Unlocking Opportunities in Singapore’s Smart City Landscape

Real Estate  |  12 Apr 2023

Throughout history, people have been thinking about how to make cities more liveable, efficient, and sustainable. The Romans created sewage systems and public squares, which were fortified during the Middle Ages to prevent flooding. Now, countries have robust water systems that may use drainages, reservoirs, and dams to address modern sustainability, environmental and energy challenges.


Why are cities becoming smarter? 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted three pivotal events that may hinder economic growth in 2023: the Russo-Ukrainian war, the increasing cost of living and China’s economic slowdown. These events have led to a drop in the global supply of energy and an increase in the prices of food and other necessities.

IndSights Research gathered that the current industry sentiment was at a negative nine percent from October to December 2022, which may have been a result of the unfavourable global economic situation.

In the digital age, cities aim to be efficient, sustainable, and liveable for citizens. Neglecting the demand for affordable housing, better transportation, and convenient services has consequences for 56 percent of the world’s population living in cities. Smart cities use digital tech to enhance the quality of life and boost economic competitiveness amid rapid urbanisation.

READ MORE: Business Sentiments of Local Companies in FY22 Q3


Do smart cities need to be people-first? 

To transform conventional cities into smart ones, digital interfaces and streamlined operations may seem like an easy solution, but practical and social issues must be considered. For instance, smart home infrastructure installation may be useless for households without compatible products.

For a smart city to fully realise its potential, countries may adopt a bottom-up methodology in the development or creation process. Amsterdam approached a quadruple helix concept for their city planning strategy by focusing on the immediate needs of the government, businesses, institutions and citizens.

A collaboration among a total of 12 public, private and educational institutions allows the four aforementioned segments to initiate and implement projects. When proven successful, these projects will extend to other cities or towns.

Elsewhere, Dubai campaigned to collect citizens’ happiness levels to facilitate improvements in infrastructure and service. This helps Dubai to improve the city as it develops.


How does smart nation Singapore work?

Singapore differs from its international counterparts in its smart city approach. With plans to ensure that measures are economically sustainable, its smart city strategies prioritise building on economic capabilities amongst the private and public sectors.

The Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) and the Networked Trade Platform allow the government to actively partner with firms to solve real-time business concerns, while the Smart Nation Co-Creating with People Everywhere (SCOPE) programme gathers public feedback for feasible tech products.

Informed by experiences and research, Singapore delivers user-focused, cutting-edge tech, setting a sturdy foundation for smart city development and potential financial benefits. Nonetheless, technology can only achieve its purpose and potential when designed with human and social considerations.

READ MORE: Is digital innovation the future for businesses?


How are smart cities reshaping transportation and urban mobility? 

Communities require access to necessities and vital services. Smart cities are reshaping transportation and urban mobility by leveraging the latest technologies to optimise traffic flow and improve public transportation.

Intelligent transport systems and real-time traffic data optimise traffic flows, reduce congestion, and improve safety and efficiency. For pedestrians, the Walk Cycle Ride SG plan promotes efficient, convenient, and connected travel for pedestrians while reducing vehicle emissions for sustainable practices.

Passengers boarding an autonomous vehicle
In response to the needs of a modern commuter, autonomously driven public transport was launched in Singapore in 2021 – Courtesy of Malay Mail

Where will driverless vehicles bring Singapore to?

The autonomous vehicles (AVs) global market will grow to US$1,651 billion by 2027 at a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 12.1 percent as smart transportation shape the future of urban mobility. They create efficient, sustainable, and liveable cities in the face of urbanisation growth.

Singapore has conducted trials since 2015 to address urban concerns such as declining manpower and sustainability demands. While implementing AVs may not be soon, it is not stopping the country from preparing its drivers to be AV-savvy in the form of a skills and training roadmap for public transport workers.

In addition, the transport industry in smart cities like Singapore is shifting towards sustainable and alternative modes of transportation while also investing in autonomous and connected vehicle technologies to improve traffic flow and safety. These trends not only improve overall mobility and accessibility but create more liveable and connected communities. It also serves to benefit the environment.


Singapore’s smart health ecosystem 

Smart cities aim to provide efficient and effective services to their residents, including healthcare services. Collection and analysis of personal health records through sensor technologies and a robust telehealth system is an important part of Singapore’s answer to current and future healthcare concerns.

