Real Life Digitalization #2: A Tale of Two Cities

Today, we can see how digitalization affects our everyday life. From purchasing food on a supermarket site, navigating the nearest route to buy a favorite ice-cream at a particular store or using smart technologies to simplify tasks, we experience digitalization technologies in many forms. Are there huge differences in the adaptation of digital transformation between Europe and Asia?

Munich and Hong Kong are major cities in Germany and China respectively; both cities are ranked at the top of the list of the most expensive cities. So, how different are these two cities in terms of payment methods and smart technologies used by residents there?

Photo credit: Octopus Cards Limited,
The most used payment means in Hong Kong


In Munich, when buying daily supplies in a supermarket or designer clothes, people usually pay in cash. The city is cash-oriented even though some other Europeans prefer flashing their credit cards when buying anything. On the other hand, debit cards (Eurocheque-Karte) are more widely accepted by retailers in Munich. Most of the time, either a signature or pins are needed. However, because cashiers don’t usually check the card signature, the consumer is at risk. Credit cards (Kreditkarten) are also accepted in larger restaurants, hotels and supermarkets. But not all types of credit cards are accepted; Master, Visa and American Express usually are. The mobile wallet hasn’t taken off yet in Munich.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, people usually prefer paying in cash for small purchases in small-scale stores. Whenever they buy in large-scale stores that accept other payment methods, they prefer using the Octopus card, credit cards or debit cards that are linked to an Electronic Payment Services (EPS) system. The most common smartphone payment applications are Apple Pay, Android Pay or Alipay. The Octopus card is a stored value card that was first created for paying fares on public transportation. Then it quickly expanded to business transactions for small value payment, payment on merchandising machines, access control for residential buildings and as an archive for roll call records in school. Ninety-nine percent of Hong Kong residents use it and more than 34.8 million are in circulation.

The mobile wallet has been an increasing trend in recent years, but Hong Kong hasn’t caught up with it either. The most popular mobile wallet in Hong Kong is Apple Pay. According to a recent study, 29 percent of mobile wallet users rely on this service. Next in line are Octopus O! ePay at 17 percent, Android Pay at 16 percent, Alipay at 15 percent and WeChat Pay at 8%. Various payment options have been available historically; that’s why it’s not easy for people to switch to E-payment in a short span of time. There’re also cyber security concerns related to the use of the mobile wallet, as personal data may be exposed when recorded and transferred digitally.

So, in what other ways does smart technology affect our daily life and stimulate the use of more such technologies around the globe? An important concept to know about within this context is the Internet of Things (IoT). There are already some examples of how it enhances our living spaces. For instance, a smart lock for securing your home – owners simply connect the door lock and their phone; they no longer need a key and can even give their friends digital access to enter their home. The second example is a smart bulb that allows you to manage light settings through your mobile devices. It’s not only about turning lights on and off, you can even change the color of the light when you’re partying or reading a book. My favorite device is the smart feeder, which helps users to feed their pets even though they are not at home to do so. The device can even order pet food when it’s run out of food.

It seems to me that neither Munich nor Hong Kong have caught up with the pace of rapidly growing smart technologies in comparison to other countries. Although some residents may use smart technologies at home, their usage is not common. In my opinion, the purpose of going smart is to optimize convenience in people’s lives. Whether we think digitalization is a boon or bane, it’s definitely helping to improve living standards all around the world.

Freya Chu Lok Hang