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Towards Smart Nation Singapore – Developments in 2017 (Part 1 of 3)

Singapore embarked on it Smart Nation journey in 2014, with PM Lee Hsien Loong outlining the vision of a “A nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.”

Singapore already had the foundations in place. In fact, it was already on its way towards that vision. Singapore was a connected city with nearly universal broadband access and one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world. The Government embraced technology to deliver digital services to citizens. Medical records were being integrated.

Since then significant progress has been made. (Click here for some of the milestones. A recently released case study from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) offering an evaluation of Singapore's progress in meeting the objectives of the country's 'Smart Nation' strategy offers an excellent summary of the achievements.)

But in February this year, PM Lee expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of progress and talked about the need to move faster on the adoption of technology and Smart Nation initiatives.

This year, the Government carried out organisational restructuring to enable the Government to be more integrated and responsive in strategy and processes for its Smart Nation and Digital Government (SNDG) objectives.

Credit: SNDGG

A new body, called the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) has been formed under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), comprising staff from the Digital Government Directorate of the Ministry of Finance (MOF), the Government Technology Policy department in the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), and the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO) in the PMO. The Government Technology Agency (GovTech), which drives digital transformation within the public sector, has been placed under the PMO and it has assumed the role of the implementing agency for the SNDGO. The SNDGO and GovTech together form the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG).

The Government identified five national strategic projects which the government will focus on in the immediate future:

  • National Digital Identity (NID) framework, for citizens and businesses to transact digitally in a convenient and secure manner
  • e-Payments drive, to allow everyone to make simple, swift, seamless, and safe payments
  • Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP), to accelerate the deployment of sensors and other IOT (Internet of Things) devices that will make our city more liveable and secure
  • Smart Urban Mobility, to leverage data and digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, to further enhance the public transport commute
  • Moments of Life (MOL), which bundles relevant government services, across different agencies, to the citizen at key moments of his life. This reduces the need for citizens to transact with multiple government agencies, for a more seamless and convenient experience.

But Smart Nation is not just about the government’s strategies and actions. It is essential to have the private sector as partners on the journey. Academia also plays a key role by providing the research foundations and also, educating the next generation and equipping them with the skills required for today’s digital economy.  

The Government released the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) report in February with seven mutually-reinforcing strategies: 1) 1. Deepen and diversify international connections; 2) acquire and utilise deep skills; 3) Strengthen enterprise capabilities to innovate and scale up; 4) Build strong digital capabilities; 5) Develop a vibrant and connected city of opportunity; 6) Develop and implement Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs); and 7) Partner each other to enable innovation and growth.

The Singapore government has demonstrated strong commitment to bringing together different government agencies, local and international private enterprises, including large corporates, SMEs and startups, as well as academia and research institutions, to drive the Smart Nation journey.

Below we take a look at how some of the Singapore Government agencies (or government linked agencies) have contributed towards Smart Nation. Some are providers of digital services. Some are enabling digital transformation within the government. Others are seeking to facilitate the building and growth of innovative ecosystems. Yet others are regulators ensuring that the risk of adverse outcomes is minimised. Sometimes, one agency plays more than one of these roles.

Several of the initiatives listed below involve more than one government agency. Often institutes of higher learning and/ or the private sector are also involved.

Much of the work done during 2017 is about laying the foundations for the future.

Agency for Science, Technology and Research

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads economic oriented research.

A*STAR and its research institutes are involved in a wide range of collaborations with the public sector local and international universities, as well as industry to conduct pathbreaking research which can further economic growth and improve lives. Below are just a few examples of initiatives A*STAR announced during 2017.

In July 2017, it was announced that A*STAR will open two model factories at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) and Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC), under the RIE 2020 plan, to simulate production environments where companies can experiment and learn new manufacturing technologies, allowing SMEs to test new technologies with the help of public sector researchers.

In September, A*STAR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 13 companies who have expressed interest to form a consortium with capabilities spanning across the entire IIoT (Industrial Internet-of-Things) value chain. The IIoT Initiative will focus on the digitalisation of industrial customer care, to meet the demand from forward looking companies that are placing greater business emphasis on aftermarket service and support.

