Will Singapore be the first smart nation?

There have been news articles and social media postings that have examined in-depth the growing interest in Artificial Intelligence, technology, innovation, and anything smart. Most every country has provided press releases on its technology innovation, mobile apps, or IoT devices that are disrupting the traditional ways of thinking.

It seems that if you put the word “smart” in front of any noun it captures people attention. A few examples are: smart car, smart MFP, smart watch, smart glasses, smart home, smart refrigerator, smart TV, smart thermostat, and the ubiquitous – smartphone.

Is smart just a buzzword? In the world of marketing and promotions it sure seems that way. However, we are living in a time and place where developing a “smart way” of living matters.

In 2014, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, launched its Smart Nation initiative aimed at collecting data on daily living in its island city-state. This program would deploy an undetermined number of sensors and cameras throughout the country to allow the government to monitor the data coming from these sensors. The intent was to deploy sensors where it would be beneficial to citizens, better connect its citizens, and encourage innovation.

This was not a pipe dream. Singapore has been advertising itself using news services as the country best positioned to turn itself into a “smart nation.” According to the ad campaign run by the country — big data, analytics, and next-generation sensor networks will change how big cities operate, and Singapore will lead the charge.

Here are a few facts gleaned from various sources that show how advanced this small nation is:

  • Singapore is the world’s fastest broadband nation according to Ookla.
  • Tufts University ranked Singapore as the top and fastest-changing digital economy.
  • Singapore is Asia’s most innovative economy according to the 2016 Global Innovation Index.
  • The World Economic Forum ranked Singapore as the world’s top “network-ready” country in 2015.
  • According to the CIA World Factbook, Singapore has 82.1 percent of its population using the Internet.
  • Global multinational companies such as GM, Nielsen, Dupont, P&G, and ADM make Singapore an important part of their global innovation strategies, primarily due to Singapore’s proximity to Asian markets.
  • Singapore was ranked third out of 50 global cities for having a “future-ready economy” meaning it has the right infrastructure and technology to serve people and grow businesses. San Jose and San Francisco are ahead of Singapore. London, Sydney, and New York come in behind Singapore.

Most all the bullet points are built on technology, but technology isn’t the only element required for success to develop a smart way of living. While technology can help legislators address the economic, social, and environmental challenges, an important part in planning for a successful smart city is ensuring a human-centric-type approach. Urbanization experts say that a smart city or nation should move beyond technology and infrastructure and include policy, education, and economic growth by using a more human-centered, citizen-centered approach.

Singapore has over 12 trial projects that have been launched. Projects like monitoring open spaces in parking lots to make it easier to park, checking flooding levels, using interactive maps to decide to reroute buses based on where riders are gathering, mapping the potential spread of infectious diseases in buildings, detecting when people are smoking in prohibited places, using citizens’ smartphones to measure roughness of bus rides (which could indicate the need for road maintenance), or using sensors in the homes of elderly that would send a text to families if their loved-one stopped moving.

When you think of a location that could be considered a smart city or nation, most would turn to Barcelona, New York, Dubai, or the Netherlands, however, Singapore has shown its leadership and is prime to be able to export its groundbreaking applications to other cities and nations. None of this could be accomplished without advanced analytics and associated business analysts, data scientists, data engineers, and data modelers to model the data and understand the ramifications of that data. As print volume slowly decreases, operational efficiency is becoming quite important in the imaging industry. In a similar way, Singapore is demonstrating an efficient and an improved way of living today and has raised the gauntlet to countries willing to take on the challenge.




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