(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

Expect to wake up with curtains automatically drawn apart at the break of dawn or at a set time.

And motion detectors that can sense you getting out of bed, which will send a signal to turn on the water heater in the bathroom as you get ready for work.

Throw in a Web-connected fridge, which when it senses that you are low on milk or eggs, will send a reminder to your mobile phone so you can stock up on groceries. This “smart” future will soon dawn in Singapore.

The building blocks are already being put together towards this end. For instance, a new building code – dubbed the Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings – is being drafted to ensure that all new homes come fitted with wiring that delivers high-speed fibre broadband to every room, including the kitchen and main entrance.

Home owners wanting to install smart devices such as motion detectors or Web-connected appliances can easily do so without the need to install messy wiring.

Outside of the home, sensors or cameras are being installed at every corner of the island to collect environmental data to detect potentially unruly crowds, traffic congestion or floods – as Singapore builds its flavour of a “Smart Nation”.

The Smart Nation vision also includes having everyone go cashless with ease, and a national digital identity for better online protection without the hassle of remembering multiple passwords or carrying multiple banking tokens.

Visitors at the Festival of Tech in 2015, which was organised in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee and to mark the country's efforts to become a "smart nation". This "smart" future will soon dawn in Singapore, and the building blocks are alre

Visitors at the Festival of Tech in 2015, which was organised in celebration of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee and to mark the country’s efforts to become a “smart nation”. This “smart” future will soon dawn in Singapore, and the building blocks are already being put together towards this end. ST FILE PHOTOS

Visitors at the Festival of Tech in 2015, which was organised in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee and to mark the country's efforts to become a "smart nation". This "smart" future will soon dawn in Singapore, and the building blocks are alre

A demonstration of how virtual technology can be used for emergency room training. In July last year, GovTech engaged a digital security systems maker to conduct trials for a mobile digital system in the banking and healthcare sectors, to securely identify every Internet user – just like a digital version of the NRIC, or identity card, in the physical world.

The journey to becoming “smart” varies from place to place, with each city and nation having its own specific needs.

For instance, Nigeria is facing a waste-management crisis, with unmanaged trash heaps contributing to flooding and the spread of diseases.

SMART MONITORING

Whether it is a traffic police network or police cameras, or the water authority cameras tracking drains, or cameras in our housing estates watching lifts and security, you can pull all of the pictures together and get one integrated data source for the whole country. ” 

PM LEE HSIEN LOONG, speaking in February, on a video analytics system slated for a roll-out later this year. 

Nigerian start-up WeCyclers stepped in with an ingenious idea. Working with the Lagos Waste Management Authority, WeCyclers collects recyclable waste – such as plastic bottles, plastic bags and aluminium cans – from homes using low-cost bicycles. Based on the volume and quality of recyclables, families collect points via SMS which can be redeemed for goods and services such as groceries and cellphone minutes.

With more than 60 per cent of the world’s population expected to be urban residents by 2050, the challenge to build smarter cities has become urgent.

TURBOCHARGING

In Singapore, signature projects have recently been identified and given a one-year deadline to deliver tangible results.

The three projects are: e-payments, digital identity and a national sensor system.

There was a sense of urgency after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lamented at the annual Camp Sequoia tech summit in February that Singapore was not moving as fast as it ought to on digital transformation.

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The public-sector teams involved in the design and implementation of Smart Nation projects were reorganised in May to add firepower to these projects.

The Smart Nation Programme Office, formed in 2014 to bring these plans to fruition, now comes under the new Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, incorporating technology teams from several other agencies.

The entire structure reports to the Prime Minister’s Office in a move which Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said would allow the Government to be “more coordinated” on key digital projects and have “a greater ability to pull together all the government agencies”.

FIRST MILESTONE

The building blocks are coming together more swiftly now, with Singapore crossing its first milestone last week.

On Monday, the Association of Banks in Singapore launched a PayNow fund-transfer system that lets people transfer money without the need for bank account numbers – a bugbear of those using e-payments. Users simply enter the recipient’s mobile phone or NRIC number in any banking app.

The system maps mobile phone numbers or NRIC numbers to bank account numbers for funds to be credited, saving senders the hassle of asking for and entering a recipient’s account number.

PayNow builds on Fast (Fast and Secure Transfers), a service launched in 2014 for account holders from different banks to transfer money to one another within seconds.

Singapore has been lagging behind tech-savvy nations such as China, where WeChat users have been able to book a restaurant table, order food and pay using the same app. With PayNow, however, Singapore can look forward to closing the gap with China in the development of a cashless society – that is, if all retailers and shop owners go cashless too.

DIGITAL ID

Singapore is also working on developing a digital identity for every citizen. This could be in the form of a software-based security token. The new system is expected to supersede the existing SingPass authentication system, and will be meant for people to access both public- and private-sector services – like in Estonia. The European country has a digital ID system that allows its citizens to access their bank and healthcare information, and even vote online.

“The Estonians have this; there is no reason why we should not have it,” said PM Lee in February.

In July last year, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) engaged digital security systems maker Gemalto to conduct trials for a mobile digital system in the banking and healthcare sectors, to securely identify every Internet user – just like a digital version of the NRIC, or identity card, in the physical world.

It is believed that a digital ID can better protect people’s online identities as threats of fraud and identity theft mount.

Furthermore, it will allow users to ditch multiple e-banking tokens with different banks, and do away with the hassle of remembering different usernames and passwords.

SENSOR NETWORK

Later this year, a video analytics system – part of a larger shared sensor and communications backbone code-named Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) – is also slated for a roll-out.

The video analytics system is meant to help detect anomalies and predict situations such as potentially unruly crowds and traffic congestion. It is being developed by GovTech, which is working with various unnamed agencies. A key part of SNSP is being piloted with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and rides on LTA’s network of street lights. It will be used to carry all sorts of data – from temperature to humidity – and could see the 95,000 street lights islandwide become interconnected lamp posts.

Said PM Lee in February: “Whether it is a traffic police network or police cameras, or the water authority cameras tracking drains, or cameras in our housing estates watching lifts and security, you can pull all of the pictures together and get one integrated data source for the whole country.”

The coming together of Singapore’s Smart Nation plans hinges on cooperation by and the coordination of various government agencies.

Mr Nicholas You, a director of the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation in China, said at a conference last month that public administration bodies – by working in silos and refusing to share data that could help develop solutions for urban problems – can produce “stupid” cities.

Thankfully, Singapore’s Smart Nation plans are now driven by the Prime Minister’s Office. There is no better project champion – with the muscle to garner support from all public agencies – than the Prime Minister himself.

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