Singapore’s ageing population, with citizens aged 65 and above increasing to 18.5 percent in 2022, poses a threat to the healthcare industry. In response, the healthcare industry is shifting its focus towards research and development to create better healthcare infrastructure, placing a higher value on health data than ever before.

Interestingly, the growth rate of health data is projected to be at 36 percent CAGR from 2022 to 2025. This unprecedented growth matches Singapore’s plans to use data to develop comprehensive, integrated smart health systems that maximise the capabilities of a tightening manpower market. At the lower level, behavioural data collected through citizen participation in physical activities can be used to formulate preventive care measures. At a higher level, data on illnesses and recovery can be used to engineer new machinery and services.

Doctor speaking to his patient via a video phone call
Smart city planning includes implementing technology for medical purposes, where doctors can conduct consultations online and through telecommunication

Applications with health sensors can facilitate citizen sensing, helping the government to make sense of the country’s healthcare needs, mitigate outbreaks, and prepare for future issues. However, for a smart health ecosystem to be of value to the growth of smart cities, a collaboration between the government, healthcare providers and the communities they serve is needed.

One in two Singaporeans is already willing to share medical information with companies if it improves their health. Medical providers can leverage users’ trust to boost trust and adoption across the industry, which can urge support for a more efficient and well-integrated healthcare system.

READ MORE: IndSights Research’s thought articles on MedTech


The future of urban living: Opportunities abound 

Smart cities offer opportunities for growth and innovation in the real estate industry. There may be an increase in technological involvement in built infrastructure, from conceptualisation to construction, management, and maintenance.

The usage of digital tools allows for better planning, development, and management of properties. For example, the Housing Development Board (HDB) designs estates using various environmental tools to analyse weather patterns, traffic noise, and pollution levels. Units are then designed to take advantage of wind flow, cooling the estate naturally or blocking out hubbub to provide a tranquil living environment.

What’s Singapore’s approach to sustainable building performance?

Government agencies have been working in tandem with private property developers to use technology to track, analyse and optimise commercial building performance. Sensors throughout the building can notice for maintenance or replacement of important areas such as lifts and air-conditioning.

People looking at a model of Singapore Tengah Smart Town
Tengah Town to be built using smart sustainable technology – Courtesy of AsiaOne

As Singapore prepares itself for the Net Zero Emissions goal it aims to achieve by 2050, similar features may be seen in future smart-enabled dwellings. From easy-to-monitor energy usage levels to EV charging stations, residents will benefit from a constantly maintained living environment, improving standards of living while fulfilling a wider sustainability objective. Similar to how commercial buildings are run, residents will have the technology to provide feedback for improvements.


Cities of tomorrow: What can businesses do today? 

Public-private partnerships can help advance smart city goals. By providing materials, technology, and education needed by the government, the private sector contributes directly to smart city planning and the economy. The public sector also benefits from firms’ insights that may result in better support for these companies.

Businesses can leverage the plethora of government support to further their own business needs while championing smart city goals. As many of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives revolve around building digital societies, companies can make use of grants to implement tech, innovate or digitalise:

READ MORE: Other business grants and initiatives

Businesses should also actively provide perspectives that may often be overlooked by authorities. These perspectives can shape policies for the benefit of industries. Through industry chats and surveys, IndSights Research found effective communication between government and industry is key to delivering and meeting public expectations, propelling the economy to the private sector’s advantage and enhancing their reputation as responsible and sustainable organisations.


Final thoughts

As the world becomes increasingly urbanised and technology advances, the concept of smart cities is no longer just an option but a necessity for cities to progress and meet the needs of their citizens. The focus is shifting towards creating people-centred cities to enhance the quality of life through technology.

Singapore is a leading example of this shift with its Smart Nation initiative that aims to digitise and connect the country. Transportation is being reshaped. Healthcare delivery is being remoulded. The future of urban living will also have a profound impact on the real estate industry, with co-living properties and collaborations with businesses becoming increasingly common.

There are numerous opportunities for businesses and citizens. The key to success is collaborating with the government, other businesses, and your customers. Businesses that recognise the potential of smart cities will have the edge over their competitors.

PARTICIPATE: IndSight Research conducts one-to-one industry chats with business leaders. If you would like to contribute to the conversation, send an email to moses.ku@indsights.sg and we will arrange an appointment.



This article is contributed by Syuhada Subuki, Engagement Executive, IndSights Research, first published on e27.


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