June2022_cover story
Digitalisation journey of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department

Digitalisation journey of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department

By Electrical and Mechanical Services Department

If you choose to listen to this article, you are welcome to download the PDF version of the Journal (June 2022 issue) and activate the “Read Out Loud” function in Adobe Reader. For more details, please read the user's note.


In this cover story, EMSD shares its digitalisation work over the past few years and introduces signature projects under its strategic plan E&M 2.0.


Trend in innovation and technology development

Innovation and technology (I&T) development is a global trend and a key policy area of the HKSAR Government. The current-term government has invested over HK$130 billion1 in developing infrastructure, promoting research and development (R&D), nurturing talent, supporting the industry and so on, thereby striving to enhance the I&T ecosystem in Hong Kong.


Furthermore, the 14th Five-Year Plan promulgated by the National People’s Congress in March 2021 sets out the role and positioning of Hong Kong in China’s overall development. Hong Kong will actively participate in the development of the

Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) into an international I&T hub.


With strong industry dedication and unprecedented support from the Government, the promising I&T-related figures and rankings reflect the advancement Hong Kong has achieved in I&T development in recent years. For instance, the number of start-ups rose from 1,000 in 2014 to around 4,000 in 2021, with the number of employees at start-ups increasing from 2,400 to some 14,000.1 In the 2021 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, 2 Hong Kong was ranked first in Asia and second worldwide.


Additionally, different stakeholders including the Government, R&D institutions, universities, start-ups, and various trades and industries have made substantial effort in I&T development work. This includes the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD). Its efforts have been recognised through various awards and patents. EMSD received the Gold Award in the category of Organisation (Client) at the Construction Industry Council (CIC) Construction Digitalisation Award 2021. It has also recently won five gold medals, thirteen silver medals and one bronze medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva 2022.3


EMSD has all along been proactive in applying new technologies to enhance service quality and ensuring that electrical, mechanical and energy technologies are harnessed in a safe, reliable, economical and environmentally friendly manner to improve quality of life. Sharing the I&T story of EMSD gives a better understanding and appreciation of its digitalisation journey.


Self Photos / Files - Cover 1


Engineering services of EMSD

The Electrical and Mechanical (E&M) industry is one of the essential elements of the global engineering business. Throughout the years, EMSD has embraced the challenges and opportunities arising from technological advancement in enhancing productivity, safety, sustainability, time, cost control, and quality of public services. With the community’s interests in mind, EMSD has always promoted digital transformation and application of I&T in engineering solutions. As far back as the early 2000s, EMSD adopted remote monitoring systems, an early version of the Internet of Things (IoT), to monitor the operation of submersible pumps in subways, thereby enhancing public safety during Hong Kong’s rainy season.4, 5


In their roles as regulators and engineering service providers, EMSD and other government departments have faced challenges in identifying suitable I&T solutions for the initiatives. With the introduction of the pro-innovation procurement policy in 2019, EMSD took up the additional role of Innovation Facilitator of the Government. It supports, assists and facilitates government departments to identify and apply digitalisation and I&T solutions to enhance their services, support Smart City development and achieve carbon neutrality.


Role of EMSD

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) has two functional arms, Regulatory Services and Trading Services.


The Regulatory Services of EMSD ensures E&M safe operations and public safety comply with ordinances relating to electricity, energy saving and efficiency, gas, lifts and escalators, and railway operation through law enforcement and public education.


The Trading Services of EMSD manages building service systems for more than 8,000 government venues throughout Hong Kong, providing professional, one-stop comprehensive and cost-effective E&M project management, procurement, operation and maintenance engineering services. Over 400 major government buildings are now digitalised, and Regional Digital Control Centres are being built to empower real-time monitoring to enhance operational efficiency and performance of E&M assets.


