Driverless cars shuttling passengers underground. Streetlights that automatically switch off when public spaces are unoccupied. A mobile app that informs residents how much energy and water they are consuming in real-time so they are aware of their environmental impact. These are some of the features that will be available in Tengah, the upcoming smart and sustainable district in the west of Singapore.
Residents in other parts of Singapore can also expect similar services in the future, as building a Smart Nation remains a top priority for the city-state. Why? The government of Singapore believes that applying the latest digital technologies will help it and its partners create a more vibrant economy, respond to citizens’ changing needs faster, encourage sustainable practices, and, overall, improve everyone’s lives.
Singapore has made significant progress in executing its Smart Nation vision. Among the 167 cities worldwide benchmarked by ESI Thoughtlab in Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World, a report co-sponsored by Oracle, Singapore was ranked both a Sprinter, in terms of achieving sustainability development goals, and a Leader, in terms of its use of technology and data across urban domains. Only about 20% of the cities ESI benchmarked achieved each of those top-tier rankings.
However, achieving the Smart Nation ambition requires considerable upfront and ongoing technology and other investments, given citizens’ ever-changing needs and expectations. How can Singapore and other urban centres drive this continuous innovation?
Future-proofing smart cities
In a recent fireside chat with Oracle, Surbana Jurong, a builder of more than a million homes in Singapore and a developer of over 100 industrial parks globally, shared what is important to the global urban, infrastructure and managed services consulting firm when it comes to designing smart townships, a job that it has undertaken since the late 1960s.
There are three things that Surbana Jurong considers:
- Design – Developments need to be safe, all-inclusive, barrier-free, accessible and future-proofed to respond to sudden disruptions including pandemics;
- Social Equity – Having an integrated platform that provides an outlet for feedback, both from citizens and via the collection of data via sensors;
- Data-Driven, Smart Facilities Management - Surbana Jurong ensures that operations at the developments they manage are sustainable and resilient with technology underpinning each solution
A key takeaway from the conversation with Surbana Jurong is that cities of the future need impactful, long-term investments in infrastructure along with the right expertise, to ensure they stay smart, sustainable and resilient. Superficial, short-term fixes will no longer suffice. This requires a deeper, broader approach to technology, one that fuels innovations and provides scalability to address future demands.
As cities begin this journey, they need to address how best to incorporate their existing physical infrastructure and digital investments. Oracle has been helping the public sector better manage and leverage data to engage citizens, modernise outdated infrastructure, and automate financial management to improve efficiencies for years.
We provide data-driven services that can power a new level of community engagement across all core city priorities — from public health to payments.
Here are some considerations as we look at the future of smart cities:
Fully leverage data
Make sure you are analysing and integrating a wide array of data and making it accessible to stakeholders.
Take the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), a Thai state enterprise under the Ministry of Interior, for example. By using cloud-native services to consolidate information from a wide variety of data sources, PEA has reduced the time taken to collect and process the data from approximately five days to an hour. PEA has now gained the ability to analyse data from across the organisation and its customers more quickly and cost-effectively to gain unique insights, resulting in smarter predictions and better decisions to deliver essential energy services to the residents of Thailand.
Keep pace with digital innovations
Make sure you don’t fall behind on core technologies, like cloud and mobile apps, or emerging ones, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.
Under an agreement with Mishima City to collaborate on smart city initiatives, Oracle will plan demonstration projects focused on improving citizen services using public and private data, and improving citizens' lives using digital technologies. In collaboration with the public and local businesses in Mishima, Oracle Japan will contribute to the city's transformation into a smart city through activities including prototyping applications and holding workshops.
Despite the benefits of cloud, it may not be suitable for every workload. Certain applications and sensitive data, like personally identifiable information, need to be on-premises or in local data centres due to regulatory and cybersecurity-related reasons.
Consider the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) who implemented a fully managed cloud database service deployed in its own data centre, to improve the delivery of services to its residents and yet ensure their data remains on-premise.
See: Singapore updates its national cybersecurity strategy
Most cities, especially smart city beginners, may also not be well prepared for cyberattacks. As cities move more services online, risks and complexities increase. It is important to integrate cybersecurity early into your planning and work with a cloud platform that is designed to protect workloads with a security-first approach across compute, network, and storage — down to the hardware.
Draw on digital ecosystems
Cities should partner with technology providers and universities or outsource development and implementation.
To support the city’s cautious re-opening of tourism activities, the City Government of Baguio in the Philippines built an integrated Visitors Information & Travel Assistance (VISITA) online registration system and mobile application on the cloud. This empowered the city to register and trace visitors more accurately to ensure the safety of its residents and interstate tourists.
Moving ahead as one Smart Nation
Singapore has made great strides to become a Smart Nation and has even pledged to run programmes in the near future to help small states with digital transformation. The programmes, under an initiative called FOSS (Forum of Small States) for Good, will cover themes such as digital transformation, digital economy and smart nations.
I look forward to working hand-in-hand with the Singapore government to take smart cities deployment to the next level, especially as Oracle continues to extend its cloud region portfolio in the region. I am confident that through continued partnership with the private sector, Singapore will enhance its position as an innovation leader, driving the delivery of public services that are intelligent, personalised, and convenient for citizens of the world.
Hear more from the organisations featured above on their smart city journeys at the ASEAN Cloud Connect 2021 event on 17 November 2021. Register to attend here: https://bit.ly/3v6NpPz
Chua Horng Shya is the managing director of Oracle Singapore
Main photo: Bloomberg