December 2018

How Singapore has become the smartest city

Singapore’s reputation as one of the world’s leading smart cities is beyond dispute.

This year alone, separate rankings by Mckinsey and ABI Research named Singapore as the world’s No.1 smart city, while the city-state was also awarded the ‘Smart City of 2018’ accolade at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona in November.

Meanwhile Juniper Research, in its most recent edition of its international smart city rankings, rated Singapore at the summit of all four ‘smart’ categories in its ratings – covering mobility, health, safety and productivity.

In a competitive landscape, though, how has Singapore established such an enviable track record?

Smart Nation

The government’s commitment to digital innovation and connected technologies has been vital.

In late 2014, the authority launched Smart Nation Singapore (SNS), underpinning a series of strategic projects covering areas as diverse as urban mobility through to e-payments.

To facilitate the SNS initiative, the government has been ushering in appropriate policies, such as opening up datasets collected by public agencies to the public, and supporting the development of the Punggol Digital District as a hub of expertise in smart technologies.

In addition, Singapore is nearly half-way through a four-year plan to invest some USD$1.75bn into helping local enterprises to “go digital”.

Singapore is also committed to cross-border collaboration in the region. Earlier this year, as part of Singapore’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Smart Cities Network was established.

Smart initiatives

However, public-sector organisations were encouraged to pursue smart initiatives long before the SNS project.

For example, as far back as a decade ago, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority entered into a research partnership with IBM Watson Lab to delve deeper into data analytics, with a view to understanding traffic flows and ensuring bus arrival predictions were more accurate for customers.

Steadily, over the years, Singaporean companies and organisations – often through partnerships that span the public and private sectors – have increasingly recognised the need to make the Smart Nation mentality more tangible for citizens.

The fast-growing ride-hailing app, Grab, for example, not only collects millions of rows of GPS location data every few seconds from apps such as GrabHitch, GrabShare and GrabTaxi, with machine learning at the heart of its development strategy.

Since August, Grab has also been working in partnership with the Urban Redevelopment Authority to study commuter travel patterns in Singapore, helping the body to put in place provisions to make travelling around the city on public transport more efficient.

Real-life benefits

However, there is also evidence that by offering real-life benefits, adopting smart technologies is becoming the norm for many citizens themselves.

The Government Technology Agency-backed Parking.sg mobile app, which eliminates the need for motorists to pay for parking using physical coupons, logged more than two million parking sessions through about 250,000 vehicles in the first six months after its launch in October 2017.

Similarly, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has also shown an appetite to explore ways to improve citizens’ lives and business’ efficiencies by teaming up with GeoSpock.

GeoSpock’s data management and location intelligence engine, brought to life by the illumin8 visualisation tool, will give the SLA’s OneMap team the opportunity to gain a granular insight into how it can optimise it’s OneMap platform. .

Analytical insights

GeoSpock’s additional talks with the National University of Singapore Next Generation Ports team, who are modelling port activities, will also set a benchmark for analytical insights, with the city serving as the home of one of the world’s top three busiest ports in terms of cargo tonnage.

“GeoSpock’s products are being used to bring together siloed data and accelerate learning in Singapore, on land and water,” GeoSpock Market Development Executive Sangeetha Banner says.

“Even for cities such as Singapore that repeatedly appear at the top of the table of smart cities worldwide, there remains an insatiable appetite to drive further innovations through digital and connected technologies.

“Within this strategy, which is led by the government and likely to act as a template for cities worldwide, the sound management of data will be a critical component.”

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