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: Singapore has a shrinking population, so aging and health care are big issues because the number of aged citizens who need care is outpacing the rate at which the workforce is growing. How is Singapore using the IoT to address those issues?

Chan: This issue, where birth rate is not as high as the replacement [death] rate, is probably one of the biggest problems developed countries are facing. This leads to a lot of problems for Singaporeans, and higher health-care costs is one of those [problems].

IOT Journal: Is that because as you age you are more likely to live alone and without a constant caregiver?

Chan: Right. The irony is that even though we live in an increasingly dense community, more people are living alone. But we realized that communities are growing around the mobile phone, as people use What'sApp, Instagram, etc. So what we are trying to do is use the phone as a way to connect people. We created an app called MyResponder. It is a simple way of crowdsourcing lifesavers. Anyone with medical experience [such as nurses, EMTs or doctors] can volunteer to join the network as a lifesaver. When an individual is having a medical emergency and they [or bystanders] call emergency services, the Singapore Civil Defense Force will notify everyone using the MyResponder app within a 400-meter radius [of the patient]. So if you get an alert saying this person has collapsed at this location, you can use the app to say that you are on your way. The app also shows the responder the location of nearby AEDs [automated external defibrillators].

IOT Journal: The Civil Defense Force also dispatches an ambulance, but MyResponder users might get to the patient first?

Chan: Yes. And there are close to 10,000 volunteers using this app—and it is only a year old. It has saved a lot of lives.

My team has also created a [prototype] called the smart walking stick. As people get older, they might get lost and not be able to find their way home, or they might fall and not be able to get up. So what my team has done is to build an accelerometer and GPS tracker inside a walking stick. So when an older person is out walking around, the caregiver could see [on a smartphone] where the person is. And if the walking stick should fall to the ground—and remain on the ground for a period of time, indicating that they have not just dropped it—the system considers it a fall [and can dispatch help to the user's location]. And we are piloting it right now. I think it's promising because old people do not wear things like Fitbit bands, but if you integrate technology into a walking stick, they are more likely to use it.

We're also playing around right now with a smart wheelchair, which can be operated autonomously, so in a hospital a patient could be sent from one place to another without needing someone to bring them there. They are also testing the wheelchair in museums as well. These are all really interesting initiatives. Once these ideas get to the point where they could be commercialized, we find companies who could do that.

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