Singapore’s Smart Nation moves into prototyping phase
By Gabey Goh April 23, 2015
- Heterogeneous Network trials to test pervasive connectivity at Jurong Lake District
- Tenders out or awarded already for various Smart Nation Platform components
SINGAPORE’S Smart Nation mission is pushing ahead, with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) executive deputy chairman Steve Leonard (pic, above) declaring 2015 as “the year of prototyping.”
“We’ve been sharing the message about why we’re working on this thing called ‘Smart Nation’. We’ve spent the last 12-18 months thinking and brainstorming about it. Now we’ve moved on to the phase where we focus on prototyping – on ‘How do we build it?’
“I’m not saying we’re in the ‘piloting’ phase because piloting implies we know the answers.
“We’re still in the stage of trying to experiment in different ways to make things work,” he said in his opening address at the Smart Nation Innovations event in the city-state on April 22.
Leonard acknowledged that one key challenge would be the mindset change that is needed to accommodate the new technologies that are coming into play, and the accompanying data deluge.
“The simple question is, can we accept some of these things which are going to mean a change about how we think, act, and look at technology?” he said.
“It’s about changes in business models. Technology makes it easier, but it’s not the key to bringing this all together.
“Technology is not the goal, nor something to be feared, in my humble view,” he added. “Technology is going to ‘happen,’ so how do we embrace it, consider it, and find ways to move this agenda forward?”
The IDA said it will be focusing on two areas: Tech Innovation and Business Innovation, announcing a slew of key initiatives during the Innovations event.
Singapore is working on innovative technologies that will form the infrastructural foundation of its Smart Nation vision, bringing connectivity for ‘Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, All the Time’ (E3A).
“Connectivity is key to this whole thing because without it, not many of other things that we want to do … is going to be possible,” Leonard said.
Two of these technologies include the Smart Nation Platform (SNP) and Heterogeneous Network (HetNet), forming part of the Singapore Government’s efforts to further develop capabilities in pervasive connectivity, new infrastructure, and common technical architecture.
Enabling pervasive connectivity
IDA will be launching HetNet trials at the Jurong Lake District, with the aim of validating advanced telecommunication technologies and the capabilities of HetNet in providing pervasive, seamless high-speed Internet access.
The trials will be carried out in locations such as lifts, pedestrian walkways, bus interchanges, and MRT (Mas Rapid Transit) stations.
The trial networks are expected to be rolled out from the third quarter of 2015, with completion targeted for the end of 2015. M1 Ltd, MyRepublic, Singtel and StarHub are some of the companies involved in the first phase.
Through the trials, industry players will be able to determine the optimal solutions to ease network congestion in areas with heavy human traffic. The feasibility of seamless handovers between cellular and wireless networks will also be tested.
An example would be when a consumer experiences seamless connectivity throughout his journey from the MRT station (via a cellular network), to the lift (via a public wireless network), and back home (via his or her private wireless network).
Asked about the role inter-operator roaming will play in enabling seamless connectivity, IDA assistant chief executive (Development Group) Khoong Hock Yun said that it will not be covered in the current trials.
“There isn’t a robust commercial framework for inter-operator roaming at the moment. The telco operators have to be commercially ‘incentivised’ to put in roaming agreements, and they want to make sure that it is something when put in place and activated, doesn’t case major disruptions.
“They are still thinking it through in terms of the additional investments required, and the commercial basis to sustain itself via a progressive rollout.
“Right now, the IDA is letting the industry work it out,” Khoong told a press conference held on the sidelines of Smart Nation Innovations.
With commercial companies involved in the trials, he said he could not disclose how much of a monetary investment the Government has made in this initiative, but added that there would be some co-funding involved.
The IDA is hoping that the HetNet trials will open the way to establishing seamless connectivity, with users to benefit from the enhanced infrastructure. With that in place, Smart Nation applications such as autonomous vehicles, remote health monitoring, and remote learning can be made available in the future.
For the companies in the technology, engineering and research and development (R&D) space, the trials will facilitate the development of solutions to meet challenges faced by the industry, such as the increasing data demands of consumers and devices, the agency said.
