,” Lunt says.
Fault diagnosis for vehicles and other machines is another area where technology has made dramatic improvements in recent years, Lunt explains. This shows how systems can combine data from different sources, codify it and then make it available in a form that allows relatively inexperienced operators to diagnose problems. “Before, to identify those same problems, you would have needed someone with many years of experience,” he says.
When addressing deficiencies in their technology infrastructure, cities could start by looking at how technology has been effective in addressing business problems across various sectors.
In Hong Kong, a very positive step towards a ‘smarter’ future has been the government’s willingness to match private sector investment in technology R&D. In doing so, the city is helping to create the necessary basic conditions for innovation, but more still needs to be done, Lunt says.
“It’s easy to call for more investment – but to what end?” he asks. “We always have to ask how we can make things better while lowering risks for users and providers of products and services in the city.”
The way forward, Lunt emphasises, is looking at how technology can optimise the use of resources to address some of the problems Hong Kong faces – such as a shortage of land and the lack of available talent in specific areas.
“To build a smarter future together, clarity of purpose is necessary,” Lunt says. “We don’t want solutions looking for problems – we must identify what our problems and priorities are and marshal investment and resources in the innovations and technology that can solve them.”
Here, he suggests the purpose-driven approach JOS has followed when developing solutions for its clients is one that Hong Kong could consider. “Hong Kong is already a first-world city with first-world infrastructure,” he says. “What we should be doing now is looking at what other cities are doing and adopting those things which are relevant,” Lunt adds. “But as well as following and learning from others we should seek opportunities to take the lead in finding solutions to the problems that are most pressing for Hong Kong.”