Echoing government policy on innovation and technology development with a 5-year Strategy Plan

In 2017, to align with the direction of Innovation and Technology (I&T) Development set out in the 2017 Policy Address, EMSD established the Digitalisation and Technology Division (DTD) and reorganised itself to strengthen innovation and digital transformation. In 2018, in response to the Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint, Trading Services of EMSD formulated a 5-year Strategy Plan. This strategy aimed to steer the department towards a new E&M 2.0. This involved digitised E&M I&T solutions embracing the challenges and opportunities arising from technological advancement and the rising expectations of the public on quality of public services, safety and sustainability. The E&M 2.0 includes three major areas:


  1. Provide digitised E&M services and innovative solutions together with Smart City development and policies in response to climate change.
  2. Establish an excellent working team with a global perspective, professional expertise and best practices for digitisation.
  3. Embrace technology through collaborating with industry partners and develop into an organisation willing to leverage innovative technology and promote digitisation of E&M services.



The EMSD is moving towards a new era of E&M 2.0 with digitised E&M I&T solutions for maximising public value with the interests of the community in mind.


An internal I&T Steering Committee was also formed to provide direction and oversee I&T development at the highest level. Also, an I&T working group was subsequently set up to implement initiatives in innovation and digitalisation. Staff of multi-disciplines explored the broader application of different enabling technologies and developed capabilities to support digital transformation in various engineering services.


Developing digitised E&M engineering solutions – BIM-AM, GWIN and RDCC

Signature projects undertaken by the EMSD in recent years include the development of a Building Information Modelling – Asset Management (BIM-AM) platform, a Government-Wide IoT Network (GWIN) as the core foundation facilitating the provision of digitised E&M services, and the setting up of Regional Digital Control Centre (RDCC) to empower real-time monitoring and enhance performance.


Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology has emerged in the construction industry, reducing construction and design resources for building design and Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) engineering works. In 2014, EMSD developed an integrated BIM-AM System featuring multiple highly visual real-time operation and maintenance (O&M) systems under one single platform that can be used as an asset management tool to enhance the maintainability and availability of E&M facilities. BIM-AM enables maintenance staff using tablets to perform remote monitoring and fault diagnosis in real-time combined with fast asset locating to improve the efficiency of O&M services.


Building Information Modelling – Asset Management (BIM-AM) Platform

With real-time data collected by IoT sensors, transmitted by GWIN, visualised in the BIM-AM platform, integrated with augmented reality (AR) and 5G technology, maintenance staff can swiftly handle maintenance requests or perform asset management tasks for a built asset throughout its whole life cycle. The integrated BIM-AM mobile platform contributes three significant benefits to O&M work:


Self Photos / Files - Cover 2


  1. Supports remote monitoring
  2. Facilitates remote fault diagnosis
  3. Offers fast asset locating with the aid of BIM


By integrating data from iBMS, RDCC and GWIN, the platform has proven to be very effective in streamlining the workflow and facilitating responsive incident handling, bringing longterm cost savings in the operational stage of a building lifecycle. It is envisaged that the integrated BIM-AM System will benefit O&M services in government buildings, where it has been shown that time saving of around 15% can be achieved on fault localisation. This ultimately minimises the service downtime to the public.


The EMSD BIM-AM System was granted a Hong Kong patent in 2016 and has won numerous awards and acclaim in recent years.


With a view to promoting the adoption of BIM-AM in the industry, EMSD published the first BIM-AM Standards and Guidelines in 2017, with a second edition issued in 2019 incorporating industry comments. Furthermore, EMSD has collaborated with the Hong Kong Institute of Construction in offering certification programmes to develop talent in using BIM-AM.


With applications such as Smart Meeting Rooms, Smart Carparks and Smart Toilets, seamless integration of real-time sensor data allows for better facilities management. In addition, BIM-AM facilitates O&M work through an all-in-one platform, achieving the ultimate goal of increasing operational efficiency of E&M assets and environmental performance through artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics.6


Subsequently, EMSD has investigated the integration of BIM and various O&M systems to integrate electrical, mechanical, air-conditioning and building services systems into a single application for easy real-time remote monitoring. This streamlines the O&M workflow for Smart Facility Management/ Asset Management (AM) systems under one Building Information Modelling – Asset Management (BIM-AM) platform.


