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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Abhijit Shanbhag

How Singapore can truly become a smart nation

BY ABHIJIT SHANBHAG

Singapore is seeing the possibilities and benefits of adopting smart city initiatives and infrastructures. In line with the milestones set in place by Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative in late 2014, the government has been putting in the effort and resources to meet their timeline.

An Intel-sponsored research for a smart city index ranked Singapore at the top, bringing in a higher quality of life for her citizens. Greater connectivity in the city bringing forth massive time savings, estimated at 125 hours per individual.

In preparation for forging the city of the future, Singapore realises as well that greater capabilities also result in the revelation of new threats. The tech budget for 2017 has been stated as one of its highest, at $2.4 billion SGD, with up to $528 million SGD of it allocated for better cybersecurity.

The smart city market is gaining traction, with greater connectivity and “smart-city centers” providing greater resilience to the surroundings. Safety and security are key concerns that must be addressed to realise the smart nation agenda. To do so, there are two key capabilities that Singapore should consider. Surveillance and video analytics.

Singapore has already started many initiatives to keep the country safe via various infrastructure and apps. However, many such measures are reactive i.e. SGSecure where reports can be made after incidents have occured. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure.

To be a comprehensive smart nation, Singapore has to pre-empt dangerous activities by combining the advancements of the Internet of Things (IoTs) with artificial intelligence. IoTs that are able to handle complex data give the opportunity for devices to provide the information in context and finer detail. And artificial intelligence is able to make sense of the data presented, making smart choices through predictive analytics that help with the digital framework of the smart city.

Smart surveillance has been steadily growing and is helpful in efforts towards keeping a city safe. Bolstering Singapore’s security camera placement and serviceability, the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) was introduced. Opening the road to smart surveillance, by combining video and data analytics. The SNSP will take the step forward by transforming all 110,000 lamp posts in the country into an interconnected network of wireless sensors by the second half of 2017. Making the information available to the respective civil services and authorities allows issues to be addressed quickly, and with better predictive analytics, spot and identify problems before they arise. 

Looking deeper at video analytics, the data that is derived can be put to many uses, which greatly adds effectiveness and efficiency of the municipal services and the running of the city.

Video analytics can monitor the traffic flow on roads, and give detailed information on the vehicle types, models, and respective registration numbers. Giving civil service, city planners, transport providers, and commuters useful insight. For the civil services, any anomalies that are detected can be addressed with promptly, like a traffic accident for example. City planners can schedule maintenance works from the projected road usage. Transport providers are able to allocate their vehicles to be at the right places when they are needed. Commuters can know which routes will be heavier with traffic, and to avoid them in the case of accidents. 

The utilisation of video analytics goes beyond getting actionable data from roads. These capabilities can be put into homes, as well as in the area of resource management, by automating and smartly allocating power and water management to avoid waste. 

However, despite the improvements we will enjoy as the world around us adopts a smart infrastructure, there are considerations that we need to balance out with so much information being generated and moved around. There is also the matter of cost, it will be irresponsible to chase after a vision without fiscal prudence. 

Once we get to find a comfortable middle ground where the responsible and cost-effective use of data matches the capabilities, Singapore will be one step closer to realising the smart nation of the future. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Abhijit Shanbhag

Abhijit Shanbhag

Abhijit is the CEO of real-time multimedia analytics firm Graymatics. He previously cofounded Scintera, a fabless semiconductor company in 2001. A BS from IIT-Bombay and a PhD from University of Southern California, he has previously held key technical and management roles at Qualcomm, Ericsson, and Morphics. 

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