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Using data to power Singapore into a Smart Nation

By Khoong Hock Yun, Senior Advisor at Tembusu Partners Singapore

Singapore announced its plans to build the world’s first Smart Nation in 2014. Coming on the cusp of the country’s 50th year of independence in 2015, this ambitious vision was a testament to the foresight of the island-state in tackling global megatrends which it is not immune to, namely, urban density and the ageing population. With a population of 5.5 million as of June2015, and one in five Singaporeans estimated to be 65 years old by 2030; Singapore has to find a solution fast to address the social, physical and economic implications of these megatrends. Its solution Harness technology on an unprecedented scale.

One of the world’s most connected and technologically-advanced countries, Singapore hopes that as a Smart Nation, it can achieve the goals of empowering citizens, building a more anticipatory government and creating business opportunities for new and existing industries. And Singapore believes that other than the hardware, data analytics and sense making will help it to achieve these goals.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is championing Singapore’s Smart Nation drive by creating a resilient and trusted nationwide sensor connectivity network---called the Smart Nation Platform (SNP) ---to collect data from sensors, analyze and share insights on an open platform for government agencies to create beneficial services and apps for citizens. The ethos of SNP can be encapsulated by the four “Cs”- “Connect”, “Collect”, “Comprehend” and “Create”.

Connectivity

Singapore completed its deployment of a Next Generation Broadband Network, and today, the fibre network reaches nationwide to all households and businesses. This is further complemented by one of the largest federated public Wi-Fi coverage in the form of the Wireless@SGprogramme and the use of 3G and 4G networks for delivery of mobile data services.

The next phase of the Smart Nation initiatives includes technology development and innovation in wireless networks, starting with trials in the area of Heterogeneous Networks.  The vision is to enable the best experience in seamless connectivity, regardless of the type of wireless network available. The country’s three mobile network operators—SingTel, StarHub and M1---as well as a retail service provider, MyRepublic, are partnering the IDA in a series of trials to pilotHetNet technologies and coverage in high-rise residential flats, shopping malls, train station platforms and even inside buses.

Beyond homes and businesses, the SNP also seeks to bring connectivity infrastructure to the streets.  This comes in the form of Aggregation Gateway (AG) Boxes which are deployed together with shared sensors to pilot a wide variety of solutions focusing on three main areas – urban mobility, sustainability, and improving sensing and situational awareness.  These AG Boxes provide power and high speed connectivity to the shared sensors and function as an intermediary in the reception of data from sensors, and transmission of this data to the Smart Nation Operating System (SN-OS).

Collecting and comprehending data

The SN-OS will be the platform that allows IDA to consolidate data from the nationwide sensor network. The SN-OS will have data fusion, sense making and exchange capabilities. Data, on its own, is pretty much meaningless; but the SN-OS will be able to derive actionable insights from data received and facilitate the sharing of this data, based on end-users’ requirements. The IDA will also develop a set of standards as well as implement best of breed security measures to govern the collection and sharing of data from the SNP.

Creation

SNP will ultimately help agencies to become more responsive to citizens with the creation of applications and services that are citizen-centric, using situational data. Smart algorithms will determine the movement of vehicles and pedestrians at traffic junctions and make automatic adjustments to traffic light signals to ensure a smooth traffic flow. Advanced video sensing technologies will detect people smoking in prohibited areas. Park lighting will have their brightness adjusted automatically based on the time of the day and motion sensors. Video analytics and smart bin technologies will identify public areas that require cleaning. Urban planners will be armed with real-time environmental information such as temperature, relative humidity and air quality to help them create comfortable outdoor spaces for social gatherings.

Data from the SNP may also be made available to the private sector and industry eventually, leading to the advent of new technologies or services to benefit citizens and co-creation opportunities for businesses to power the economy.

Singapore is confident that with the SNP, we can harness and leverage data effectively on a national scale to enhance the lives of citizens and sharpen our economic advantage. Smart Nation is more than just building infrastructure, this is a journey where all parts of the ecosystem – from citizens to government to industry – have to work hand in hand to transform the future together.

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