Arup, Aecom join Singapore’s smart-homes-for-all team

Arup and Aecom are among the consultants picked for a team of technology and engineering companies looking for ways to use digital "smart" technology to make Singapore a more pleasant and efficient place to live.

The Smart Urban Habitat Masterplan (SUHMP) is intended to improve the lives of people living in public housing, which, in Singapore is about 80% of the population. The initiative, which is part of a wider Smart Nation Programme, is being overseen by the city state’s Housing & Development Board (HDB).

Residents of the Yuhua estate, HDB’s prototype smart homes scheme (HDB)

The US$7.4m deal was signed on Monday (11 July) at the World Cities Summit.

Cheong Koon Hean, HDB’s chief executive, said: "We are living in a fast-changing urban landscape, with new planning issues to tackle and new housing needs to meet. We need new partnerships and innovative ideas to keep HDB moving forward. The signing of the collaboration today will enable HDB to tap new ideas and expertise in the industry."

The implementation team is led by Singaporean IT group National Computer Systems (NCS) and, as well as the UK and US engineers, it includes Korean technology firm Samsung.

The question of exactly how digital technology will help Singapore’s tenants is the first problem that the team will tackle.

Arup says on its website that it "will be identifying and recommending a series of ‘smart initiatives’ that the HDB can consider for deployment. These initiatives can include a variety of estate enhancing services such as smart community services and implementation of gamification tools to engage residents and foster closer community living".

During the initial phase of the SUHMP consultancy, the team will be holding workshops with HDB and other government agencies. The masterplan will then set out what project will be implemented.

Technology is used to help us with the challenges we face at home on a daily basis, to make our family’s lives as well as our own even better– Grace Fu, Singapore’s culture, community and youth minister

A guide to the kind of projects these might be is given by the Yuhua estate, HDB’s prototype smart homes scheme. This demonstration project, which involved 3,194 apartments, was launched in April.

The digital improvements included smart meters to decrease electricity and water wastage – householders can check their smartphones to monitor their use, and get an alert when they pass a certain threshold. It also involved motion sensors that check that elderly people are active.

The apartment blocks were last year fitted with a pneumatic waste removal and processing system.

Further improvements are planned over the next two years, and the NCS team will work with government agencies to implement them.

HDB’s presentation of its plans for Yuhua can be seen here.

Grace Fu, Singapore’s culture, community and youth minister, said feedback received from the initial trial showed the devices were "easy to use and non-intrusive". She said: "This is what we want to achieve with Smart Home devices. Where technology is used to help us with the challenges we face at home on a daily basis, to make our family’s lives as well as our own even better."

Top image: 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing, such as this HDB-owned residential estate in Ghim Moh (Erwin Soo/Wikimedia Commons)

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