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Singapore: the world’s smartest city

We already know about the smart cities of New York and Antwerp, but what does a smart city look like on the streets and in the homes of Singapore?


Singapore as a Smart City

Singapore is the smartest city in the world, according to the IMD’s inaugural Smart City Index.  

Its Smart Nation initiative was launched in 2014 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and three years later benefited from a government injection of SGD$2.4 billion (then equivalent to US$1.73 billion).

The aim is to create a city powered by digital innovation and technology that responds to citizens’ ever-changing needs.

Let's dig in.



5 ways Singapore is transforming its urban landscape:

#1. Mobility as a shared community experience

Land is at a premium in high-density Singapore, where just 12% has been set aside for transport infrastructure.

To optimize transport efficiency, utilizing sensor technology, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) has created an autonomous fleet to help the city’s elderly and disabled residents stay mobile.

At the same time, students at the National University of Singapore can be ferried around campus on a self-driving shuttle.

There's more.

To help with transport optimization, public data – or ‘open data’ – is being used in a trial to facilitate transport planning. Data from fare cards to sensors in more than 5,000 vehicles, and the real-time tracking of busses, is analyzed.

The result?

The trial has reduced the rate of over-crowded buses by 92%. 

Contactless payment technology is being used to streamline the movements and payments of the 7.5 million passengers who use public transport each day. As in an increasing number of cities, commuters can pay using contactless cards or mobile wallets. 

These are just some of the many transport projects in Singapore.

The city is also running a Smart Mobility 2020 initiative, a joint venture between the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA) and the Intelligent Transportation Society of Singapore, to enhance commuters’ travel experience by the development of intelligent transport systems.

Meanwhile, the Travel Smart Programme aims to more evenly distribute morning peak hour travel demand on the rail network in three ways: encouraging citizens to re-think

  • when they travel,
  • how they travel (for example, switching to bicycles)
  • reducing the amount they travel (encouraging working remotely).

#2. Healthier citizens

By 2050, 47% of Singapore’s population will be 65 or older.

To reduce the pressure of an aging population on the city’s care services, Singapore has digitized its healthcare system

TeleHealth video consultations offer appointments over the internet when in-person visits are not possible, while TeleRehab allows patients to undergo exercises in their own home – wearable Internet of Things (IoT) devices monitor patients’ progress and transmit the data to their therapist over a wireless network. 

Robotics in Singapore is helping to reduce loneliness in an aging population.

How is that possible?

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered ‘chatbots’ talk to the elderly, tell them about community activities, and integrate messages that promote healthy living.
  • The AI-powered  Smart Elderly Alert System monitors and learns people’s regular movements, alerting a caregiver when something out of the ordinary occurs, and urgent care might be required.

#3. "There's an app for that"

The phrase became increasingly familiar as smartphone use grew, and in Singapore, this couldn’t be more apt, as an estimated 90% of its population own smartphones.

Through Smart Nation, citizens can report municipal issues, hail self-driving vehicles, receive location-specific environmental alerts on air quality, temperature, and rainfall, monitor smart meter energy output, and access information tailored to young families and elderly residents – all through a network of apps. 

#4. Supporting business

Singapore’s Punggol Digital District merges the Singapore Institute of Technology with a business park.

This district aims to foster development in cybersecurity and IoT technologies by enabling better integration between industry and academia,

A data-sharing collaborative, the Data Innovation Programme Office, has also been established, to encourage transparent business interactions. And businesses that transact directly with the government can now do so through CorpPass, an online hub that enhances what the city calls “cyber hygiene”.

#5. Learning to be smart

Singapore is educating using artificial intelligence, under its TechSkills Accelerator programme, Two initiatives – AI for Everyone and AI for Industry – led by AI Singapore – will support the upskilling of 12,000 professionals and students in AI.

These initiatives encourage citizens to be part of the change towards the city becoming “digitally ready”, and proactively spearhead this movement. 

The city also has a digital national identity system, a Smart National Sensor Platform, and Virtual Singapore – a 3D digital model of the city that can run simulations and support future planning – to name just a few hi-tech innovations.

Through data- and technology-driven initiatives like these, Singapore has created a leading smart ecosystem that places citizens at its heart.


More resources on smart cities

  • Top 10 smart cities in the world: London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Berlin, Amsterdam, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Forbes 8 July 2020
  • Top 10 smart cities in the United States: New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas, San Diego, Miami, Houston, and Seattle. IESE business school. Cities in motion 2020.
  • Best smart cities in the U.K.: Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Cambridge, Bristol, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds. COMPUTERWORLD May 2019
  • India's Smart Cities Mission: The Indian Government's program for smart city development
  • Smart cities in IndiaIndia's smart cities challenge nominees
  • The European innovation partnership on smart cities and communities (the European Commission)
  • Smart Dubai uses a dashboard to fight COVID 19 (Smart Cities World - 10 December 2020)
  • Six essential technologies that make smart cities: smart energy, transportation, data, infrastructure, mobility, and devices. TechRepublic August 2016
  • Impact of the Internet of things on smart cities KPMG May 2019
  • 7 ways cities are getting smarter by Thales
  • Smart ports: Examples around the world