The world's first smart city sounds ambitious. But that's exactly what Singapore is aiming for with a Smart Nation program designed to put them firmly in the digital age.
Turning Singapore into a "living laboratory", the program has put trials in place across many different sectors – like housing, health and transport.
In some neighbourhoods, smart trials are already well underway. Last year, the Yuhua estate had thousands of sensors installed, enabling authorities to measure energy, waste production and water usage in real time. The sensors provided residents with feedback, so they could see exactly how much water and electricity they were using – and aim to reduce it. The data gained from this was highly informative for the government, who can utilize it to inform their decisions when creating future housing.
Healthcare is also an area that can benefit greatly from advanced technology, and Singapore has wasted no time in getting started. One pilot, known as Tele-health, addressed the issue of patients with limited mobility (such as those recovering from a stroke) getting the treatment they need.
The trial helped patients to recover, without needing to travel to hospitals or surgeries. With specially designed tablets, patients are guided through exercises – and their movements recorded by camera and motion sensors. Therapists review it, and doctors can then hold face-to-face video calls via the tablet.
In any large city, there are transport issues to tackle. But Singapore has gone about it in a slightly different way. To improve bus services, they use sensors to help them monitor the service and GPS data to keep track of speed and how many people are on board.
But the bus stops themselves are also set for a re-vamp. With the addition of Wi-Fi, interactive maps, e-books and swings – they're aiming to make commuting a little more enjoyable.
Beyond public transport, they're focusing on self-driving vehicles. It's still early days, but there is exciting progress – including self-driving buses, as well as waste collection and road sweeping vehicles. Initial trials have also been launched for fleets of self-driving shuttles, which commuters will be able to book through their smartphones.
Additionally, there have been discussions around a government-mandated sat-nav system which would monitor every single cars whereabouts at any time, as well as traffic conditions and speed. It's a level of monitoring that hasn't been seen before, and it doesn't end there.
A platform known as 'Virtual Singapore' is currently in production. Almost like a 3D Google Maps, it's an exact replica of the city – with minute details included, like the layout of each building. With data fed in, it will be capable of monitoring the movement of each car, the flow of energy, air-quality, crowd density and more. It's a remarkable tool that is set to be open and available to researchers, businesses and citizens.
With many other platforms in development like Digital Identity, Citizen Services, ePayment, Digital Trade and IoT Sensor Data – there's a whole world of possibility waiting in the wings.
Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, the country's minister for foreign affairs, has previously said: "if you visit Singapore, you should be able to say, 'I have seen the future – and it works'."
For now, they certainly seem to be heading in the right direction.