Ms. Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry at IIoT World Tour 2017/ Credit: A*STAR (from A*STAR's Facebook page)

A*STAR has also launched an IIoT Research Programme, bringing together multi-disciplinary capabilities from A*STAR research institutes, National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). This programme is supposed to focus Singapore’s efforts on IIoT, especially in the development of highly reliable industrial wireless communications, advanced data analytics, and industrial cyber physical security for cognitive and secure IIoT systems.

A*STAR, Rolls-Royce, and Singapore Aero Engine Services Private Limited (SAESL), announced in September that they will invest up to S$60 million to set up a Joint Lab for the development of Smart Manufacturing technologies for the aerospace industry.

A*STAR and NUS also signed a MoU with leading pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Pfizer, and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) to establish the Pharma Innovation Programme Singapore (PIPS). The focus areas for PIPS include continuous manufacturing, bio-catalysis, process analytical technology, advanced process control, and enhanced pharmaceutical operations.The focus areas for PIPS include continuous manufacturing, bio-catalysis, process analytical technology, advanced process control, and enhanced pharmaceutical operations.

Recently, A*STAR signed a MoU with SingHealth, the largest healthcare group in Singapore, focusing on: (i) harnessing big data in precision medicine; (ii) utilising smart health in a diabetes clinic of the future; and (iii) innovation in immunotherapy and drug development.

Building and Construction Authority

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is an agency under the Ministry of National Development, championing the development of an excellent built environment for Singapore.

The ITM for the construction industry was launched in October. The ITM recognises key global trends which impact the sector such as the digital revolution, rapid urbanisation and climate change and identifies Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD), Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), as well as green building as key transformation areas to address the challenges faced by the sector.

It envisions an advanced and integrated construction sector with widespread adoption of leading technologies, led by progressive and collaborative firms well-poised to capture business opportunities, and supported by a skilled and competent workforce.

During 2017, BCA also reviewed its 3rd Green Building Masterplan, which was released in 2014. New initiatives based on the review will be rolled out in phases for enhancing the indoor environment quality for occupants, encouraging high energy efficient buildings and greening existing buildings and spaces.

BCA will pilot a new set of criteria for the Green Mark for Existing Non-Residential Buildings (GM ENRB: 2017) scheme for one year, which include enhanced requirements for building owners to improve the IEQ for its occupants and adopt smart control systems to operate the buildings. For instance, smart building controls and strategies are being introduced in GM ENRB: 2017 in the areas of energy monitoring, demand control, as well as integration and analytics.

Previously, In July, BCA announced a partnership with the Singapore-Berkeley Building Efficiency and Sustainability in the Tropics (SinBerBEST), to embark on a research collaboration to transform BCA’s flagship Zero Energy Building (ZEB) into a positive energy building.

BCA’s SkyLab, a state-of-the-art rotatable test facility on top of a 7-storey building, launched in 2016, has been conducting research in emerging energy efficient technologies, such as smart lighting, chilled beam (an energy efficient technology in air-conditioning) and thermochromic glass.

In November, BCA and d Housing & Development Board (HDB) have launched a Call for Proposal on using drones for Building Facade Inspection. The objective of this Call for Proposal is to develop an integrated inspection system, using advanced image-capturing drone and computing technologies, assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) to perform autonomous defect detection, based on image recognition and machine learning. 

Economic Development Board

The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), a government agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, is responsible for strategies that enhance Singapore’s position as a global centre for business, innovation, and talent. 

Many companies have set up centres of innovation and research & development in Singapore over the past one year. (To take a few examples, Capgemini, Procter & Gamble, Dyson, Zuelling Pharma, Expedia, Emerson, Denka, Kurita Water Industries)

In November, EDB launched a world-first tool to help industrial companies harness the potential of Industry 4.0 in a systematic and comprehensive way, in partnership with global testing, inspection, certification and training company TÜV SÜD.  The Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index serves as a diagnostic tool that companies - across all industries and sizes - can use to better understand Industry 4.0 concepts, evaluate the current state of their facilities, architect a comprehensive transformation roadmap and deliver concrete, sustained value for their businesses. (Click here for OpenGov’s in-depth look at the Index).

