The EMSD moves forward with Hong Kong for 70 years
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD). Earlier on, accompanied by the Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services, Mr SIT Wing-hang, Alfred, and departmental colleagues, I visited the EMSD headquarters building in Kowloon Bay to learn more about its work. The EMSD is known for its achievements and experience in spurring innovation and technology (I&T) and providing manpower training. This week, I have invited several EMSD colleagues to talk about how the department applies the research and development (R&D) results in the I&T field to enhance the quality and efficiency of its services while promoting the development of I&T projects of local start-ups and accelerating the commercialisation of R&D results.
Going along with the EMSD for 70 years
Over the past 70 years, the EMSD has been closely linked to the city’s construction and development. Regarding the development of the EMSD, Mr Alfred SIT said that in 1948, the Electrical, Mechanical, and Transport Offices under the then Public Works Department merged to form the Electrical and Mechanical Office (EMO). In the early stages of its establishment, the EMO was solely responsible for vehicle management and repair, as well as the electrical and mechanical (E&M) operation and maintenance of government facilities. As its scope of work expanded with the passage of time, the EMO was officially upgraded in 1982 to become today’s EMSD. In 1996, the setting up of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund was an important milestone for the EMSD, which has since been transformed from a conventional government department to one that operates on a self-financing basis. Back then, it was the only trading fund department completely overhauled to face market competition squarely.
The EMSD headquarters building houses the EMSD Gallery, which introduces its history and services by way of interactive games. The gallery also serves as a public education platform for promoting E&M safety and energy efficiency. It is well received by primary and secondary school students and is expected to attract about 16 000 visitors every year. The Learning Resources Centre is located on the same floor of the gallery. On the day of my visit, I was briefed by the EMSD colleagues on their various work in promoting and supporting I&T development.
Application of I&T to daily life
Users of the EMSD’s services are basically government departments. Electronics Engineering Graduate, Ms CHEUNG Pui-yi, first introduced to us the Remote Monitoring System developed in-house by the EMSD to serve mainly the Transport Department and Highways Department. For example, as E&M facilities such as traffic lights, pumping and lighting systems for underpasses, lifts and escalators for footbridges are located throughout Hong Kong, it would be time-consuming and inefficient to rely solely on the staff to carry out inspections. Therefore, the EMSD in 2014 started to develop a suitable remote monitoring system which can instantly alert the relevant staff to faulty facilities, so as to speed up repair arrangements, reduce the down time of facilities and enhance service quality.
In recent years, the application of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology has become increasingly popular. Senior Engineer, Mr CHAN Hor-yin, Steve, briefed us on how the EMSD applies the BIM–Asset Management System to simplify traditional workflow through smart maintenance and repair work, so as to make asset management and incident handling more efficient. Very often, EMSD personnel have to go to all sorts of places to carry out maintenance and repair work. Some places, such as locations at heights, confined spaces and hospital operation theatres, may not be readily accessible or approachable at all times. Using the system, EMSD personnel can remotely learn about the detailed information of the facilities to be repaired. For example, they can quickly identify the faulty locations, specifications of parts, modes of operation, etc., which significantly reduces the time required for inspection and repair.
I&T collaboration platform “E&M InnoPortal”
The EMSD introduced a plan at the end of last year to turn its headquarters building and related facilities into an I&T testing ground. Early this year, it established the Innovation Office to co-ordinate I&T related work. I learned that the EMSD has recently launched a pilot scheme to test an online platform “E&M InnoPortal” for I&T collaboration to further strengthen liaison with the industry. Senior Engineer, Mr LAM Kam-chun, Tommy, said that the platform maintains a list of the technology development needs of various government departments, public bodies and the E&M industry. Meanwhile, it invites universities, start-ups, etc. to put the E&M related I&T they provide on the platform for matching. The department will provide trial venues and conduct testing and verification for trial projects with a view to promoting the R&D and application of I&T.
The platform for collaboration has been well received by universities and start-ups since its trial launch in March, with more than 60 I&T solutions received. The technologies involved include artificial intelligence and information analysis, energy efficiency and renewable energy, energy storage and transfer, robotic application, etc. The platform has also received about 60 I&T requests, which can be broadly grouped into “Smart Government”, “Smart Mobility” and “Smart Environment”. Currently, more than ten successfully matched projects are under trial. I hope that the industry will continue to participate actively.
The E&M industry touches every aspect of people’s daily lives, from electrical installations, lift safety, repair and maintenance of E&M facilities to the operation of transport services, infrastructure facilities, etc. This is made possible thanks to a dedicated team of technical experts providing support behind the scenes, and also to proper supervision and regulation in all aspects. They indeed face huge challenges. Next week, I will go to the real “classroom” in the EMSD headquarters building to find out how E&M elites in Hong Kong are trained under the Technician Training Scheme (previously known as the Apprentice Training Scheme) run by the EMSD for over 60 years.
15 July, 2018