Building a smart platform
Launched last year, IDA reported that SNP had begun Phase 1 deployment, and will be built to enable greater pervasive connectivity, better situational awareness through data collection, and efficient sharing of collected sensor data.
One of the key objectives of the SNP is to allow public agencies to have better situational awareness, and thus able to anticipate, respond to, and better provide services to businesses and individuals.
Partnering the tech industry, work on critical SNP components such as the Data Centre, IP (Internet Protocol) Core, Aggregate Gateway (AG) Boxes, and Data Fusion & Sense Making Platform has started.
Khoong (pic) said that the tender for the SNP Data Centre, intended to house all SNP data, was opened earlier this year and has been awarded to Singtel, with work to begin in July.
Tenders for IP Core and AG Boxes were also issued early this year and are currently undergoing evaluation, with four bids received for each component.
The Request for Proposals (RFP) period for the Data Fusion & Sense Making Platform is already open and will close on May 11, while the tender for the Data Exchange component is expected to open in the second quarter of this year.
Phase 1 is expected to be available by the end of the year, and includes a target to provide enhanced wired and wireless connectivity for sensors at high-traffic areas such as the Civic District, Orchard Road, Singapore River, Little India and Geylang.
As part of the Jurong Lake District redevelopment plan, IDA will also be rolling out the SNP to the Yuhua area, the first heartland estate where connectivity and sensors will be enhanced to enable better community services for residents.
The Phase 2 Industry Roundtable (IR) session has also been completed, with the IDA saying that it received “strong validation” from participants on areas such as building an ecosystem-based architecture for the SNP.
Internet of Things (IoT) standards will be important. To this end, the IDA has completed two sets of Technical Reference for Sensor Network for Smart Nation – one for public areas, and one for homes.
Available for purchase via the Singapore Standards e-shop, these technical references will provide guidance in supporting more companies and developers in their development.
In addition, IDA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC).
Under this agreement, tech companies will be able to co-innovate and prototype innovative technologies on Sentosa Island to create market-validated products for commercialisation, the IDA said.
Sentosa will provide real-business challenges to address, and local tech companies can prototype solutions to these challenges.
The projects will cover areas such as the island resort’s transportation, landscaping, safety and security services, as well as other operational areas to improve efficiency and guest experience.
To kick off the collaboration, IDA and SDC will be working on the first few Proof-of-Concepts (POCs) projects with Singapore-based tech companies, using video analytics to implement automated visitor monitoring and tracking.
The announcements on April 22 follow the launch of the Founders Forum at the start of the week, which saw over 200 founders, investors and corporate representatives from around the world gathering to explore how they can use Singapore as the gateway to tackle the world’s toughest urban challenges.
Brought about by the collaboration between London-based Founders Forum and the IDA , the Forum featured notable attendees such as Walter de Brouwer, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Scanadu; Michael Lynch, founder of Invoke Capital; Jeffrey Rayport, faculty member in the Entrepreneurship Unit at Harvard Business School; Mika Salmi, board director at CreativeLive; and Mark Walport, chief scientific adviser to the UK Government.
“Singapore has world-ranked universities; multibillion-dollar annual R&D investments; a fast-growing community of tech startups; and large pools of investment capital,” the IDA’s Leonard said of the Founders Forum.
“Combining these assets together with the commitment of government and the private sector, we believe Singapore is a great place for tech companies to build solutions that serve global markets,” he added.
In a bid to further strengthen Singapore’s tech entrepreneurial ecosystem, the IDA’s investment subsidiary Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL) also announced that it is working with UK-based Entrepreneur First to bring the latter’s technical founder focused programme to the Lion City.
Entrepreneur First has a unique model of startup creation by recruiting talented computer scientists, engineers and hackers before they even have a company, to give them time and space to experiment with new ideas and teams.
Over the last two years, it has supported 60 founders in Europe working in fields as diverse as drones, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, bitcoin and marketplaces, to build 20 tech companies that are now purportedly valued at over US$100 million, having raised more than US$20 million of external funding.
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