Thursday 19 June 2014

Singapore unveils plan in push to become smart nation

Jurong Lake District to be test bed for 'smart nation'
Innovations include traffic sensors, apps to locate covered walkways
By Irene Tham, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2014

LATER this year, the Jurong Lake District will become a mini version of a "smart city" - with more than 1,000 sensors deployed to control and monitor everything from traffic to street lights, and crowded buses.

Its residents will be able to use phone applications that can help them find sheltered walkways.

Motorists stuck in a jam may find traffic light timings adjusted automatically to ease the gridlock, but they should also watch where they park, for there will be high-tech cameras that can help wardens issue tickets for illegal parking more swiftly.

These are just some of the 15 innovations to be tried out in the area, which was yesterday named as the test bed for Singapore's push to be a "smart nation".

"What would a smart nation look like? The upcoming Jurong Lake District would provide us with a glimpse into the future," Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday at the opening of the week-long Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) trade show at Marina Bay Sands.

"We believe that a smart nation can become a reality if we successfully combine policy, people and technology in a concerted fashion."

In the trial starting from the third quarter, sensors will be deployed in parks to adjust the lighting based on factors such as the time of day and motion detection. They will be able to detect illegal smoking and determine the cleanliness of public areas. Sensors on smartphones can even send data on how bumpy a bus ride is.

Also being tested are driverless vehicles that may eventually be used to ferry people from the Jurong East MRT station to nearby buildings.

One key innovation will be the pooling of all this smart infrastructure among different government agencies, which can lead to more efficiency and cost savings, said Mr Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive officer of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Land Transport Authority have been setting up more surveillance cameras and sensors across Singapore, but these efforts tend not to be coordinated.

In the Jurong test bed, public agencies will be sharing the use of equipment such as "above-ground boxes" built by telco M1.

Such boxes are typically installed at traffic junctions, parks or bus stops to power surveillance cameras or traffic sensors.

They can be plugged into the national fibre broadband network in order to transmit the data they collect to the relevant public agencies promptly.

Plans are under way for an islandwide deployment of 100 of these boxes as early as next year.

The IDA, which did not say how much the 15 trials in the Jurong Lake District will cost, will also be testing what is known as a "heterogeneous network".

This will allow mobile users to switch to another cellular provider, or to Wi-Fi operators when, say, a service outage occurs. Trials are expected next year.

Jurong resident Lee Meicheng, 40, an administrator, is looking forward particularly to the new technology that promises to show residents where covered walkways are in her estate.

"I will appreciate the phone app as my mother is in a wheelchair and I need to know how to wheel her around on a rainy day without getting wet," she said.

Housewife Sakura Siow, 40, said having a "super traffic auntie" may be a good thing. "My car was vandalised before, but the culprit was not caught. Hopefully, the high-tech installations will change things," she said.

Smart Nation: 1,000 sensors deployed to monitor air, water quality and public safety
By Eileen Poh, Channel NewsAsia, 10 Oct 2014

As part of the first phase of Singapore's Smart Nation Platform (SNP) rollout, 1,000 sensors will be implemented in six areas across the island to monitor things such as air and water quality and public safety. It is a scheme that aims to provide better connectivity, facilitate the sharing of data among Government agencies and, eventually, allow Singaporeans to better anticipate and react to events.

Environmental sensors - some of which are able to record video - will be installed in the Jurong East estate of Yuhua, potentially allowing authorities to monitor the air quality in the area. At present, the National Environment Agency does not provide PSI figures for specific estates.

Sensors will also be installed in five other "high traffic" areas: the Civic District, Orchard Road, Singapore River, Little India and Geylang. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore announced this in a media briefing on Friday (Oct 10). IDA said it received feedback from agencies that these are the areas that require "immediate operational requirements".

IDA Assistant CEO Khoong Hock Yun said: "Many agencies have different requirements, so we will deploy those first. We want to enhance safety and security requirements in areas like Little India and Geylang. As for the Singapore River, we want to prevent flooding and ensure that the water level and quality can be measured. The environment sensors are for monitoring the levels of air quality in different parts of Singapore due to wind conditions."

Currently, different agencies have their own tracking equipment. For instance, security cameras are already installed at certain spots in Little India. However, IDA said a Smart Nation Platform will support the agencies' existing operations and allow them to share data.

Mr Khoong added: "What is critical for us is to put in the infrastructure fabric. So, you may be able to take sound data, mash it together with video data, mash it together with other forms of sensors to provide a deeper insight. A lot of this is providing the infrastructure so you can then move forward with better services."

A tender for the deployment of the sensors will be issued by end of the year, and works are expected to be completed by end-2015, it added. According to IDA, Phase 2 of the Smart Nation plan will see these sensors being deployed nationwide. To kickstart the process, it will be seeking the industry's views on the design of the entire system. Consultations will be held as early as the first quarter of next year.

The SNP was announced in June. IDA said then that the SNP will comprise of key components such as the communications backbone, sensor networks, data analytics and real-world applications that will empower individuals, government and businesses alike.

Ability to execute sets Singapore's Smart Nation vision apart: Huawei chief scientist
By Kevin Kwang, Channel NewsAsia, 30 Oct 2014

The Republic's Smart Nation initiative is different from other similar projects elsewhere because it has strong Government support, a budget to reflect the commitment and the ability to execute and scale up the deployment, said Huawei Chief Scientist Li Sanqi.

Dr Li pointed to the fact that the Smart Nation vision is one for the long-term, and said that the trial in the Jurong Lake District is a sign of strong planning and execution. This is laudable as systems and processes can be fine-tuned before being deployed in more areas across the country, he told Channel NewsAsia on the sidelines of the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore.

Furthermore, without laying the infrastructure such as fibre broadband and sensors first - as Singapore is doing in Jurong Lake District - the entire project would not be "economically viable", he added.

The chief scientist said that those involved need to have a "fail fast mentality" once the infrastructure is laid out. This means developing systems and software and quickly deploying it to assess, before deciding to persist with it or try something else.

"It is likely we will see many failures", he said, but this should not hinder those steering the Smart Nation project from being afraid to try different things during this phase.

Through the Singapore example, China can "learn a lot" from the implementation given that it, too, has kickstarted many smart city projects in various cities, he said.

One area, in particular, is the ability to scale a smart city-related project and then replicate it across multiple cities. "The Chinese government starts the initiatives by awarding seed money, but the question is: 'Is this replicable in various cities?'", Dr Li said, adding that there is a need for government assistance with private sector support.

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