Phuket smart city project will track everyone for their safety

Image credit: Joey Santini /

The Thai government has invested $11.7 million (400 million baht) to turn the island of Phuket into a smart city, albeit one that takes a page from Orwell or Huxley.

Phuket provincial governor Norapat Plodthong told reporters that the city plans to install 1,200 CCTV cameras island wide featuring face and number plate recognition technology – 900 of the cameras have already been installed. The data from the cameras is available to police and eight local administrative organizations (city councils).

Norapat said that the city is developing an app to push alerts and information to users, and an “IT” wristband for tourists so that they can be tracked if they are ever in a sailing accident or otherwise go missing.

Also, free public Wi-Fi will be installed in 1,000 hotspots island-wide by August.

Phuket currently hosts over 13 million tourists a year, the majority of which come from China, bringing in over $8.8 billion (300 billion baht) to the local economy. The smart city plan is part of the Thailand 4.0 initiative.

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) also took the opportunity to launch an environmental sensor network with 25 sensors along major waterways on the island.

DEPA also announced that there are currently 25 startups operating in Phuket with a combined investment of 130 million baht. DEPA intends to make IT startups the second largest contributor to the economy after tourism.

NBTC Watch: Russia social media co-op + spectrum recall

Thailand’s telecoms regulator has sought help from Russia to develop local alternatives to Facebook and Google by adopting Vkontakte (VK) and Yandex.

NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit said that Russia’s Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has proposed a plan to set up a holding company in Thailand to offer social network services VK and email from Yandex. Thailand and Russia also agreed to cooperate in cyber security.

Thailand has been trying very hard to force Google and Facebook to set up offices in Thailand, both for tax reasons and also to enable state control and censorship. Most recently, NBTC Commissioner Colonel Natee Sukonrat threatened anyone advertising with Facebook and YouTube with criminal prosecution unless the two registered with the regulator as OTT broadcasters. This order sparked outcry and was later deferred by six months by Takorn.

Meanwhile, the NBTC has set up a committee to draft rules for spectrum recall. Under the new 2017 NBTC Act, the regulator can now compensate holders of spectrum if it chooses to recall idle spectrum for reallocation. While the former act did allow for recall, it did not allow for monetary compensation. The committee will come up with a draft set of rules for the spectrum recall notification within 30 days.

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