Smart City Initiatives

Leading examples of smart cities across the globe

Singapore Smart City: A Holistic Transformation

Singapore views “smartness” as a measure of how well a city uses technology to address its problems and challenges and is striving to use digital technologies to create enduring and safe communities and to provide more opportunities for Singaporeans. Citizens are thus at the core of Singapore’s Smart Nation approach, and not technology.

In November 2014, Singapore announced its smart city initiative under the name Smart Nation. Since then, it has attracted interest from technologists, urban planners, entrepreneurs, and public sector officers around the globe.

In this article you'll learn about:

The Transformation of Singapore Into a Smart City

What Is the Smart Nation?

The Singapore Smart City initiative also called “Smart Nation” is a nationwide approach that encourages the use of digital innovation and technology to drive sustainability and liveability.

The government has adopted policies to promote innovation in the private and public sectors, including legislation and assistance for co-creation and research to drive growth across the board, including the public sector, so to ensure that all levels of society can use and benefit from these technologies and innovations.
Singapore intends to be a nation where businesses can be effective and make the most of the new possibilities in the digital economy.

How Did Singapore Become a Smart Nation?

Singapore established a plan to create a digital economy, digital society, and digital government. Every business, industry and government agency needs to increase its digitization efforts and build a society of digitally receptive communities and individuals. Singapore's plans include developing national projects in the domains of service delivery and digital infrastructure.

The Government Technology Agency (or GovTech) has a central role in the establishment of Smart Nation platforms, infrastructure, and applications. GovTech uses Information And Communication Technology (ICT) and associated engineering, for example, sensors, to facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT).

GovTech is creating a sensor network throughout the nation known as the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (or SNSP), previously called Smart Nation Platform, with services and infrastructure, such as video and data analytics capabilities and a data-sharing gateway.  

Singapore is considered a world leader in safety, smart mobility, health care, and administrative services. To promote and enhance mobility, Singapore has deployed smart, connected traffic solutions, together with policies discouraging car ownership. Making Singapore a natural testing ground for new, smart alternatives to cars.

Examples of Singapore’s initiatives are:

  • Since 2012, more than 52,000 police surveillance cameras have been installed to ensure safety in the city.
  • Providing wide access to maps and creating geospatial databases, allowing the community to add information to maps, such as traffic incidents, animal sightings, or the best coffee in town.  
  • Mobile Government for citizens provides citizens with access to government services and information via mobile devices.
  • The Enterprise Challenge provides funding to test innovative ideas that will better public services.

A central component in Singapore’s Smart Nation program is its strong universities and government agencies. These agencies support private-public partnerships and startup ecosystems. The government also intends to prepare the next generation of technology experts by helping young citizens learn to code, and by monitoring the career paths of its engineers.

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Dubai Smart City: Paving The Way With Innovation And Technology

The Pillars of Singapore Smart Nation

The initiative rests on three pillars of digitization:

1. Digital Economy

This project aims to make Singapore a leading digital economy that will attract foreign investments and provide opportunities for Singaporeans. This requires preparing the country for the disruption of digitalization. In May 2018, the ministry for communications and information announced plans to digitize every business and every industry, to increase productivity. The Infocomm Media (ICM) industry will also be a driving force behind the digital economy of Singapore.

2. Digital Government

The Singapore government intends to be “digital to the core” by utilizing connectivity, data, and computing to assist citizens, businesses, and public officers. The digital government should also “serve with heart,” providing a personal touch to enhance the experience of their citizens. The digital government plan includes a five-year roadmap, which outlines how the government should use digital technologies when serving the public. In 2020, governments will use a National Digital Identity (NDI) system for Singapore businesses and residents. This system will facilitate secure and effective digital communication between the private sector and the government.  

3. Digital Society

The digital society project aims to infuse digital literacy into the national consciousness. Digital literacy is defined by Singapore as “having the skills, confidence, and motivation to use technology, and is key to our journey towards our Smart Nation vision.” The government established a digital readiness workgroup, with participants from the public, private, and people sectors. The group gives people the skills to use technology with ease so all Singaporeans can access technology to enhance their lives, every day.  

Singapore Smart City Initiatives

Strategic National Projects

Core operations development environment and eXchange (CODEX) is a digital platform that will help the Singapore government provide citizens with better, more cost-effective, and quicker digital services. It uses government data architecture to regularize standards and formats and facilitate data sharing across agencies.  

Moments of Life
Parents and caregivers of young children can use this single platform to access integrated information about services in a timely way to gain personalized support at central moments in their lives. The platform provides information including how to register the birth of their child and ways to apply for a monetary bonus, which parents are entitled to following the birth of their child. Parents can also find out how to locate preschools nearby and how to access the immunization records of their children.

Smart Nation Sensor Platform
An integrated sensor platform that enhances city-level operations, municipal services, planning, and security, at a national level. It systematically uses data and sensor to better urban planning, build more reliable and responsive public transport, and improve public security.

Smart Urban Mobility
Hands-free ticketing technology provides families with young children, the elderly, and individuals with difficulties getting around to enter and exit train stations with ease. Autonomous shuttles offer better intra-town connectivity and better mobile solutions for commuters, particularly people with disabilities and the elderly.  

Transportation Projects

Autonomous Vehicle Trials in Singapore
This initiative involves the application of self-driving technology to public transport and freight to confronting restrictions in land and labor power. In 2015, A*STAR’s self-driving vehicle was approved for public road testing. It was the first vehicle of its kind to receive regulatory approval.

Contactless Fare Payment for Public Transport
Commuters can use this payment system to easily pass through fare gates, which makes 'topping up' fare cards obsolete. The hands-free automation fare collection system uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) to identify a fare card of a commuter and automatically deduct a fare as they pass through.

On-Demand Shuttle
Commuters can book a self-driving shuttle with a touch of their smartphone, using the on-demand shuttle service. The shuttle can transport passengers from their doorstep to the train station. This real-time transport system responds to demand and maximizes the use of land and minimizes reliance on labor power. The elderly benefit from on-demand shuttles and any commuter can request pick-ups and drop-offs at any bus station.    

Open Data and Analytics for Urban Transportation
In this initiative, public data is used to facilitate transport planning. The land transport authority (LTA) analyzes data from fare cards to manage bus fleets and identify commuter hotspots. Sensors installed in more than 5,000 vehicles, track the arrival times of buses. The LTA uses real-time location data of buses to meet and anticipate the demands of commuters effectively. They can also use this data to improve policy planning. The trial has reduced the rate of overcrowded buses by 92%.

Learn more about smart city initiatives in our guide: Smart City New York: Cooperation To Innovation

An All-Encompassing Smart City Strategy

Singapore is an inspiration for many administrators due to its all-encompassing strategy, which involves technology, regulation, education, and support at all levels of government, so much so that government ministries have been specially added to promote smart development.

Not many cities will be able to match the extent of Singapore’s transformation. We can treat Singapore as a testbed for smart city models that may become widespread 20, 30, or 40 years from now, when the digital society is a first-class citizen driving all societal structures.