How Singapore Is Using the IoT to Build a Smart-Nation Platform

Chan Cheow Hoe, Singapore's chief information officer, says Internet of Things technologies are playing a role in most of the city-state's projects regarding transportation, health care and environmental sustainability.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

IOT Journal: How are you going about the AV trials?

Chan: It's a very small project [with just a few vehicles] and the legal aspects [of allowing autonomous vehicles on the roads] are still being worked out. The legal aspects of it are complex—and, in particular, the liability structure is quite complex.

The government is encouraging and funding the pilot, but the trials are being done through MIT Labs, which operates its largest research and development lab, outside of its home base in Massachusetts, in Singapore.

IOT Journal: How does transportation fit into Singapore's goals around environmental sustainability? Are there specific mandates or carbon emissions goals?

Chan: [Singapore is a signatory to] global treaties to reduce carbon emissions. So we have to improve emissions standards for transportation. I don't think AV [taxis] are the panacea, but moving away from [individually owned] cars is a big part of what we call the "car light" movement. It is going to help a lot.

IOT Journal: What about the built environment?

Chan: More and more people are using IoT sensors to better manage energy inside buildings, and the power savings are huge. In Singapore, because it's so hot, the biggest user of energy is air conditioning. So there are a lot of startups right now that sell control systems and sensors that automatically regulate energy use inside buildings, based on need, or occupancy.

Because [conventionally controlled] air conditioning is really dumb, it just blasts cold air into rooms. But [sensor-based] systems use algorithms to blow cold air only where it's needed. And these systems are showing up to 40 percent savings. They install these systems for free and then the customer pays based on how much they save in their energy costs—so that business model is like guaranteed success.

There are a couple large builders in Singapore that are installing these smart HVAC systems, and they're being put into around a quarter of all new buildings right now.

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