Above photo: (L-R) Mr. Lim Kok Kiang, Asst-MD-EDB; Mr. Chng Kai Fong, MD, EDB; Dr. Andreas Hauser, Director, Digital Service, TÜV SÜD; Jackie-Tan, Senior-Consultant, TÜV SÜD at the launch of the Smart Industry Readiness Index/ Credit: EDB

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport Group

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is the regulatory authority for civil aviation in Singapore and continues to provide air navigation service. It also has a role in the growth and development of the air hub and aviation industry, while overseeing and promoting safety in the industry.

The Changi Airport Group (CAG) operates Changi Airport, the primary civilian airport for Singapore, and one of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia.

Changi Airport’s new Terminal 4 commenced operations on October 31 2017. T4 features Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) suite, which enable passengers self-service options at various stages of departure - check-in, bag drop, immigration and boarding. Facial recognition technology has been introduced for the first time at T4. The technology is integrated in the FAST process to authenticate each passenger’s identity. This automated process replaces the need for manual identity verification by staff.

Above photo: Automated Check-In Kiosks (left) and Automated Bag Drop (right) (Photo credit: CAG)

Changi Airport launched the ‘Changi Airport Living Lab Programme’ in January, in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to drive innovation over the coming 5 years. The S$ 50 million Living Lab Programme is expected to facilitate collaboration with innovation-driven companies and start-ups from the private sector, to develop and demonstrate new technology solutions, in a live airport environment.

The Air Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM), released in April by CAAS, aims to achieve real value-added growth of 16% from 2015 to 2020 and boost productivity by 3-4% per annum. In addition, it sets a target of creating more than 8,000 new jobs in the sector by 2025.

For promoting innovation, CAAS will set up test beds and support companies in experimenting with new technology and processes to solve urgent challenges faced by the aviation industry.

For example, a first-in-the-world Automated Passenger Loading Bridge is being developed by ST Engineering’s advanced engineering centre, which will use precision lasers and cameras, with smart algorithms, to guide the docking process safely and autonomously, even under harsh weather conditions.

Aviation Challenges (click here and here) have been launched to automate labour-intensive processes, in areas such as narrow-body aircraft baggage handling, and build-up and breakdown of cargo pallets and containers.

Innovations such as Autonomous Guided Vehicle trials to transport food items, a one-man remote-controlled aircraft pushback air tug, integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technology into daily ramp operations in the form of Smart Watches and Bluetooth bone conductor headsets are being used for productivity improvement.

In November, CAAS awarded a contract valued at close to S$7 million, to develop a smart digital tower prototype for air traffic control to be trialled at Changi Airport, over a period of 22 months.

CAAS is also looking into 3D-printed cabin parts. 

Cyber Security Agency

The Cyber Security Agency (CSA) is the national agency overseeing cybersecurity strategy, operation, education, outreach, and ecosystem development. It is part of the Prime Minister’s Office and is managed by the Ministry of Communications and Information.

A smart nation is a connected nation. And a connected nation is vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In January this year, CSA formed an Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Community to create an information exchange of cybersecurity related matters in a trusted domain. Sector regulators and Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) operators from the Energy, Water. Maritime and Land Transport sectors have joined the community.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) released a draft Cybersecurity Bill in August. The Bill provides a framework for the regulation of CII. It formalises the duties of CII owners in ensuring the cybersecurity of their respective CIIs and provides CSA with powers to manage and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents. It also establishes a framework for the sharing of cybersecurity information with and by CSA, and the protection of such information.

Based on feedback received from a public consultation, MCI and CSA said that they would refine the designation of CIIs and work closely with sector regulators to streamline and harmonise the obligations of CII owners under the Bill with their respective sectoral regulations.

CSA also announced the development of a new academy to train cybersecurity professionals.  The Academy will provide intermediate to advanced training to cyber defenders in the government, and also invite selected parties in the CII sectors to join in the training. The trainings will be focused on targeted niche areas that go beyond what is normally available in the market. 

CSA also continued to enter into several bilateral agreements on cybersecurity cooperation.

Part 2 - Government Technology Agency; Housing & Development Board; Integrated Health Information Systems; Infocomm Media Development Authority; Intellectual Property Office of Singapore; International Enterprise Singapore

Part 3 - Land Transport Authority; Monetary Authority of Singapore; Ministry of Home Affairs; National Environment Agency; National Research Foundation; SkillsFuture Singapore/ Workforce Singapore; SGInnovate

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