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Hong Kong introduce ‘smart device’ in bid to help elderly residents navigate traffic

The Transportation Department in Hong Kong has deployed a new 'smart device' on a trial basis in an effort to help elderly citizens and those with disabilities to cross its busy urbanized streets.

A representative for the transportation authority in the city confirmed that they introduced a new 'smart device' at a pedestrian crossing located on North Point on Hong Kong Island for an interim test period.

It has been disclosed that with the single tap of a card, those with disabilities and elderly pedestrians will be given an extra few seconds to make their way across Hong Kong's busy roads. The new innovative device is attached to a traffic pole.

In addition to this, it has been revealed that when someone taps it with an Octopus card for those of an elderly disposition, or it's an Octopus card registered with the 'Persons with Disabilities Status', the green light will flash for sixteen seconds as oppose to the norm which is currently at 12 seconds. A countdown display has also been erected which indicates how much time is remaining for pedestrians at the crossing.

The Transportation Department's chief engineer, Wong Chi-hung said the momentum behind the introduction of the new 'smart device' was driven by the fact that Hong Kong's elderly population is increasing.  He said, "Hong Kong's ageing population is increasing. We introduced this smart device as part of a policy address initiative in 2016 to look at how technology can help the elderly cross roads safely.

The department has confirmed that the North Point site is the first of nine locations the smart device will be installed across Hong Kong for a period of six months. After the six months is completed the transportation department will review if the program has been a success.

The locations of the smart device have been carefully selected and are generally near facilities that elderly and disabled people often visit, such as nursing homes or rehabilitation centers. The extension of the blinking green light is meant to give an elderly person -with an average walking speed of 0.9 meters per second -enough extra time to cross one car lane.

The trial represents the first of many new initiatives and programs aimed at dealing with the forthcoming 'silver tsunami' predicted in Hong Kong. It has been estimated that the population of those aged 65 and above is projected to surge by 120% to reach 23 million by 2034.

Government statistics also show that the number of pedestrian casualties for those aged 65 and above rose by 15 per cent in 2016 compared with a decade ago. In 2016, pedestrian fatalities for those aged 65 and above accounted for 55 per cent, more than half, of all pedestrian deaths.