How we design and build a smart city and nation

Do you know that today, in the world, half of the populationactually live in cities? So, cities are very important to us. But cities also give usa lot of challenges, especially the architect planners. Because most of them facea growing population. Not only is the population growing,but it is also ageing. And people continue to have a spirations for a better quality of life.

And as the cities grow, we would have to developmore infrastructure and services for them, and we have to make surethat these services work. And, with climate change, we haveto encourage people to use less energy so that we reduce carbon emissions. So, cities seek solutions to addressthese challenges. How do we deal with them? Well, many cities are starting to adopt smart technology to improve our environmentand our daily living.

But what is smart technology? Everybody talks about being ‘smart’. Well, in very simple form, it is really harnessinginformation and communications technology, the Internet of Things, and getting insights into data, to actually develop smart applications that make day-to-day livingfor us comfortable. It has been projected that by 2025, we will have at least88 smart cities in the world. What about Singapore? Well, the prime minister has said: ‘Our vision is for Singaporeto be a smart nation. A nation where peoplelive meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all.’ Note that it’s really about peopleand not about just the technology. But are we ready to be ‘smart’? Well, I think we’re pretty muchon the journey.

We’re quite wired up. 90 percent of our homes have broadband, and we’re going to bring fibreto every home. And Singapore has one of the highestsmartphone penetration rates in the world, at about 85 percent. So, we are on the journey. But what is a smart nation? I’d just like to illustratewith an example of a public housing town, close to my heart. And I call it ‘the Heartlands’. Why is it ‘the Heartlands’? Because it houses 83 percentof the population, and many of you and I live in HDB towns,in about a million flats. So, what is a smart town? The smart town reallyfunctions like the human body. We have all the buildings in therewhere activities take place, like the muscles in our body. We have greenery and parks, like our lungs, that help to cleanse the air for us and give us oxygen to breathe.

And we have all the roads, just like the veinsand arteries in our bodies that move the traffic,the people and the goods. And you know, our body hasthe five senses. And the senses send[information] to our brain, so it senses what happensin the environment, [which] tells our brainhow to get the body to adapt, whether it’s hot or cold. So, if you add a sensor layeronto a town, it collects data, and insights from this data can helpthe town to continue to learn and adapt. And from this, we can developsmart applications for day-to-day living. As an architect planner, actually, I planned and builtmany of the towns that you live in. And I would very much like to build a smart town that is liveable,efficient, sustainable, and safe for you.

We are going to lookat ‘smart’ in four areas. Smart planning, smart environment, smart estate services, and smart living. What is smart planning? As an architect planner, I love this part because it helps me to designa better living environment for you. Now, what is smart planning? Basically, the first thing I dois to collect all the data about a town – the buildings, the roads, the parks – and I put it into the computer. And I’ll also collect a lot of informationabout energy use and waste, for example. And with this information, I can develop a three-dimensional mapof Singapore in the computer.

Now, what do I do with this information? Well, I can do a lot. I can do a computer model that simulatesthe windflows through the town. We’re in the tropics, we love the wind. We’re not in Chicago. Now, if you look at this diagram, the colours that are yellow and orangemean that the windflows are pretty good. The ones in blue meanit doesn’t move so much. So, when we did the first cutof Punggol Eco-Town, this was the pattern of the windflow. And then we adjusted the buildings, we moved the parks around, and then you findthat the windflows improve. You see more of the orangeand the red colours, which means you get a coolerand a better air quality through the town.

Computer simulations can do many things. We can do it at a town level, or we can do it at a precinct level, and we can even do it at a building level. So, welcome to Punggol Northshore. It’s a precinct we’ve just designed, which I’ve just launched for sale. I don’t know how many of youapplied for a flat there, but I highly recommend it. It’s a great place to live in. (Laughter) Now, similarly, when we first did the design, we looked at the windflowsthrough the town.

And at a town level, we alsomade adjustments to the design – I moved things around,cut holes in the buildings – and you can see thatthe windflows have improved, particularly in the neighbourhood centre. We wanted a lot of natural ventilation so that we can minimisethe use of air conditioning. Now, computer simulationscan also help you in many ways. It can do a shadow analysis of the town. Here, you see the shadows movingfrom morning till night. Why is it important? Well, it helps the architectand the planner to decide where to put the park, the outdoor dining areas, the outdoor plazas, playgrounds, and my childcare centre -I like to put them in the shade so that the childrencan be out the whole day. The computer can also tell youthe solar irradiance in a town.

How much sun actually fallson the surfaces of the town and on the buildings. And why is this useful? Well, it helps me to decide, for example,where there’s moderate sunshine. I’m going to put the roof gardens there. And where there’s a lot of sunshine, that’s where I put my solar panels. We’ve talked about solar panels. And it is very effective. All this informationhelps the architect to design the town, not only aesthetically, but also to ensure that it is functional.

So this is the waterfront town. Quite nice. You can start applying for it. (Laughter) Now, we can adda layer of sensors to the town. A layer of sensorsthat tells you about the humidity, the heat, the windflows. And all this data that I collectcan go back into the computer systems to validate the assumptionsand make them even more accurate. But more importantly,[the data] can be used in many ways. For example, in my neighbourhood centre,I have these huge fans. Now, I hope that these fanscan be triggered. When I monitor the humidity and the heat, they would be triggeredwhen it hits a certain threshold level. But that is a greenfield site. What about old towns? So, welcome to Yuhua,Jurong, an old estate.

