A peek into smart estates of the future


Singapore, October 6, 2016


A peek into smart estates of the future


Fancy having the fans switched on automatically on a hot day while walking along a sheltered walkway? Or the ability to monitor your power and water consumption on-demand? These could soon become a reality when the first smart estates in Singapore are ready starting from 2020.

 
Located in Punggol North, Bidadari and Tampines North, the smart estates are the result of the Housing Development Board's (HDB) Smart HDB Town framework, which promises to harness smart technologies to make Singapore's public housing estates more sustainable, liveable and safe for residents. Here's what you can expect in a smart estate of the future:
 
Data, Analytics and Simulation – Smart Planning
City planners usually rely on their experience and expertise when setting up new residential areas. Now, they can drill deeper into the impact of their decisions on residents using modelling tools that leverage computer simulation and data analytics. In creating a sustainable living environment, for instance, planners could use the tool to optimise the use of alternative energy sources, eco-friendly lighting and rainwater harvesting to achieve sustainability objectives.
 
Responsive Allocation – Carparks management
If you've ever come home to a full HDB carpark due to a surge in the number of visitors in the evening or on a public holiday, help is on the way. In a smart estate, intelligent parking demand management systems will reduce the number of visitor lots during peak periods so that residents with season parking passes will have ample parking lots. Conversely, more lots can be freed up for visitors during non-peak hours.
 
Iterative Design – Environment Control
With the use of sensor networks that will capture real-time data about the environment, such as relative humidity and current temperature, you can expect a more comfortable environment whether you're hosting a party in common areas or using the walkway from the multi-storey carpark to your apartment. The sensor data can be used to regulate fan speeds in common areas, to not only create a more pleasant environment but also reduce energy consumption.
 
Data as co-ordinates for better estate services
The same sensor networks can also capture data that will help estate managers anticipate issues and determine maintenance cycles. For example, with a sensor-enabled waste conveyance system, waste collection schedules can be tweaked based on the volume of waste collected. Also, data collected by sensors deployed on smart lighting systems can be used to map human traffic around the estate. This could be used to determine areas where additional footpaths are needed, as well as reduce lighting in areas with little footfall.
 
More recently, in August 2016, residents in Sengkang, an estate in northeast Singapore, welcomed the addition of a vending machine café that was conceived to address the manpower constraints in the food and beverage industry. Called Vendcafe, it dispenses hot meals in under three minutes, as well as ready-to-go snacks.
 
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted that the new machines are an experiment to “find ways of using technology without compromising consumers' desire for taste, health, nutrition and convenience”.
 
Connected devices and communities – Smarter homes
With digital infrastructures such as network points and fibre connectivity available to every home in a smart estate, residents can expect a slew of smart home applications, such as home energy management tools, telehealth services and elderly monitoring systems.
 
A smart elderly alert system, for example, could allow residents to monitor movements of their ageing parents in their homes using sensors. Caregivers could be alerted when unusual activities are detected, such as an immobile elderly person trying to get off the bed on her own. The system could incorporate panic buttons for the elderly to alert their children and caregivers during emergency situations.
 
With the necessary sensor devices and high-speed broadband networks, a smart home also makes it possible to deliver telehealth services. Caregivers, for example, could take the blood pressure of chronically ill patients remotely, and have that data sent to doctors at a hospital. If there are anomalies in the data, the doctor can schedule a video call with the patient for a face to face consultation.
 
Ever wanted a way to monitor your power and water consumption on-demand so you can avoid bill shocks? Smart home energy management systems will let you view how much energy you've consumed, as well as manage your appliances in real-time to minimise energy usage. Such systems have helped to reduce power consumption by 20 percent, according to a year-long pilot conducted by the HDB.
 
Smart estates the key to sustainability
Besides letting residents manage their energy consumption, a new generation of home energy management systems could tap on solar power to complement grid electricity. The solar power could be stored in batteries during the day for use at night. Based on weather reports, the system would also be able to predict how much solar energy to collect the next day.
 
With electric cars and autonomous vehicles expected to be more widely accepted over the next decade, smart estates will likely incorporate charging facilities that let drivers charge their vehicles using solar power. And if an estate’s power supply runs low, the electricity stored in batteries of electric vehicles could be used to power homes. The shared autonomous initiatives that are being planned by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority will also let residents also book a self-driving buggy that takes them from their nearest subway station to their homes.
 
However, it’s not just the authorities that are leading the charge in developing smart estates. Residents and students, too, are expected to play a bigger role in enhancing their living spaces with technology through crowd-sourcing initiatives and hackathons. Earlier in June 2016, the HDB organised a three-day hackathon to encourage people to develop technological applications to improve the quality of life in smart estates.
 
Said HDB chief executive officer Cheong Koon Hean in a media statement: “There are opportunities for everyone to play a part in shaping the HDB living environment and to make it better, according to how they see it”.