Author Archives: geraintthomason

Khon Kaen Press Conference

The Smarter Cities Challenge team rounded off the 3 weeks in Khon Kaen with a press conference, involving the local TV station and a number of print journalists. The Governor was delighted with the work done by the team and wanted to be personally involved in the press conference.

The Traffic team parked on stage before the press conference

The Traffic team parked on stage before the press conference

After the Governor’s opening remarks, Khun Pawasut Seewirot from IBM Thailand outlined the Smarter Cities Challenge initiative.

The Governor making his opening remarks

The Governor making his opening remarks

Then it was over to Geraint to run through the Smarter Traffic approach and recommendations and Dr Greg to cover Smarter Analytics.

The 3 G's...Greg, Geraint and the Governor

The 3 G’s…Greg, Geraint and the Governor

A number of questions were handled by the team before formal photographs were taken.

The Governor with the SCC team and Khun Pawasut Seewirot

The Governor with the SCC team and Khun Pawasut Seewirot

A very professional conference to end a memorable 3 weeks for the team.

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Loy Krathong festival

On Sunday the SCC team enjoyed a cultural evening at the Loy Krathong festival held at the University. As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month lit up the night sky thousands of traditional banana leaf floats (or “krathong”) were pushed out into the lake (“loy” means “to float”). This ritual is one of the oldest in the Kingdom.

Traditional dancing as part of the parade

Traditional dancing as part of the parade

A float carrying a float

A float carrying a float

Crowds at the festival

Crowds at the festival

Food and fun at the festival

Food and fun at the festival

Each float carries with it the wishes of the person or couple. The candles and joss sticks are lit and the krathong floated out into the lake. As the krathong drifts away the hope is that the candle will not go out, as the flame signifies longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sins. It is also a romantic evening, as couples who make a wish together are said to stay together in the future.  (Rob launched a krathong, but on his own.)

The krathong

The krathong

The festival also features a traditional beauty contest, called a Nopphamat Queen Contest. At the University, each faculty had an entrant in the contest and the winner was judged by a group of dignitaries that included the Governor.

Some of the competitors

Some of the competitors

The SCC team were hoping our friends in the Computer Science department would win the crown but we didn’t attend the final judging as we stopped to enjoy some local sports activities.

Rob enjoying some local sport

Rob enjoying some local sport (and hoping his krathong wish would come true)

Some local sport

Some local sport

(Thanks to Hance for the better pictures above.)

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Smarter Transport Commemorative T-Shirt

Smarter Transport in Khon Kaen

Smarter Transport in Khon Kaen

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Adventures in Thai Cooking

On Sunday the SCC team took a break from preparing the final reports to sample some local culture with a Thai cookery lesson. The instructors worked hard to introduce skills in Thai cooking to the team, who were then made to eat the resulting meals (which were very tasty).

The enthusiastic instructors identify the ingredients

The enthusiastic instructors identify the ingredients

Ingredients

Green Curry in a wok

Green Curry in a wok

The SCC team, with Melanie from ABV

The SCC team, with Melanie from ABV

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Traffic survey with the help of the Fire Department

The Smarter Transport team in Khon Kaen requested the opportunity from the city to gain more input for our report. The Municipality ruled out some options before offering the use of a Fire Department vehicle to gain a broader perspective on the city traffic and the congestion problems. Having spent time with the Police Department and the Medical Services, it was good to spend time with the third emergency service.

The Smarter Transport team before the research tour began

The Smarter Transport team before the research tour began

After a safety briefing the team, with the able assistance of chief photographer Hance, set out with our hosts to view city hotspots.

The safety briefing

The safety briefing

Setting off from the fire station

Setting off from the fire station

Once at the first place recommended by the Municipality, Vinod, Rob and I, together with translator Khun Atawan, were taken up to a 30 metre vantage point to gain a view of the transport situation.

Traffic research

Traffic research

Examining the traffic situation

Examining the traffic situation

A new perspective on traffic

A new perspective on traffic

After gaining significant new insights the FDKK brought back to a location close to the Municipality offices (and to our hotel) to gain a birdseye view of several key intersections.

The Transport team examining key intersections (taken from our hotel)

The Transport team examining key intersections (taken from our hotel)

Traffic

Traffic

We are very grateful to the FDKK for taking the time to support our Challenge and we were able to gain new insights that will support our final report.

Fire Department of Khon Kaen

Fire Department of Khon Kaen

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The View from Business

Today was our opportunity to learn the views of the Khon Kaen business leadership. An afternoon session with the Khon Kaen Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Thai Industries provided a perspective on the challenges and opportunities of this fast growing city. The hosts gave us an overview of the challenges facing the city as it adapts to the sharp population growth and the issues in terms of infrastructure, services and skills that this is producing.

The SCC team, plus local colleague Khun Tony, ready for the discussion

The SCC team, plus local colleague Khun Tony, ready for the discussion

The team were given food for thought in areas such as city governance, general infrastructure, transport challenges, law enforcement and the availability of much needed skills. This proved a valuable source of additional information and perspectives to help the SCC team develop and tune the findings of the assignment.

As with all the groups met, the business leaders were well informed, passionate and articulate in their delivery of the key issues and opportunities for the city at this critical point in its development. We very much appreciated the time they gave us.

The city business leadership enjoying the lively debate

The city business leadership enjoying the lively debate

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Up and Running

The preparation had put us in good shape to start our meetings with the local stakeholders in Khon Kaen. Monday was a packed day with three major sessions with large groups of leading figures from the city and the province, all expertly scheduled by our local colleague Khun Apapan.

We began the day with a meeting with the provincial Governor, Somsak Suwannasutchari, and around 30 people from his leadership team, from the university and from other areas of the community, including the traffic police, town planning, transport and the chamber of commerce. This gave us a view of the areas of consensus with regards to Transport and of the areas of differing priority across the stakeholder groups. We left the meeting understanding why this initiative is called a Challenge.

The IBM team, with a few typos

The IBM team, with a few typos

Hance enjoying the debate

Hance enjoying the debate

Next was a session with the Mayor of Khon Kaen, Teerasak Teekayuphan, and his leadership team. The Mayor was well informed about the issues relating to transport and public safety and engaged in the discussion with the IBM team made up of the SCC participants and their IBM Thailand colleagues. This helped clarify elements of the Smarter Transport engagement but also gave the IBM team the challenge of clearly defining both the scope and the requirements of the various stakeholders.

The Mayor and his team have a point clarified by Khun Somsak

The Mayor and his team have a point clarified by Khun Somsak

A quiet day at one of the bus stations

A quiet day at one of the bus stations

Vinod engages in research

Vinod engages in research

Smart but could be Smarter

Smart but could be Smarter

The day ended with meetings at Khon Kaen University, one of the top education establishments in the country. The Vice Presidents, Professors and other senior staff were charming and made us very welcome. These meetings were about the other element of our assignment and focused on the development at the University of a Smarter Analytics Research Centre. Dr Greg was in his element and was able to use his experience to understand their requirements and outline potential paths, complemented by Hance’s knowledge of how to develop and manage Intellectual Property. With several follow-on meetings scheduled the IBM team and the University are energised at the prospect of working together to plan something of lasting value to the University, to students and ultimately to the country through the development of high-level skills.

The SCC team returned to the hotel to an evening focused on collating our notes and understandings from the meetings and reviewing our future schedule to ensure we make the most efficient use of the time available.

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