By 2030, the urban population of Asia’s megacities are expected to double that of 2010, stretching the infrastructure and resources of cities. Additionally, governments globally face mounting pressure to make their cities more efficient while limiting their environmental impact.

To address those requirements, many countries have embarked on their smart city journeys to improve urban management. Research firm Frost and Sullivan found that government spending on smart cities accounts for almost one-third of Asia Pacific’s combined spending on the Internet of Things (IoT). The region’s IoT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.5% to reach US$436.77 billion in revenue by 2026.

One of the keys to realising a smart city is to digitalise the critical urban infrastructure, which is still largely manual and reactive. This was why Deepak Pitta co-founded SpaceAge Labs, a Singapore-based early-stage start-up providing IoT solutions to manage remote assets and operations in urban water and greenery industries.

“There is an urgent need for a data-driven and predictive approach to managing critical urban infrastructure such as sewers, drains, pipes, parks, and other urban greenery. SpaceAge Labs was therefore founded to use cutting-edge technologies such as IoT, machine learning and geospatial analysis to keep our cities clean, green and liveable,” he explains.

Solving IoT challenges for critical urban infrastructure

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Despite the benefits of IoT, organisations in Singapore used to be hesitant to adopt it. The biggest challenges to IoT deployment, notes Pitta, are the time, effort and skills required for system integration.

When organisations buy various components of IoT – such as sensor hardware, connectivity, software and application – from different vendors, integrating them to create a complete solution can be challenging and may lead to cybersecurity issues.
Deepak Pitta, CEO of SpaceAge Labs

However, interest in IoT, especially from organisations focusing on urban infrastructure, increased after the Covid-19 pandemic. “With reduced availability of manual labour and remote working becoming a norm, industries with a lot of remote and distributed assets – such as water and landscaping (greenery) services – are [now more] keen to adopt IoT and remote monitoring solutions to improve safety, efficiency and regulatory compliance,” says Pitta.

He went on to share that SpaceAge Labs helps solve IoT integration challenges by offering pre-integrated sensor to insight IoT solutions that combine its proprietary sensor hardware (i.e., rEye IoT Transmitter and IoT Adaptor), long-range wireless connectivity and  IoT software. SpaceAge Labs can also provide IoT cybersecurity assurance since they design the solution end-to-end.

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Singapore’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) is one organisation that has benefitted from SpaceAge Labs’s solutions. “We are currently helping PUB to remotely monitor underground sewer network pipes in real-time using our IoT solutions to prevent sewer overflows from manholes and detect illegal discharge of heavy metals into our wastewater network. Deploying these solutions has eliminated the need to conduct manual checks, significantly reducing the time and resources needed to detect such abnormal events in the sewer network,” says Pitta.

Powered by AWS

According to Pitta, SpaceAge Labs relies on cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) for computing power, storage, databases, and other services on an as-needed basis, to innovate rapidly at low costs. It uses AWS IoT Core to connect its IoT devices to AWS without the need to provision or manage servers; while leveraging Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) to build new solutions using microservices that support any application architecture.

Additionally, SpaceAge Labs stores data from devices in Amazon RDS (a managed relational database service) and uses Amazon SageMaker to build, train, and deploy machine learning models to help predict anomalies.

“As we grow, we increase our use of AWS services, and with a couple of clicks, we can accommodate spikes in demand. This agility means we can focus on what matters most – customer experience,” claims Pitta.

He also highlights that the AWS team has provided “tremendous technical and business support” that aided SpaceAge Labs’s growth. “We have a weekly session with our AWS account manager to address challenges, [while] the AWS Public Sector team connects us with potential customers and clarifies their technical questions.”

“Local AWS teams, like the one in Australia, is also helping us with our expansion to new markets, providing local market insights and connections to potential customers. Through the AWS Partner Network’s Innovation Sandbox Credits, AWS also funded our latest enhancement efforts to integrate geospatial capabilities and robots into our platform,” he explains.

Thanks to AWS’s support, SpaceAge Labs currently has more than 30 customers in Singapore, including National Parks Board (NParks), JTC and Changi Airport Group. “We have seen an average year-on-year growth of around 200% in the last few years and are on track for similar growth this year as well. We are currently in the process of expanding into Australia and the United States,” concludes Pitta.

Photo: SpaceAge Labs