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Phuket going ‘smart’ with B430mn initiative

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Phuket going ‘smart’ with B430mn initiative | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The province is forging ahead to develop ‘smart city’ status with a 430 million baht initiative launched earlier this year.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak gave the green light on March 21 to launch the pilot project. “The Thai government had been developing a smart-city concept, focusing on information-technology systems, which would become the foundation for the economy, society and tourism,” Deputy PM Somkid said.

The same day, Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada and the mayor of Busan, South Korea, inked a deal to adopt digital technologies already in use in some of South Korea’s smart cities.

Information and Communications Technology Minister Uttama Savana-yana told the Phuket Gazette that Thailand’s Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) was charged with using the 430-million-baht budget to develop the infrastructure for Phuket’s smart city status.

The minister initially announced the idea of turning Phuket into a ‘smart city’ in September of last year, concentrating on environmental concerns, investment-friendliness and tourist safety.

Plans for a 10-billion-baht digital real estate development, billed as a ‘digital-business hub with a view’ in Pa Khlok were revealed last December as part of a joint government-private sector venture aimed at attracting global technology giants, such as Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, Samsung and Facebook.

Deputy PM Somkid said that special privileges would be afforded to foreign investors looking to establish their businesses in Thailand’s new special economic zones. He added that the government would support Thai investors in negotiations with those foreign investors.

Last week, Phuket’s smart city status took a significant step forward when provincial officials met with diplomats from the British Embassy and representatives from the UK’s Trade & Investment Department (TID).

UK TID Technology Specialist John Griffiths said he was enthusiastic about the opportunities for Phuket to adopt inexpensive hardware and software solutions from the UK’s tech industry, when he met with officials at Provincial Hall on June 3.

One of the products of particular interest to provincial heads at the meeting was sensor technology from British-based tech manufacturers.

“If you wish to pick up and use data, traditionally you would go to a mobile operator and say, ‘I have a SIM card and would like you to transfer this data to my server.’ That’s a relatively low-cost option for about 250 baht per month to gather data and send it through,” Mr Griffiths said. “But cellular data is restricted by the cellular network. If you have no signal, you have no sensor.”

Mr Griffiths said he was eager to set up a data-collecting and analyzing system, called Laura, in Phuket, as a part of the smart city development project.

“Laura is a free-to-air spectrum that is close to an FM radio signal, meaning that the signal can penetrate buildings,” he explained. “It can run continuously for four to five years with a small battery.”

Mr Griffiths estimated that the infrastructure requirements for a system of sensors across Phuket would be about five radio masts, each with a 7km radius that could transmit data from up to 50,000 nearby sensors.

“It’s basically 100 times cheaper than a cellular network,” he said.

“The system would allow real-time measurements of things like water levels and water quality. You could have an interactive refuse collection system, which notifies you when bins are full and ready to be collected,” explained Mr Griffiths. “For example, sensors powered by small batteries or solar cells at intersections could measure carbon monoxide levels, and that, is your ‘smart city’.”
The data from the sensors can then be collected and analyzed.

“You may have companies that want to make a traffic app, or the local government could free up that data and have local companies doing a variety of things with that data,” Mr Griffiths said.
“In the UK, we have a hospital that has to check 9,000 water taps every day. That’s a job that usually requires two staff members and a manager,” he said. “But, with Laura, you can have sensors on each tap, doing the job of those three employees.

Marcus Winsley, Director of Trade & Investment at the British Embassy in Bangkok, said the solutions offered by technology like Laura, provides people and governments with data that allows them to improve their efficiency.

“We are here because we are excited about the ambition that the Thai government has to move up the curve of innovation, to become sustainable and environmentally clean,” Mr Winsley said.

“We believe there are technologies and solutions to issues, held by British companies and experts, that directly meet the needs of Phuket, all while building partnerships.”

“Phuket is an ideal location to develop as a smart city; as an island, you can control the system better. Also, Phuket is a fantastic base of tourism, which lives on data. There are lots of ideas which British companies can share that would be useful for Phuket.”

Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup said that he’s looking forward to finding applications in data collection for predicting his city’s annual flash floods.