Data collection is one of the key elements of digitalisation. GWIN is a government network consisting of various types of sensors, which are connected to gateways through Long Range (LoRa) technology. GWIN, a private network, ensures the security of both the system and data. EMSD uses GWIN and various LoRa sensors to conduct remote monitoring and control E&M equipment.


Government-Wide Internet of Things Network (GWIN)

To support the digitalisation and real-time monitoring of engineering assets at government buildings and facilities, EMSD started to build the Government-Wide Internet-of-Things Network (“GWIN”) in 2019 using battery-operated LoRa technology-based sensors. Easy to install with low power consumption levels, they have been adopted as a cost-effective method of territory-wide monitoring for E&M facilities and infrastructure systems on a near real-time basis. This enhances operational reliability, effectiveness and efficiency. Different sensors are also deployed at various venues for remote monitoring of filtration plant pumps, escalator fault alarms, humidity and PV panel health status.


As an example, GWIN has connected occupancy sensors at non-metered on-street parking spaces in remote locations to monitor parking space availability. LoRa sensors can be installed in Smart Drainage projects within a very short time and eliminate road works. The lift and lighting status at footbridges can also be monitored by sensors connected to GWIN, triggering quick remedial action upon performance degradation.


Self Photos / Files - Cover 3



Multiple examples exist of leveraging GWIN to support Smart City Management applications. These include Smart Construction Site to alert workers of site hazards; Smart Drainage System to monitor changes in river/seawater level and provide speedy alerts of potential flooding risks; and Footfall Monitoring System to provide crowding indicators for supporting control of people flow. Using GWIN reduces the time for deploying networks. One example using GWIN was a footfall monitoring system installed within seven days for 15 Lunar New Year flower markets during the 2021 Lunar New Year, whilst traditional methods would have taken at least three to four weeks. This network can also be applied during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure social distancing.


EMSD also established the Regional Digital Control Centre (RDCC) for E&M digitalisation, to empower real-time monitoring and enhance the operational efficiency and performance of E&M assets. RDCC is a flexible model that can easily be extended from building management to city management. With RDCC, frontline staff and engineers can remotely monitor assets at multiple dispersed sites using centralised dashboards that show E&M equipment status and alarms. RDCC’s tracking status capability of E&M emergency equipment and on-site conditions through visual images ensures that in a crisis, workforce for relief measures is coordinated quickly and effectively. Furthermore, RDCC can also provide indicative alarms for fault response and energy management, with the ultimate goal of using E&M assets to enhance operational efficiency and environmental performance through the use of AI and big data analytics.


Regional Digital Control Centre (RDCC)

Operational data in structured format is now transferred to Integrated Business Management Systems (iBMS) at the RDCC for data analytics. A semantic AI prediction model has been developed which achieves 99% accuracy in forecasting cooling demand and chiller performance to the operating team by recommending optimised settings for energy saving. Various models including Artificial Neural Networks and Gradient Boosting have also been applied in building AI models for Co-efficient of Performance predictions and cooling load predictions. A knowledge graph generated from this semantic model allows engineers to diagnose and uncover hidden issues amongst the massive amount of data generated from iBMS and other IoT sensors.


This Semantic AI analysis model received the Gold Medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva 2021.


Self Photos / Files - Cover 5



By leveraging on GWIN, BIM-AM and RDCC, the EMSD is able to optimise and enhance their services achieving betterment in operation reliability, effectiveness and efficiency.


By leveraging GWIN, BIM-AM and RDCC, EMSD is able to collaboratively optimise and enhance various tasks among frontline staff, backend support staff and clients.  Real-time data is collected by IoT sensors, transmitted by GWIN, visualised in the BIM-AM platform, and integrated with augmented reality (AR) and 5G technology. Maintenance staff can then be remotely assisted by back office and supervisors, fostering collaboration and integration across project teams. E&M facilities can be monitored in near real-time to enhance operation reliability, effectiveness and efficiency throughout the whole life cycle.


