Singapore is the smartest city in the world, according to the IMD’s inaugural Smart City Index. What is a Smart City, you might ask? A Smart City refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare. The aim is to create a city powered by digital innovation and technology that responds to citizens’ ever-changing needs. Here we break down the various innovations that have launched Singapore into becoming the proud Smart City it is today.
Spanish entrepreneur Bruno Navarro is the CEO of Smartcity Projects, a Singapore-based company that specialises in building smart infrastructure technologies. Their biggest project to date is the launch of Singapore’s first automated underground bicycle parking system at Kampung Admiralty integrated development in 2018, which was built in collaboration with the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
Biceberg is a patented, intelligent, automatic bicycle parking system that stores bicycles and other belongings safely within individual cells. The storage compartment comes with specific sensors that ensure that no unwanted elements or living beings are introduced inside the system, and it provides an efficient and friendly solution to today’s users’ needs for a healthy and non-contaminating urban methods of transport. The access booths were designed to blend seamlessly into the surroundings, bringing functionality as an aesthetic to the urban landscape in an integrated manner.
Despite the innovative nature of the solution, the project ultimately failed to gain enough traction from the community. On average, only three of its 500 lots were used daily between February 2018 and September 2019, and fewer than five monthly passes were purchased on average. After a short 2 years of testing, the project eventually had to cease operations. Navarro explained that this could be largely attributed to poor location planning. Firstly, the project was installed next to Admiralty MRT station, where there are several free surface-level bicycle parking slots available. Furthermore, the underground system was located 5 minutes away from the station, and was only accessible by climbing a flight of stairs first. The hassle of carrying a bicycle to a further location only to pay for it ultimately led to the downfall of the project.
However, this setback did not discourage Navarro from continuing on his pursuit to introduce new ways to make Singapore a smart city. His next project is bringing in ecoGranic, a patented precast concrete pavement of high strength that actively removes pollutants from the atmosphere, such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds present in haze, industrial and transportation fumes. It works in a similar way as plants use photosynthesis. A natural oxidation process turns the polluting gases into elements that are harmless to health and at the same time beneficial to our environment. To put things into perspective, if the surface of a football field was paved with this product, the pollution generated by more than 4,000 vehicles per year would be eliminated. Smartcity Projects estimates that 2 million square metres of ecoGranic installation is required to purify the contamination produced by all of Singapore. This will make it the first country in the world to have zero atmospheric pollutants. According to Navarro, they are currently in talks with HDB to launch a pilot instalment, possibly at an MRT station.
Building a smart city is a major undertaking, but beyond that, governments will have to look at how to make their smart cities sustainable as well. Smart and sustainable urban development requires a collaborative approach from the government, private sector, consumers, and even between cities globally for it to be successful. Singapore has managed to achieve this through an open data ecosystem. When data is publicly available, residents and businesses are able to collaborate on smart city innovations that meet the needs of the population more effectively. Singapore is sure to continue to grow in providing a sustainable, healthy and vibrant environment for citizens to thrive in.