What we did a couple of years ago is to try to introducea lot of sustainability initiatives into this estate to make it greener, which means more cycling,more solar panels for clean energy. We put in rainwater harvesting systems. But can I make it even smarterso that they’re more effective? So, for example, we have put a lot of solar panelson hundreds of buildings in HDB blocks. You may not see [them]because you didn’t climb up to the roof.

Now, we put in sensorsto all the solar panels and we track the energy that is collected. And we know immediatelywhen the panel is not working, because it would not be collecting energy, and we can fix it. But do you know that such data collectedcan do many things? It can even tell youthe weather condition. For example, if many of the solar panelsare not collecting a lot of energy, it might mean that over that town,it is cloudy, or it is actually raining.

So, it is a proxyto the meteorological station. Another servicethat we see a lot in town – an estate servicethat we’re very familiar with – is the lighting along your corridor. How many of you walk into a toiletand [the light] suddenly switches on, and you get a shock? From dark to light, right? Well, smart sensors allow a personto walk along the corridor, it can even predict where you’re going, and then the lighting level picks up. And when you have passed it,the lighting level dims again.

And you save energy. And the data collected is useful because if, along the corridor,after 11pm every night, very few people actually walk there, the system is smart enoughto learn the pattern and to reduce the brightness of the light and save energy. Another estate service we areall very familiar with is … the lift. We have 24,000 lifts in HDB towns. And we monitor them every day. Now, you may not know this, but we move the liftswhen you are sleeping. There’s no ghost. We move it. (Laughter) The reason being that we are testing itto make sure it works when you take the lift the next day.

Now, of course, when the lift breaks down, we will get a signaland we have to go and fix it. But, you know, with the new sensors, maybe you can even monitor the vibrationand the heat generation from the lift. And they can evenpredict a potential failure before it even happensso that we can go and fix it first. So, that’s wonderful, right? To be able to predict. Now, this is a map of Singapore. If you look closely, you’ll thinkthere are a lot of ants running around. Now, actually, this is real time. It shows you where all the taxisare moving around in Singapore. But why do we want to collect such data? It’s great data for transport planners because by looking at this data, the transport planner knowsthe road condition and where the congestion is. Now, we can push this datato you, to all your smartphones. I’m sure all of you have smartphones.

And you’ll know straight away which road to avoid. Going home from NTU laterto wherever you came from. You have your Ez-link card, right? Every time you go up the bus,you tap the Ez-link card. Now, that data’s very useful because when we collect that data,we can tell you which bus is crowded. So, when you’re waiting for your bus, on your handphone,you will be able to find out that this bus that’s comingis going to be crowded, so you might want to take another bus,or change your route. So, such informationand data are very useful. Next, I talked about smart living. Closer to home.

By 2030, we will have double the peoplewho are over 65 years old from 450,000 to about 900,000. In 1970, about 13 people supported one personwho was over 65 years old. By 2030, there are only two of us supporting a parentwho’s over 65 years old. And with dual-income families, it means that many of us may not be homeand our parents are left alone. Well, meet two of my residents. This is Doris,and her mum is 78 years old. And Doris has to go to work. She has to cater to the family,and she takes care of her mum. But she’s always worriedbecause her mum once had a fall at home.

So, she’s very worried when she’s at work. So, what we did was wepilot-tested a system called SEMAS – Smart Elderly Monitoring Alert System -in her home. So, what we did was we went into her home and we fixed a couple of sensorsthroughout the home. And what this sensor doesis it monitors the movements of her mum. But it doesn’t just monitor. It learns her pattern over a few weeks, for example, the time that she wakes up. Now, if this pattern is broken -it becomes very irregular, or there’s no movement at home – what happens is that a signalis automatically sent to Doris’s handphone when she’s at work, and Doris can quickly call homeand check if her mum is alright, or to alert the neighbourto knock on the door.

And I think this gives Dorisa lot of peace of mind. So, with an ageing population, such smart solutionsare actually very useful. Another application is telehealth. When you’re at work, and mumhas no one to send her to the hospital, she may not need to go to the hospital. She can be home and do her physiotherapy with a nurse watching her and training her to make sure that she’sdoing it correctly. She can do this in the comfortof her living room.

And in fact, her heartbeatand blood pressure can be monitored. And so, it is very convenient. But, of course, if she needsto go to the hospital, the nurse would tell her,”You need to come into the hospital.” So, I think anothervery useful application is the home energy management system. I think everyoneis quite familiar with this. It tells you how much energyyour appliances are using at home. But the smart solutions can even alert youwhen they reach a certain usage.

It can even switch off your deviceswhen you’re not at home. And do you know that it can even do this? When you go to bed at night,and you turn on the air conditioner, a lot of you like it to be very cool. I don’t know what temperature -18, 20, or 21 [degree Celcius]? But it uses a lot of energy. So, what happens is,after you’re asleep, very quietly, the device is going to raisethe temperature of your air conditioner, and you won’t even know it. And therefore, you save energy.

So, I think, all these application scan make our daily living better. But, of course, we’ll haveto select the right technology. We have to make it very friendly. And, frankly, the SEMAS systemI showed you – actually, Doris’s mumfound it very easy to use. And, of course, we have to make surethat we strengthen cyber security because we’re collecting a lot of data. And I believe that while citiesare a great challenge to us, if we can find the right smart solutions, we can make Singapore a much better home. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “How we design and build a smart city and nation”

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