Real Life Digitalization #1: Munich v.s. Hong Kong

When I think about Germany, it’s easy to get blindsided by beer and sausages. Arriving in Munich before Oktoberfest makes me focus on something else – the city itself. Just like Hong Kong, Munich is not a bargain city. Everything with a price tag makes students like me gasp. My wallet was under nourished after paying €55.20, for the MVG monthly transport ticket!

Putting the insane price aside, I must say, I am impressed by Munich’s ground level transport. Electronic announcement boards can be found at most bus or tram stops, showing the waiting time of each and every incoming vehicle. Most of the time in Hong Kong, you’re never sure when the bus will arrive at your stop. The next thing you know is you’re late for school. German doors are opened upon request – just press the button you might be able to catch the tram. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Hong Kong. Either you have to run for the closing door while bearing cold stares from the driver, or you’ll be delayed by the annoying door crushers. Also, the escalators in Munich’s public transport system don’t embrace that “never stop” attitude in Hong Kong. They are only activated by sensors to save energy. With that being said, the sensors at both ends even make it possible to operate in reverse directions.

And as a person who hates looking at maps, the MVG app comes in handy to select and navigate the fastest route for me, not to mention purchasing train tickets at my fingertips. If you’ve registered an account, you’re also given the access to City Bike Rental system. All you need to do is to scan, unlock and you’re ready to ride. The well-connected app definitely out games the one we have in Hong Kong. Currently, Hong Kong’s public transportation (MTR) app can perform the first function. “Fully developed” is the term I would use to describe the ground level public transport here in Munich. As it stands now, digital technology has integrated seamlessly into most people’s daily lives.

This MVG monthly ticket has costed me a fortune!

The official app offered by MTR – the major transport operator in Hong Kong.

This golden era of technology is not only about digital cameras or mobile phones anymore. It has grown beyond the scale of telecommunications, and has permeated into different crossings of life. The transformation from the mere “digital” in product names, to the bus stop screens, indicates the vision of digitalization in this millennium. It’s heading towards commoditization. What come with it are all glittered paths to a promising future.

Digitalization grants users a greater, faster access to information. When you’re better informed, you can make smarter decisions about your time and resources. For example, you can grab a Döner at the food stand knowing exactly you have 5 minutes before the bus will depart. By maintaining service punctuality, the public transport will gain credibility. With this credibility as the cornerstone, customer loyalty can be earned as a bonus. It’s a win-win situation for service producers and consumers.

The same holds true in other business areas. Whether it’s from a producer perspective of inducing a “feel good” factor into its products, or from a consumer feeling about experiencing technological convenience, the symbolic arrival of digitalization augments autonomy. You can manage your life much more efficiently with a public transport app – your life is within control. The paradigm shift from automation to self-monitoring is bringing autonomy to two fundamental agents – computers and users. The algorithms work together as a mastermind to self-learn through analysis and reporting. Yet, how the computer evolves and improves depends on the user experience; you press the door button to open; you are in control, not the technology. Moreover, digitalization’s forward driven tendency aligns with the current consumption model – striving for sustainability. On top of user-friendliness, sensor devices often come with an eco-friendly feature. The door buttons and escalators are considered as “smart” as they minimize energy consumption for cost-effectiveness.

Efficiency, transparency, autonomy and sustainability – the list goes on and on. Without a single doubt, digitalization does us good. Companies love it, we love it. While we are trivializing the titbits of technology at our disposal, one fact has become clear – gradually, digitalization is turning into normality. Perhaps it takes a foreign point of view to not only discover, but also appreciate the impacts of digitalization in our everyday life.

Escalators can be activated both ways to enter or exit U-Bahn.

By Janie Chan Yan Tung