There’s plenty of talk about “smart cities” as the surest route to building strong and resilient urban environments in the face of mounting climate impacts, but what about a “smart country”? While Singapore technically is a city-state — being both a city and sovereign nation — it is embracing many of the same smart city techniques as cities across the world.
Globally, cities are experimenting with smart city technologies to tackle issues such as waste collection and traffic light management, but Singapore is focused on two core global challenges: urban density and an aging population.
Singapore is the world’s third most densely populated nation, which is increasingly getting older — by 2030, the number of elderly in Singapore is expected to triple from 300,000 to 900,000. These are expected to create challenges that add pressure to healthcare, transportation and environmental sustainability — including energy, food and water.
“Singapore is pushing towards becoming the world’s first Smart Nation, one that will improve the quality of life for individuals and business opportunities for enterprises,” Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said in a statement.
“In a Smart Nation, we also seek to create an anticipatory Government that can better serve our citizens and better able to use technology to enhance public services, empowering citizens to able to be more participatory in engaging government, as well as businesses, to make more informed decisions and meaningful choices in their daily living.”
In addition to further developing its capabilities in pervasive connectivity, and building new infrastructure and common technical architecture, IDA is developing the Smart Nation Platform (SNP), which will be built based on a systematic premise to enable greater connectivity, better situational awareness through data collection, and efficient sharing of collected sensor data.
SNP will anchor around the key areas of “Connect” and “Collect and Comprehend.”
IDA has established the objective to enable and provide a “speedy, secure, cost-effective and scalable nationwide communication infrastructure.” The proposed plan involves extending connectivity through the progressive deployment of Above Ground (AG) Boxes and technologies from a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet).
AG Boxes will provide a ready-built common infrastructure for sensor deployment by supplying points to access fibre-optics connectivity and power. IDA says this reduces the need for unnecessary groundwork, which can reduce deployment time and cost. These boxes will be installed in common outdoor areas where there is demand for sensor-based technologies, such as bus stops, parks and traffic junctions.
HetNet is expected to allow for more optimal use of wireless spectrum by allowing devices to switch seamlessly between various types of wireless networks. To realize the full potential of what HetNet can offer to citizens, IDA says it will be conducting HetNet trials in conjunction with the industry.
Collect and Comprehend
IDA says it hopes to be able to gain better situational awareness through better real-time data collected through a mesh of sensors nationwide. In order to achieve this it has proposed to deploy an operating system that enables public agencies to be plugged in so that essential sensor data can be “anonymized, protected, managed and aptly shared.”
The data can then be analyzed to generate the relevant insights in order to formulate timely and appropriate plans and decisions that result in more responsive, even anticipatory services for the citizens. IDA already is testing a sensor sharing network and platform at the Jurong Lake District test-bed — the results from this will be adapted for further deployment in the smart nation efforts.
Smart tech benefits businesses and citizens
Singapore’s smart nation activities are expected to help foster innovation in the business community through more conducive and networked environments from which to do business. It also will provide useful data sets for businesses to improve their operations, and create opportunities to innovate and build new services for citizens. Likewise, this will enable new market possibilities such as through new infrastructure locations for connectivity.
Citizens are expected to benefit from greater citizen-centric services. Through better understanding of citizens’ needs and expectations, an anticipatory government will be able to serve citizens better through better policy planning and creation of citizen-centric services, IDA says.
At the individual level, improved connectivity and access to greater and meaningful information will enable citizens to make better decisions, be it for transport, health and other services. At the community level, the access to rich data and innovative products, suggestions and ideas can help to create actionable solutions that can benefit society as a whole.