Jurong Lake District to be test bed for 'smart nation'

LATER this year, the Jurong Lake District will become a mini version of a "smart city" - with more than 1,000 sensors deployed to control and monitor everything from traffic to street lights, and crowded buses.

Its residents will be able to use phone applications that can help them find sheltered walkways. Motorists stuck in a jam may find traffic light timings adjusted automatically to ease the gridlock, but they should also watch where they park, for there will be high-tech cameras that can help wardens issue tickets for illegal parking more swiftly.

These are just some of the 15 innovations to be tried out in the area, which was yesterday named as the test bed for Singapore's push to be a "smart nation".

"What would a smart nation look like? The upcoming Jurong Lake District would provide us with a glimpse into the future," Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday at the opening of the week-long Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) trade show at Marina Bay Sands.

"We believe that a smart nation can become a reality if we successfully combine policy, people and technology in a concerted fashion."

In the trial starting from the third quarter, sensors will be deployed in parks to adjust the lighting based on factors such as the time of day and motion detection.

They will be able to detect illegal smoking and determine the cleanliness of public areas. Sensors on smartphones can even send data on how bumpy a bus ride is.

Also being tested are driverless vehicles that may eventually be used to ferry people from the Jurong East MRT station to nearby buildings.

One key innovation will be the pooling of all this smart infrastructure among different government agencies, which can lead to more efficiency and cost savings, said Mr Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive officer of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Land Transport Authority have been setting up more surveillance cameras and sensors across Singapore, but these efforts tend not to be coordinated. In the Jurong test bed, public agencies will be sharing the use of equipment such as "above-ground boxes" built by telco M1.

Such boxes are typically installed at traffic junctions, parks or bus stops to power surveillance cameras or traffic sensors.

They can be plugged into the national fibre broadband network in order to transmit the data they collect to the relevant public agencies promptly.

Plans are under way for an islandwide deployment of 100 of these boxes as early as next year.

The IDA, which did not say how much the 15 trials in the Jurong Lake District will cost, will also be testing what is known as a "heterogeneous network".

This will allow mobile users to switch to another cellular provider, or to Wi-Fi operators when, say, a service outage occurs. Trials are expected next year.

Jurong resident Lee Meicheng, 40, an administrator, is looking forward particularly to the new technology that promises to show residents where covered walkways are in her estate.

"I will appreciate the phone app as my mother is in a wheelchair and I need to know how to wheel her around on a rainy day without getting wet," she said.

Housewife Sakura Siow, 40, said having a "super traffic auntie" may be a good thing. "My car was vandalised before, but the culprit was not caught. Hopefully, the high-tech installations will change things," she said.


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