EMSD as innovation facilitator for digitalisation and I&T solutions for Smart City initiatives – Inno-office and E&M InnoPortal

In 2018, to better coordinate upstream and downstream supply chains in the I&T ecosystem, Inno-office and multiple technology enabling sub-divisions were formed under the Digitalisation and Technology Division of EMSD to connect start-ups, universities, institutes and industries. These units collaborate with clients on I&T applications and develop staff core competence in major I&T enabling technologies, such as video analytics, data analytics, robotics and BIM.


EMSD also launched the E&M InnoPortal in 2018 to facilitate collaboration between government departments and public bodies with the I&T sector, encouraging the application of innovative technology to improve services.


To realise success through I&T application, EMSD has established strategic partnerships with major I&T solution providers in Hong Kong and the GBA through Memoranda of Co-operation (MoC). In June 2019, five local universities and seven research institutions signed 12 MoCs.7 Areas of collaboration include promoting the use of the E&M InnoPortal, identifying I&T solutions for government departments, and fostering the exchange of knowledge and experience. These 12 strategic partners represent a significant share of local start-ups and top-notch solution experts from research and academic institutions and provide solid support to EMSD in its future I&T work. To further extend the strategic partnership with the GBA, EMSD signed three MoCs with related institutions from Guangdong province in August 2019.8 This collaboration with the GBA not only enables EMSD to promote the E&M InnoPortal into the GBA and broaden I&T solutions sources, but also to foster knowledge and experience exchanges with counterparts helping to promote local I&T solutions.


Self Photos / Files - Cover 5



About E&M InnoPortal

Through InnoPortal, EMSD facilitates matching of the technological needs of the Government with I&T solutions, from start-ups and research institutes enabling government departments to apply innovative technologies to improve public services and support Smart City development. In addition, E&M InnoPortal is not just a platform for matching I&T wishes and solutions. On completion of trials, solution providers receive objective advice and impartial performance reports from EMSD that are uploaded to the E&M InnoPortal, so that other stakeholders may also refer to the data when considering the adoption of solutions, thereby helping further promote wider application of solutions.


This initiative has received strong support from various sectors, with more than 390 I&T wishes, 870 I&T solutions and 140 I&T trials being conducted by the end of March 2021. EMSD is pleased that many of the ‘I&T solutions’ have now been adopted and are in use by government departments, public bodies and the private sector.


To further promote the use of I&T, EMSD has also set up an E&M InnoZone at EMSD Headquarters to share the outcome of its I&T collaboration with academic institutions and research institutions. The exhibits cover the application of IoT, automation, AI and energy efficient technologies. The data is available to industries, learning institutions, secondary and tertiary institutions, and other interested organisations. To comply with COVID-19 pandemic social distancing, hybrid arrangements have been in place since June 2021. In addition, I&T Day, seminars and workshops – both physical and virtual – have been held regularly to share the outcomes of digital transformation efforts with participants from different government departments, the I&T sector, as well as E&M and I&T trade.


The EMSD serves as an Innovation Facilitator supporting various government departments, public bodies and the industry in adopting technologies to enhance their services for the public using E&M InnoPortal.


Management commitment and innovative culture

To drive the success of digitalisation and I&T development, a series of key performance indicators (KPI) has been developed and closely monitored. The KPIs not only prescribe the targeted performance of implementing digitalisation and I&T projects, but also represent the commitment of senior management to resource allocation.


EMSD staff at all levels are fully engaged in numerous initiatives, including I&T competitions, seminars and workshops such as the annual internal I&T competition, E&M InnoChallenge. Also InnoTeam projects, which are trials carried out by adhoc cross-functional teams, received more than 400 proposals in the last three rounds of competitions. These are all supported by management, as well as frontline, technical and professional staff. Themed seminars and workshops under the InnoEvent Series are regularly organised to help EMSD staff develop I&T knowledge and acquire relevant soft skills. Furthermore, EMSD is rolling out an intensive training plan to train 3,000 in-house staff in using BIM and BIM-AM.