“My concern is with environmental issues in Patong, like flooding, air pollution and waste management. I’d like to see technology implemented that can detect water levels so we can issue timely flash flood alerts,” said Mayor Chalermluck.

“Patong is an old town. It was once a small village and now it’s a heavily populated tourist destination. Our infrastructure was not built to support such rapid growth. We have small pipes, yet more buildings are going up all the time. This is an ongoing problem which affordable technology can help solve.”

Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana echoed concerns over water management.

“These problems cannot be solved by the city alone,” she said. “Sensors would be useful along the canals running through Kathu, Wichit and Rassada.”

Vice Governor Prajiad Aksornthammakul said he was keen to use the British technology to address island-wide security issues.

“CCTV and other technologies could be used to screen people entering Phuket at a ‘gateway’ onto the island, and at piers. There, we could gather information about our visitors,” he said. “This is a good start for Phuket in becoming a smart city, and we welcome the British government’s involvement and support.”

Pracha Asawateera , Phuket branch manager of SIPA, believes Phuket has excellent potential to compete as a smart city against neighboring technology hubs, like Singapore and Malaysia, but admitted that a priority is increasing the province’s internet speed.

“High-speed internet access is essential for drawing companies to the island,” Mr Pracha said. “We aim to work with CAT Telecom to increase high-speed internet levels on the island to 100MB within the next three years.”

An additional 1,000 CCTV cameras to monitor traffic are also among the smart city plans for Phuket, ostensibly in order to curb traffic violations.

— Chutharat Plerin

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Daytime closure looms for Patong beach road

May Taylor



Daytime closure looms for Patong beach road | The Thaiger

The mayor of Patong, Chalermluck Kebsup, has announced that from August 25, Thaweewong Road, better known as the Patong beach road, will be closed during the day while power and communication cables are installed.

Apologising for the inconvenience, Mayor Chalermluck explains that the closures will be between 6.00am and 4.00pm and expected to last until September 30. She says the work will take place during low season and will be paused for the busy high season.

A 400 metre section of road will be affected, from Bangla Road to Sawatdirak Road, with vehicles prohibited from accessing the area until 4.00pm. However, the restriction does not apply to pedestrians, with footpaths remaining open.

The Thaiger understands that certain vehicles will still be granted access, including those of business owners who need to reach their premises. Such vehicles will need to have permission granted by Patong Municipality. Taxis and tuk-tuks dropping off or picking up customers at these businesses will also be given access.

In total, the 228 million baht joint venture project will see the installation of communications cables, power lines and fibre-optic mains, along a 3 kilometre stretch of the beach road.

It has a completion date of March 5, 2020.

SOURCE: Provincial Electricity Authority

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Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit

Tanutam Thawan



Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | The Thaiger


The Palang Pracharath member of parliament from Bangkok, Sira Jenjaka, had an argument with Lt Col Pratuang Polmana, Deputy Superintendent of Karon Police during his inspection to the controversial Peak Condominium in the Karon area of Phuket.

MP Sira was surveying the construction site of the project and the sales office, which also serves as a coffee shop, where he saw Lt Col Pratuang inside.

He stopped there and asked why the Deputy Superintendent didn’t send any officer from Karon Police Station to provide security for him, a standard protocol when parliament members visit a specific area.

The MP had publicly stated he had received death threats for revealing ‘problems’ with the ‘paperwork’ for the Phuket condo project that he claims has been built on land without the proper documentation.

Lt Col Pratuang said that he already prepared a team of officers to provide security for the MP but they were waiting for a confirmation. Then the MP asked his team to record a video of the conversation and said that, while he was not threatening anyone, he believed the police must respect and offer protection for a government MP who comes to work in the area, which was then followed by an argument.

There was a “middleman” who eventually separated the Deputy Superintendent and pulled him aside to calm him down. The ‘police whisperer’ then came back to apologise to the MP before they went inside the coffee shop for further private talks.

Read the original article about the allegations against Peak Condominiums in Karon HERE.

Palang Pracharath MP chastises Karon Police for not offering protection during condo visit | News by The Thaiger

The Peak Condominiums in Karon, currently under investigation after allegations made by Government MP Sira Jenjaka, who claims death threats have been made against him over the matter.


