From Shanghai to Stockholm, cities across the globe are designing ambitious roadmaps to become smarter. Over in South East Asia, tiny Singapore has large aspirations this decade – to become the world’s first Smart Nation.

This week the city-state hosted the Smart Nations Innovation conference where investors, academics, techpreneurs and business leaders congregated to discuss how to wrestle urban issues including an aging population and overcrowded public transportation.

“Each country will stake out a different niche for itself. But our advantage is that we are compact, we have a single level of government, we can decide efficiently, and scale up successful experiments and pilots without any delay,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a speech on Monday.

“Also we are able to take a long-term view, and see through big transformations to the end, until they bear fruit for citizens.”

Leveraging big data, connectivity and IoT devices were key topics at the conference, which attracted an elite set of investors, corporate honchos and more than 200 top founders from across the globe.

As connectivity is a major pillar of the smart nation program, the  government will be launching trials for the heteregenous network (HetNet) in the third quarter at the local test-bed, Jurong Lake District. It could allow consumers to surf the internet at high-speeds without disruptions even in subways or elevators.  Singapore’s IDA has partnered with local telecom companies, which will deploy new equipment in lifts, subway stops and pedestrian walkways for the trial.

Singapore is currently deploying sensors across the country in populated areas such as bus stops or traffic intersections in order to gather data, which will then be sent back to relevant agencies for analysis. By using data to enhance services, Singapore believes it can better tackle its urban challenges like overcrowded public transportation, exacerbated by a swelling population in recent years.

The government is also planning to drive the use of IoT devices in homes to make them more connected and intelligent. Through the IoT@Home program, Singapore hopes to push the development of IoT applications and trials for homes particularly in areas of ageing and wellness among others.

Chinese companies offered support to Singapore during the conference. China and Singapore have worked together on smart city initiatives in the past, despite growing competition between competing products.  Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei was a strategic partner of the event, emphasizing their own role in building ICT infrastructure.

“The information society has become an irreversible trend. We are all part of the future now. Singapore’s Smart Nation plan is leading the nation into that future. Huawei, long committed to becoming the enabler of the information society, is moving in the same direction, ” said CEO Guo Ping.

While concerns over privacy have arisen given the staggering amount of data expected to be collected and processed, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore maintained that it is working closely to be compliant with Singapore’s data protection legislation.

Late last year, Prime Minister Loong launched Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, along with a designated test-bed for smart-city initiatives.

Sareena is a tech writer based in between Hong Kong and Manila. She covers start-ups and tech happenings in Hong Kong. Write to her:

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