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Singapore to speed up its smart nation roll out

The Southeast Asian nation of Singapore will focus on developing a national IoT communications backbone and digital ID framework over the next year

Singapore is speeding up its efforts to develop a national internet of things (IoT) communications backbone in the next year, among other goals in its ambitious smart nation vision.

Speaking at the opening of IoT Asia on 29 March 2017, minister-in-charge of Singapore’s smart nation programme Vivian Balakrishnan said the acceleration of smart nation initiatives is necessary for the country to stay ahead.

“There’s a revolution going on, and if we don’t transform our approaches to the way we define problems and put solutions together in new and novel ways, we will be left behind,” he said.

Earlier in March 2017, the Singapore government said it will form the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDG) in May 2017, bringing together government agencies working on various parts of the smart nation initiative under the Prime Minister’s Office.

The development of the national IoT communications backbone is part of SNDG’s mandate, in a bid to support the government’s use of IoT applications to improve the lives of people.

“There is still no consensus on [IoT] technology or standards, but the lack of consensus and current fragmentation of the market is not an excuse for paralysis,” Balakrishnan said, noting that the government will take a “pathway with an open mind, avoiding technology or supplier lock-in”.

“We need to make decisions where even if the technology doesn’t pan out, the platforms and approaches are still relevant,” he added.

Balakrishnan said the government is also doubling down on efforts to develop a national digital identity framework, starting with MyInfo, a service that makes personal data available – with consent from individuals – to government agencies and banks such as DBS, OCBC, UOB and Standard Chartered.

The service alleviates the need to fill in the same information in multiple forms, such as when applying for bank accounts, and enables businesses to be certain of their customers’ identities. “It will also reduce cost and enhance competitiveness,” said Balakrishnan.

There is still no consensus on [IoT] technology or standards, but the lack of consensus and current fragmentation of the market is not an excuse for paralysis
Vivian Balakrishnan, Smart Nation Programme Office

Despite cash and cheques still being accepted in Singapore, Balakrishnan said there is still a need to improve the adoption rates of digital payments.

To that, he said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has been looking into a central addressing system that enables individuals to transfer funds to each other via their mobile phone numbers.

Balakrishnan said MAS is also driving the implementation of unified point-of-sale terminals to eliminate the need for merchants to use multiple terminals to support different payment cards and technologies.

Future of IoT

Separately, Charles Reed Anderson, founder of an IoT advisory firm of his namesake, pointed out two IoT trends that could emerge in future.

For one, he said there will be more IoT over-the-top (OTT) players that will focus on delivering insights and intelligence on the data collected from IoT devices, in areas such as video analytics, manufacturing and building management.

Anderson also said low-power wide area networks will be more popular, enabling enterprises and city-planners to roll out IoT networks quickly and at a lower cost than deploying 3G or 4G networks. “Smart cities need these low-power networks because they need [to support] thousands of applications to drive value,” he said.

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