Singapore starts $6.6m research project into “people-centric” smart city AI, IoT
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering have signed a $6.6 million deal on a multi-year research programme to build a “people-centric smart future” for Singapore. A press statement from the pair says the research is for “Singapore, and beyond”, implying the work will be presented as a replicable template for other cities and nations to follow.
The programme will focus on smart city technologies, with a major focus on maintenance, repair, and overhaul of urban infrastructure and services. The nitty-gritty of civic operations will be considered through a new digital lens, uniting five aspects; the statement positions these as: “resource optimisation and scheduling; prescriptive analytics; decision and sense-making; reasoning engine and machine learning; and digital twin.”
Engineering group ST Engineering said the money will go, in the first instance, into two key research projects to lay the foundations for further Industry 4.0 adventures. These are a new enterprise digital platform (EDP), to be established as the backbone for connected city services and operations, and an urban traffic flow management system to develop algorithms to alleviate traffic congestion.
The EDP is described as a flexible artificial intelligence (AI) platform, which will enable the synthesis of disparate data sources and other internal or external systems, to orchestrate cross-vertical data and insights from customers and partners. All AI models in the programme will be integrated onto a common AI engine stacked within the EDP, said ST Engineering, for future re-use.
The traffic management initiative will pursue a “smoothening approach” based on traffic data analytics and AI technologies. Examples include traffic state estimation and prediction, in addition to effective active traffic control and management strategies identification and implementation. This will develop as incoming 5G, autonomous vehicle, and machine technologies mature.
Chen Tsuhan, professor and deputy president at NUS, said: “As Singapore advances its position as a ‘smart nation’, having the right enterprise architecture to support those goals will determine if true digital transformation can be achieved. Over the years, NUS and ST Engineering have enjoyed a close and productive relationship.
“This new collaboration will combine NUS’ expertise in the science of cities with ST Engineering’s industry knowledge to co-create people-centric Smart City solutions that will form the foundational systems to bring about not just impactful, but radical, change to the lives of people in Singapore and the world.”
Harris Chan, chief digital officer and chief technology officer at ST Engineering, said, “This collaboration will allow us to delve deeper into the application of AI in new domains to catalyse the pipeline of next-generation technologies and solutions that address the evolving urban challenges that cities will continue to face.
“ST Engineering and NUS bring unique strengths to this partnership and we are confident that this programme will provide our research and engineering talents with opportunities to enrich their knowledge and deepen their expertise through real-world applications, paving the way for the development of impactful innovations that create more vibrant and sustainable cities of the future.”
Singapore, ranked the smartest city in the world in certain polls, has warned cities they must get a handle on AI if they are to succeed as ‘smart cities’, trusted by citizens and enterprises to manage data correctly.
Vivian Balakrishnan, minister for foreign affairs for the government of Singapore, set out Singapore’s own AI strategy towards the end of last year, as a geographically-constrained but tech-savvy city state. “This technology will change the world, and cities that master AI will get ahead — those that don’t will be left behind,” he said.
“The fact computers and systems can now see, hear, speak and understand is transformational. It will transform our economy, disrupt our politics, alter the nature of our jobs — and it will define the next phase of our ‘smart nation’ journey.”
Singapore’s strategy is to deploy AI in five sectors: intelligent transport and logistics, smart cities and municipal services, “preventive and custom” healthcare, education, and border security. The government has mapped five AI principles onto its AI strategy in these five sectors: ethical standards, safety and security, privacy and trust, “explainable” AI logic, and social acceptance.
The message from Singapore is AI in cities should be correct and transparent — that it puts citizens first, in terms of privacy and security, and makes its logic and purpose clear for them to understand.
Last week, Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) placed its four-year initiative to construct a digital twin of its Pulau Bukom petrochemical site in Singapore in the context of the city-state’s Smart Nation programme. On completion in 2024, and in pilot between times, the virtual replica of the Pulau Bukom facility will be the first digital twin the oil and gas company has built. Shell is betting on a 25 percent jump in productivity, reliability and safety from the work.
The Pulau Bukom facility, positioned as an integrated oil and petrochemicals hub in Asia Pacific, is a go-to working testbed to trial innovation and digitalisation projects. The move aligns, said Shell, with the Singapore government’s focus on Industry 4.0, which has rolled-out since 2014 under its Smart Nation initiative, covering city governance and the industrial sector.