Imagine driving in a clean city, free from pollution, where you are never stuck in traffic jams, where you are confident to arrive on time. All this and much more is what promises the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform our cities into Smart Cities. Those cities of tomorrow aim at achieving 3 things; sustainability, efficiency, and livability.
By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. For cities to continue to be centers of economic growth, there have many challenges to face and the IoT is carrying many solutions.
Asia-Pacific is the region accounting for the largest share of spending in IoT. According to Frost & Sullivan, the total spending on IoT in the Asia Pacific region was $10 billion in 2014. It is to reach $59 billion by 2020. South Korea and Singapore are expected to be among the top 5 global markets to adopt IoT.
Asia’s IoT pace of adoption
A recent global study done by Forrester Consulting on IoT implementation in various enterprises found that 58% of APAC enterprises are either implementing or planning to implement IoT over the next 24 months versus only 45% globally.
According to data from the OECD and search engine Shodan, South Korea is the first country in the world to have more things connected to the Internet per habitants, followed by Danmark and Switzerland.
Countries with the most IoT devises
Partly due to a smart watch hype, South Korea reportedly has 18 million IoT-connected devices, placing behind the U.S. and China. In 2016, 58% of the Korean owned at least 3 connected devices (source: Statista).
Due to the growing popularity of the IoT networks, the South Korean’s government decided to invest $350 million in around 300 companies that it deems globally competitive within the next four years to develop an IoT ecosystem within the country.
Samsung Electronics and SK Telecom have also teamed up with a South Korean city government to build an IoT trial town, Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul. The project will focuse on setting up IoT-based infrastructure for renewable energy, medical services and smart cars. SK Telecom said it will invest KRW 90 billion (approximately USD 76 million) by end-2016 to build a test bed for an IoT-only network. Samsung will offer IoT devices and equipment and also support technology development.
Other Asian governments are deeply integrating IoT in their long-term development projects. We have seen earlier India’s vision to transform 100 cities into smart cities. China’s central government has also selected over 200 cities to pilot smart city projects. These cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou beside others. Over 90% of China’s provinces and municipalities have listed IoT as a pillar industry in their development plans.
But Singapore appears to be leading the way, first because of its scale – Singapore lacks the overlapping state, local and federal bureaucracies of most major cities -, and because the government’s willingness to spend on infrastructure like universal high-speed Internet.
The initiatives taken by Singapore to achieve its Smart Nation goal
In 2014, the government launched “Singapore Smart Nation” with the ambition for the country to become a forerunner in the development of interoperable IoT standards. They can be adopted not just by industry in Singapore, but are to be recognized and used universally.
IoT is a critical cornerstone of many initiatives of the government. Some examples are Smart Homes, Smart Urban Habitat, Autonomous Vehicles, and even Digital Healthcare wearables.
At the IoT Asia Show 2016, Vivian Balakrishnan, Smart Nation Minister, announced the use of driverless minibuses. They will passenger commuters from MRT stations to their homes. “People hear about Google cars and the rest of it. Actually from our perspective, the real killer app for autonomous vehicles is not the driverless car – as interesting as that may be – but really to solve the challenge of the last 500 meters, meaning from the MRT station to your doorstep”. He said that trials could start “in the next one to two years”. He previously suggested that driverless vehicles could be coupled with the Beeline app, which reserves buses on demand.
The Land Transport Authority has already installed sensors in every bus and every taxi in Singapore. Using these data, they have reduced from 92% the number of bus services with crowding issues, despite a year on year increase in ridership.
Another sector disrupted by the Smart Nation initiative is waste management. Sensors have been installed in bins in order to know when the level is full and empty them in time.
Waste management with IoT
The Singaporean Government Digital Services (GDS) works closely with multiple government agencies. They cover areas such as transport, housing, security, healthcare and the environment. The objective is to leverage data-driven insights to help create experimental applications. Here are some examples:
- Beeline, a mobile app that meets commuter demand for express private bus routes through crowdsourcing;
- MyResponder, a mobile app that mobilises the community to respond to cardiac arrest cases within their immediate vicinity
- OneService, a platform that enables citizens to send their feedback on municipal issues they encounter.
Beeline, mobile app for express private routes
Why does Singapore engage so much on SMART CITY?
In a near future, we can expect cities to be fully monitored thanks to the IoT, leading to time optimisation, energy efficiency, safer and more sustainable environment. Solid network infrastructures and technological innovations will improve our day to day life and ensure cities, whatever how crowded they are, remain centers for economic growth. And Asia seems in good position to show the way!