What will tomorrow’s cities look like? Probably like Singapore. Siemens has teamed up with this city-state’s government to develop smart city concepts that could become models for the rest of the world.
by Bernd Müller
The term “smart city” has become a buzzword – one that is not always used correctly. But if there’s one city that can undeniably be called smart, it’s Singapore. This 719 square kilometer island state of about 5.6 million people is vigorously promoting the digital transformation of its services to optimize the management of its infrastructures.
Boasting the world’s largest container port and the regional headquarters of many international companies, Singapore is an ideal laboratory for Siemens, where it can develop and test solutions for smart cities, the Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0. With this in mind, on July 11, 2017, the company launched its “Digitalization Hub.” Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong traveled to Munich, the company’s headquarters, to officially launch the facility together with Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser in a live-broadcast ceremony.
The Hub integrates expertise regarding the digital transformation of services covering urban infrastructures, industrial processes, healthcare and energy. A total of 130 specialists work there today, and plans call for that figure to reach 300 over the next five years.
The Hub is part of the Siemens’ Urban MindSphere Application Center. This is where experienced engineers, together with young, ambitious data and software experts put ideas into practice using MindSphere, the cloud-based operation system from Siemens for Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things.
There are 36 MindSphere Application Centers all over the world, from Austin to Perth and from Oslo to São Paulo, but Singapore stands out. While the other centers are assigned to specific business units and primarily develop applications associated with those units, their technologies and products, the Singapore center is the first regional hub to focus mainly on urban infrastructures. In most cases it deals with real problems faced by the company’s customers. Whenever possible, the issues are solved with existing Siemens products or through ideas from other Siemens centers. “You don't need to constantly reinvent the wheel,” says Steffen Endler, who heads the Hub and its associated Urban MindSphere Application Center. “But wherever there are gaps between what’s available today and what is required, that’s where we come in.”
Endler, who has lived and worked in Singapore for more than ten years, built up the Digitalization Hub. “In Singapore people understand digitalization issues very well, and we can learn a lot from one another. It’s the perfect environment for us,” he says. His team has many projects in the pipeline, each one more exciting than the next. Here are three examples:
Switching to Robo Shuttles
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport plans to make three districts ready for autonomous vehicles (AV) by 2023. The project focuses on public transport and has detailed plans on routes and schedules to be plied by driverless buses and shuttles. The idea is to meet the needs of many citizens for individualized first- and last-mile trips. “These plans are very challenging, but nevertheless doable,” says Endler. “While other cities are only talking about such projects, Singapore is getting down to business.”
Endler and his colleagues are working with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – one of the best in the world – on the country’s first AV test center. The center is designed to support the realization of the city state’s plans. Set up by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), NTU and JTC, a Singaporean state owned real estate company, the test center aims to validate vehicular technologies and infrastructures by subjecting them to simulated real-world environments such as intersections, slopes, bus bays, obstacles and weather conditions.
Singapore’s Ministry of Transport plans to make three districts ready for autonomous vehicles (AV) by 2023.
Smart infrastructures can play a major role in terms of enhancing the safety, efficiency and harmonization of AV fleets. Roadside sensors, smart traffic controllers, and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies are utilized to optimize the smooth and coordinated flow of traffic. In addition, machine learning is being applied to associated areas, such as sensor data fusion, traffic pattern simulations, and demand management. Siemens is providing its expertise in all these areas at the test center.
Smarter Buildings and Safer Roads
Another project that the Singapore Hub is driving is the use of data to optimize the performance, comfort and energy use of buildings. Here, indoor air quality data and weather data, occupant usage patterns and system records are analyzed to identify areas of improvement so that measures can be taken pro-actively. In this connection, Siemens’ team is partnering with a global hotel chain and a local university to co-create solutions.
Siemens has been awarded a contract by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority to equip the city’s North-South Corridor (NSC) with an integrated traffic and central management system. The 21.5 km NSC, which includes 12.5 km of tunnels and 9 km of viaduct, is Singapore’s first integrated transport corridor that connects towns in the northern region to the city center. The Digitalization Hub has developed a first-in-the-world Integrated Highway and Tunnel Management Suite to ensure a high level of safety, system reliability and sustainability for road users and tunnel operators. This software will integrate various traffic control sub systems such as closed circuit TV cameras, automatic incident detection, road closure devices and dynamic signs that Siemens is also providing.
All of these projects are ambitious, but thanks to the close cooperation between the Singapore government and Siemens, they are also realistic. Endler has no doubts on that score. “Singapore is known for excellence, long-term planning, and farsighted thinking,” he says. “And Siemens will be an important partner helping Singapore to prepare for the new digital economy.”
Picture credits: from top: 4. and 5. picture Bloomberg/gettyimages
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