‘Smart Nation’ Singapore will be watching you

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: A general view of a CCTV camera. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: A general view of a CCTV camera. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Smokers and drivers, beware: In the not-so-distant future, the government won’t need officers to catch you smoking in prohibited places or parking illegally — cameras will do the job.

Local electronics giants ST Electronics and NCS are piloting systems that will automatically detect people who are found either smoking or parking in prohibited zones within the Jurong Lake District — where a total of 15 different types of functional technology will be run between next month and the end of next year. 

ST Electronics' smoker detection system relies on cameras, positioned in outdoor areas where smoking is not allowed, that can detect smoke from a cigarette while a person puffs on it. 

Smokers in the Jurong Lake District area will not have to fret yet, though  no enforcement will take place during this trial period — but government agencies overseeing the enforcement of areas prohibiting smoking will decide later on the actions they will take against smokers identified using this technology.


NCS's technology employs video analytics software that determines if vehicles parked along a road are parked illegally, after recording video footage of them. Its technique is separate from existing technology used by the Land Transport Authority to detect and enforce rules against illegal parking, said NCS's vice president of communications engineering Wong Soon Nam.


Just like the smoker detection system, NCS's illegal parking surveillance system will not involve overseeing government agencies taking action against any illegally-parked vehicles during the year it is in testing. All bets are off if and when it is successful enough to be implemented islandwide, though.


These and other technological initiatives are aimed at making Singapore the first “Smart Nation” in the world, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who launched the comprehensive plan on Tuesday morning at the opening ceremony of this year's Infocomm Media Business Exchange. 


“Our goal is to establish Singapore as a Smart Nation that taps on the potential of infocomm and media (ICM), and that nurtures innovative talent and enterprises,” he said in his speech on Tuesday. “In this way, the ICM sectors can bring about economic growth and social cohesion, and better living for our people.” 


Taking optic fibre wi-fi to the streets

A prototype for the Above Ground Box is on display at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 at Singapore's Marina Bay Sands. (Yahoo photo)
A prototype for the Above Ground Box is on display at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange on Tuesday, 17 June 2014 at Singapore's Marina Bay Sands. (Yahoo photo)

Minister Yaacob also announced the implementation of “Above Ground Boxes”, which wrap around lamp posts and provide wireless optic fibre Internet connectivity outside buildings and on the street. Currently, three have been set up in the Jurong Lake District area, but the high-speed Internet will be used for government services first, followed by industry players who may build or offer services using the facility. 


Optic fibre Internet connection will be rolled out to public users at a later stage, added the IDA, which added that it aims to introduce at least 100 Above Ground Boxes throughout Singapore eventually — although it would not put a specific timeline to this.


Quick switching between 4G, Wi-Fi


The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is also initiating test trials for heterogenous network (HetNet) — which allows automated switching between cellular (GPRS, 3G, 4G) to wireless network, providing an uninterrupted web-surfing experience. 


Users on HetNet will be required to download an app that will enable the functionality, but it is expected to be offered as a premium service by telcos that offer it. The IDA says it will brief local telcos about this next month.


On Monday, Minister Yaacob also announced that spare bandwidth from unused free-to-air television channels in Singapore (also known as TV White Space) will be opened up for use to boost the speed and capacity of the country’s Wireless@SG network, among other potential services that could harness what is now being termed “Super Wi-Fi” — a superior wireless network that promises stronger, wider and speedier coverage over "blind" spots around Singapore, beyond what cellular networks can currently offer.


The IDA will implement specifications in its TV White Space framework for interested companies to provide services using it by November.

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