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How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park

Tim Newton



How to be charged 2,600 baht for having a flat battery in the Jungceylon car park | The Thaiger

A rant…

Started off with trying to exit the Jungceylon carpark in Patong, Phuket, late on a Sunday night. After watching a film in their tawdry cinemas, I was assured by ticket sales staff that I should present my ticket stub with the car park card for free exit.

Getting to the exit gate and I was told I had to go to an ‘elevator’ to get my ticket stamped. As there were already three other cars behind me (it was around 9.30pm at this stage), it caused quite a kerfuffle and tempers (mine included) were starting to fray.

The poor woman at the exit booth (whose key work skill must be ‘patience’), kept yelling ‘elevator, elevator’, doing little to inform us what we were actually meant to do. (I wanted to leave a car park, not go on an elevator?!?).

Anyway, minor ‘misunderstanding’ sorted out soon enough, and returned to my car to exit the car park (about 10 minutes later).

A Russian man had had his own adventures with the Jungceylon car park the night before. Firstly he was stuck there on the Saturday night with a flat battery in his white sedan. As it was very late, and wanting to get home, he left the car in the space and took a taxi.

As I was sorting out my own car park ‘misunderstanding’, other car park staff assisted him with his flat battery by jump starting his car. The assisting staff were given a gratuity, I don’t know how much.

But on reaching the exit gate he was told he had to pay 1,800 baht. (Presumably for around 24 hours of car parking).

With his fist full of receipts, around 3,300 baht worth, he was also told ‘elevator, elevator’. He got out of his car, there were another three cars backed up behind him at this stage, and went to find the ‘elevator’. Upon returning he was now told he had to pay 2,600 baht! How the amount had magically inflated to 2,600 baht remains a mystery but the cark park ‘gatekeeper’ was not to be messed with.

By this stage about eight young Thai gentlemen, with name tags, keys hanging from their belts and hand-held radios, had turned up to ‘assist’ in addressing my complaints and ensuring that the Russian man was not able to leave the car park before paying the 2,600 baht. The only common language among the Russians and the Thais in the situation was English and it was not going well.

Google Translate was getting a fine workout but wasn’t really helping.

During the extended ‘negotiations’ the cars behind were detoured around and allowed free exit.

Given the man’s travails in having a flat battery, having to come back to the steamy car park late on a Sunday night, the cars piling up behind him and the loss of face for just about everyone at this stage, the ‘smart’, good PR thing to do would have been to thank him for spending 3,300 baht at their expensive shopping centre, lifted the boom gate and waved him on his way.

But no, these young Thai car park staff wanted their pound of flesh and there was no way in the world that barrier was going to be lifted until the man had paid every baht he ‘owed’. Three police turned up to try and sort things out but all departed in exasperation, knowing the car park staff were being pig-headed but unable to intervene because they would have caused their fellow Thais a loss of face.

At this stage the Thai car park staff were already starting to utter things under their breath and spitting out ‘farang’ in their deliberations.

During the entire two hour drama many other cars had the same issue of not understanding that they needed to report to the bottom of one of the ‘elevators’ to have their receipts stamped. There didn’t appear to be any signage or understanding of the procedure (until, of course, you go through this rather drawn out lesson in Jungceylon car park procedure). There was a sign outside the elusive ‘elevator’ but given there are seven other exits from the car park you’re unlikely to see them.

Apart from Jungceylon losing the patronage of at least two, or more, customers over their overly-officious and unprofessional behaviour, the system will surely remain unfixed waiting for the next stupid ‘farang’ to stroll innocently into the underground farrago.

The only bright light in the dingy car park fiasco was the pleasant young gentlemen sitting at the ‘elevator’ with his stamps and gracious smile, wearing full eye make up and blissfully unaware of the surly car park Nazis. He profusely apologised but I am fairly sure he was none-the-wiser about my lengthy explanation of the situation.

Give the man a pay rise!

For Jungceylon, I would urge better signage, in a few languages (it IS a tourist town), to inform us about their rather opaque car park procedures.

I did ask for a statement to include in this story from some of the ‘people with hand radios’ or a comment from the Manager. But there was none forthcoming. Our forum remains wide open for a response from management.

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