Within the realm of the Octopus | twentieth Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Return to China
Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong, chief government officer of Octopus Holdings Ltd, mentioned it is gratifying to see how Octopus has advanced as a necessity for many of the metropolis’s 7.37 million folks. (Parker Zheng / China Day by day)
In a fast-changing world the place expertise builders scramble to create new software program that makes life simpler, the outdated Octopus Card endures, amid the modifications, as a vital for folks in Hong Kong.
It’s a exceptional achievement for the varicolored, digital stored-value card. Contemplate the apps that blossom like lilies of the sector, promising to alleviate ache or nervousness, to enhance sleep, psychological focus, or to watch health. They seem and disappear, with the approaching of the following vivid concept.
We needed to interrupt this limitation, and to the best diploma on public transport, taking commuters to their locations, within the shortest period of time
Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong,
chief government officer of Octopus Holdings Ltd
The Octopus Card was launched to Hong Kong in 1997, as town returned to China, to rework the sample of interactions between folks and business entities.
Sunny Cheung Yiu-tong, chief government officer of Octopus Holdings Ltd, says it’s gratifying to see how Octopus has advanced as a necessity for many of the metropolis’s 7.37 million folks.
Sitting in his workplace, rain beating in opposition to the home windows, portending an approaching Sign 8 tropical melancholy, Cheung smiled, recounting the achievements of Octopus that made him proud. Octopus, he mentioned, has helped to place issues so as in Hong Kong.
The concept of Octopus sprung in 1992 as a potential various to the magnetic-strip railway tickets that passengers didn’t like.
Technicians got here up with Octopus’s system for amassing fares. It was extra environment friendly. On high of that it helped curtail counterfeit tickets. The outdated system was straightforward to beat. The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) was shedding a fortune, whereas counterfeiters traveled free.
It took three years of analysis and improvement to give you a re-usable, saved worth, sensible card: Octopus. The cardboard got here available on the market in September 1997.
Throughout the first three months of launch, 3 million Octopus playing cards had been tucked into the wallets of shoppers. Then it climbed to over 33 million now, 4.5 occasions town’s whole inhabitants.
The period earlier than Octopus looks like the “olden days”, considered from the attitude of as we speak. Huge, noisy baggage of cash have been customary gear. And ready was tortuous as these on the head of the queue, fastidiously picked out tiny cash counting out the precise fare.
Cheung, born in 1954, labored at Far East Financial institution within the early Seventies. He was aware of cash and the inherent nuisance of interminable coin exchanges and for a banker, the extra travail of loading cash in counting machines.
Within the Eighties, earlier than the arrival of Octopus, KMB, the metropolis’s largest bus operator, as an example, dealt with a cumbersome mass of twenty-two tons of cash each night time.
“We needed to interrupt this limitation, and to the best diploma on public transport, taking commuters to their locations, within the shortest period of time,” mentioned Cheung.
MTR Company Ltd, the driving pressure behind the event of Octopus, invited town’s 4 different public transport operators to affix Octopus. Kowloon-Canton Railway Company, KMB, Citybus, and New World First Bus/Ferry Providers Ltd signed up immediately.
“In trade, we’re rivals. However we got here to a cohesive alternative, on account of our widespread want to make folks’s lives sooner and higher,” Cheung mentioned.
Pace issues up
In as we speak’s Hong Kong, there are 12.6 million passenger journeys on varied modes of public transportation every day. For 20 years, town’s communities have discovered to take the pace and effectivity without any consideration, utilizing only a faucet of the cardboard on Octopus reader gadgets.
The almost instantaneous fee system takes 0.3 seconds. The Octopus Card makes use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), transmitting information by radio waves, from the chip on the cardboard, to a receiver at speeds as much as 212 kbit per second.
Cheung described the pace as “unparalleled”, in contrast with the 5 seconds, required for information transmission at 9.6 kbit/s, for different sensible card methods like Mondex, relevant on MasterCard.
“With this pace, the extensibility of the cardboard’s utilization is big,” Cheung mentioned, elucidating how Octopus providers have expanded exponentially over time.
In April 2000, the Hong Kong Financial Authority granted Octopus Holdings deposit-taking firm authorization. Since then, the sensible card has been capable of flex its muscle mass on varied sectors. It was first relevant in comfort shops, later prolonged to quick meals shops, faculties, merchandising machines, and so forth.
These days, over 14 million octopus transactions, valued at over HK$189 million, are processed every day. The town has 76,000 readers utilized by greater than 9,000 Octopus service suppliers.
“With such huge quantities of information and fee run by Octopus playing cards day-after-day, we’ve to be notably cautious, heedful of potential errors,” he mentioned, including: “A small mistake can wind up with an enormous aftermath.”
Knowledge privateness concern
Prior to now twenty years, the corporate has recorded main achievements, although it hadn’t come off and not using a few glitches.
There was a privateness breach again in 2010 that shook up the corporate, when card holders turned incensed, upon the disclosure that the non-public information of 1.97 million customers was offered for revenue to business pursuits.
“It’s a lesson we learnt in a painful means,” Cheung mentioned of the incident and its impact on the agency.
Cheung turned CEO a number of months after the breach was uncovered. His principal obligation was to undo the shambles, He added. “At the moment, I deployed most manpower and sources to safeguard customers’ private info. We went all out to straighten out the sooner mistake.”
Octopus, below Cheung’s administration, has turned to amassing minimal quantity of private information from customers. The agency shuns ambiguous phrases in its license agreements that is likely to be misinterpreted by customers.
“I’ve to reassure customers their information is saved safely and conscionably below our system,” he pressured.
Let in bloom
Twenty years will not be too lengthy nor too brief, Cheung mentioned. To this point, it nonetheless provides him a rush when struck by information displaying that 99 % of Hong Kong’s inhabitants, aged 15-64, have at the least one Octopus card.
Octopus is a “sustainable”, “timeless” expertise, in his phrases. Since taking cost of the agency, he has set about cracking new sectors. He hopes the sensible card will penetrate the very cloth of the group.
There’s been some headway. Buyers should purchase groceries, with a easy faucet in Allmart moist market in Tseung Kwan O. The agency’s CEO aspires to department out the service into extra moist markets.
The cardboard’s colossal consumer base nonetheless is a heavy weight on Cheung’s shoulders, however he maintains his unassuming mien. He’s taking over the even better problem of extending Octopus to cross-boundary vacationers.
In 2012, Octopus and Lingnan Move entered a three way partnership, providing mainland vacationers straightforward passage between Hong Kong and Guangdong province. In 2014, Octopus service turned obtainable in Macao. Cheung mentioned extra cross-boundary collaboration in transportation is predicted, resulting from stronger enterprise ties between Hong Kong and the Chinese language mainland.
Between 1997 and 2017, there was a tenfold enhance in Octopus playing cards in circulation within the metropolis. Cheung admitted he and his staff had by no means anticipated it to develop so large.
“In order for you a metropolis to thrive, it’s a must to go away it to develop at its personal tempo. What we’ve to do is to look at the actual issues that stand out from the day-to-day sample, and to offer these gas to choose up steam.”
That’s Cheung’s mantra, which is strictly how Octopus card blooms, on the preferences of its customers.