The ‘Sustainable City’ concept has been pushed high up the governmental and business agenda in recent years due to rapid urbanization in Asia Pacific. By 2050, the United Nations anticipates that 66% of the world’s population will live in urban centres, which means governments and other stakeholders must play a bigger role to meet the needs of a growing population.
In a year dominated by news about weather changes and pollution, it is painfully clear that sustainability is an agenda that has deep impact on societies and commerce, and the fortunes of nations. While the notion of sustainable cities is not new, it is difficult to define and shape, especially with emerging issues threatening to challenge city planners, e.g. tackling diplomacy when environmental harms come from neighbouring cities or countries, or handling humanity issues from mass emigration. Building sustainable cities is not about planting more trees or creating bigger canals.
Speaking with city planners across Asia Pacific, it is clear that technologies play a critical role in building sustainable cities. This is where Singapore has been a beacon of light for the region.
Singapore’s lifelong ambition to become the smartest city in the world has been supported by its government’s proactive efforts to transform a country with limited resources into one of the most innovative, sustainable and tech-savvy cities in the world.
Internet of Things (IoT)-related applications to improve the quality of life, such as behavioural monitoring for smoking, smart parking, CCTV and transport systems are already at mature stages. Digital health surveys one in Singapore demonstrate use cases to increase operational efficiency across elderly health care facilities and hospitals.
Nokia recently launched a global study of 22 leading smart cities to uncover trends in their smart city strategies. Not surprisingly, Singapore was high up on the list. The study also revealed that:
1. Singapore is one of the most advanced ‘platform city’
A ‘platform’ route is where a city focuses on deploying infrastructure first before delivering a number of applications. In comparison to two other leading ‘platform cities’, Barcelona and Shanghai, Singapore is well positioned to turn its Smart Nation vision into reality, with its stable economy, efficient public administration and emphasis on co-creation. Furthermore, its world-class network infrastructure can support applications and use cases.
What’s also exemplary is the Singapore government and telecommunications service providers’ long-term investment in building a communications fabric that is ready for a digital future. Earlier this year, M1 and Nokia announced a partnership with the government to roll out a nationwide commercial NB-IoT network to support Singapore’s Smart Nation journey.
2. Singapore is one of the most “sustainable” and “smartest” cities in the world
Singapore has one of the most efficient, mature and intelligent transport systems that is admired around the world. Together with its planned and directed affordable housing policy and ambition to become a living laboratory for smart urban technologies, Singapore has earned its place as one of the smartest, most sustainable and safest cities – at par with leading cities like Paris and San Francisco.
The Singapore government has also invested heavily in R&D for smart city technologies, with USD13.9 billion allocated for 2016 alone.
From Nokia’s perspective, the communications fabric is imperative for nations to create sustainable cities. What was deemed futuristic is already becoming real. For example, advanced video and sound analytics can help monitor and improve traffic flow, or make city roads safer by tracking emergency vehicles in a way that’s interconnected with smart traffic light management. Car manufacturers are also trialling ‘connected’ vehicles which could communicate with drivers in emergency situations.
Public safety applications are also helping to improve the quality of life by preventing or minimizing risks and impact of events such as crime, accidents, pollution and natural disasters. Today, Nokia already delivers end-to-end LTE network solutions for public safety based on existing LTE products and services.
Having lived in this region for several years, I have come to appreciate Singapore which I have recently called home. It has lived up to its reputation as a smart and sustainable city. As I travel through other congested with smog-filled cities and their often-chaotic airports, I breathe a sigh of relief as I return to Singapore – its fresh air, efficient airport and orderly traffic. To me, that’s what a sustainable city can feel like – home. With the investments that the Singapore government has made, I am excited about its future and this is not something that everyone in Asia can say of their cities.
Danial Mausoof is the Head of Marketing & Corporate Affairs for Asia Pacific and Japan at Nokia