Knowledge sharing with the industry

EMSD has shared its digitalisation journey together with its benefits and outcomes with the public and all interested parties through multiple channels such as the I&T Day, conferences, workshops, publications and the E&M InnoPortal website. EMSD has organised a dozen of I&T Day and events for the industries and public over the past five years which attracted over 10,000 participants from different government departments and various sectors from Hong Kong and the GBA. EMSD has also shared best practices in operation and maintenance through digitalisation and application of I&T by the publication of best practice booklets.


Self Photos / Files - Cover 6


EMSD has collaborated with CIC and has shared over 1,000 common shareable BIM objects to facilitate the industry in adopting BIM modelling at the design stages by sharing BIM-AM project experience and transferring technical know-how and technology through talks and seminars.9 In collaboration with the HKIC, EMSD has offered more than 200 certification programmes to the industry and has worked with CIC in implementing the BIM-AM System for its Zero Carbon Park, for the purpose of promoting adoption of BIM for asset management in the industry.


Embracing a digitised future

In all its endeavours, EMSD’s goal is to deploy technology to serve clients and the community, to energise the trade towards digitisation and contribute to building a smarter Hong Kong, the leading Asia World City.


The digitalisation journey of EMSD not only helps the organisation itself but also supports the Government’s policy of transforming Hong Kong into a Smart City and to this end proactively promotes the digitisation of E&M facilities.


Our engineering industry will continue to strive ahead through embracing new technologies and by co-innovating and co-creating to unlock unlimited possibilities in the digital future for a better society.



  1. Innovation and Technology Bureau, Innovation and Technology Commission, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, Efficiency Office (2022). The Chief Executive’s 2021 Policy Address Policy Initiatives of Innovation and Technology Bureau. [pdf]. Hong Kong. Available at : https://www.legco.gov.hk/yr2022/english/panels/ci/papers/ci20220211cb1-50-2-e.pdf. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  2. The Institute for Management Development (2021). IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2021. [online report]. Available at: https://www.imd.org/link/5963ef400b8d4cfe8d8f79c1f4f72bf4.aspx. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  3. Information Services Department, HKSARG (2022). EMSD wins 19 awards at International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva (with photos). 29 March 2022. Available at: https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202203/29/P2022032900265.htm. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  4. Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. E&M 2.0 A New Journey - Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund – The 2nd 5-year Strategic Plan. [pdf]. Hong Kong. Available at: https://www.emsd.gov.hk/minisites/2nd5yearplan/leaflet/issue1/p_all.pdf. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  5. Pang, E. 2021. Speech delivered on The International Conference on Intelligent and Green Building Technology. 2021. [online]. Available at: https://www.emsd.gov.hk/filemanager/directornote/sc/upload/167/2021-07-22_OUHK_The_International_Conference_on_Intelligent_and_Green_Building_Technology.pdf. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  6. Autodesk Hong Kong BIM Awards 2019 (2019). BIM-AM for Smart Operation & Maintenance. [pdf]. Hong Kong. Available at: https://damassets.autodesk.net/content/dam/autodesk/www/campaigns/hk-bim-awards-site-project/2019/cic-zero-carbon-park.pdf. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  7. Information Services Department, HKSARG (2019). EMSD signs MOC with academic and research institutions to promote innovation and technology (with photos). 11 June 2019. Available at: https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201906/11/P2019061100550.htm. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  8. E&M InnoPortal (2018). EMSD's I&T Strategic Partners - Greater Bay Area. [online]. Available at: https://inno.emsd.gov.hk/tc/strategic-partner/strategic-partners-GBA/index.html. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].
  9. Electrical and mechanical Services Department (2015). Project Management & Consultancy. [online]. Available at: https://www.emsd.gov.hk/en/engineering_services/project_management_consultancy/highlights_of_work/bim_am/. [Accessed on 10 May 2022].



Explore Hong Kong Engineer