IMDA looks to partner industry players, organisations and members of the public to co-create opportunities for innovation.
By Reena Nathan
Small, flying robots scope out buildings for structural deficiencies. Hospitals use virtual reality technologies to stage emergency scenarios for clinical training. Digitally savvy millennials use sensors and wearable tech to keep track of parents and grandparents.
While these might sound like scenes from a sci-fi movie, they could soon be a reality with the launch of the new Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) in Singapore on 30 September.
The agency is born out of a merger between Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority and Media Development Authority. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, called the convergence “necessary for Singapore to thrive in the new world”.
"Convergence is taking place all around us, from social media live broadcasts to Pokemon Go!” he said at the launch, which was held at Infinite Studios. “The IMDA’s mission is to lead Singapore forward into a digital future where infocomm media convergence and technological change will change the way we live, work and play.”
When asked what this might mean for businesses in the big data and analytics sector, Mr Eugene Goh Mugen, Customer Success Manager, Facerecog Asia, a data analytics firm headquartered in Singapore, said: “There is plenty of overlap between data and media solutions, and even service providers. So, the launch of the IMDA is a step in the right direction – it shows that Singapore is working towards streamlining these two sectors to reduce fragmentation and overlapping activities.”
The IMDA has outlined a three-pronged strategy to seize new opportunities in the infocomm media sector:
- Develop a strong infocomm sector
- Improve lives through infocomm technologies
- Build an environment of trust through regulation.
Initiatives to achieve these include equipping local enterprises with “smart” solutions. For instance, the IMDA is working with Singapore-based Gurusoft to develop and implement dock scheduling and queue management systems at shopping malls to reduce traffic congestion at loading and unloading bays. It is also working with Ascent Solutions – a local start-up player in the logistics technology sector – to implement state-of-the-art “urban locks” for cargo security and tracking, and to boost supply chain efficiency.
“Our urban locks, or ‘u-locks’, is just one example of Singapore’s ability to integrate Internet of Things technologies into seemingly unconnected areas like urban logistics,” said Lim Chee Kean, Chief Executive Officer of Ascent Solutions. “These partner initiatives could potentially further strengthen Singapore’s position as a leading global logistics hub in today’s digital age.”
Examples of other initiatives include a partnership with Canada-based Side Effects Asia Pacific to develop and use virtual reality content in clinical training to increase learning opportunities for medical trainees and ultimately produce higher quality medical professionals (pictured left). “The IMDA merger and our eventual partnership could not have happened at a better time as virtual reality has come of age for clinical, research and even classroom applications,” said Mr TK Ng, Managing Director, Side Effects Asia Pacific.
In fact, another partnership with international media production company, Beach House Pictures, and Hiverlab, a local company that specialises in virtual reality content production and system development, means that students will soon be able to virtually travel across Singapore from their classroom seats. All that is needed are virtual reality goggles.
“The merger places Singapore and its businesses in a better position to take advantage of the immersive potential of virtual reality across various sectors, like education,” Jim Ribbans, Beach House Pictures’ Head of Business Development, said. “With the launch of the IMDA, Singapore will now be able to withstand – and even benefit – from the transformation in the global infocomm and media landscape.”
The local community, too, stands to benefit. The IMDA is working with not-for-profit organisations, The Good Life Co-operative and SATA Commhealth, to implement sensor-based monitoring systems in homes and at community centres to allow patients, especially senior citizens, to receive care wherever is most comfortable and convenient for them. In turn, this will help reduce the patient load at local healthcare facilities.
For Raymond Tan, Vice-President (Sales and Marketing) of Aerolion Technologies, these initiatives mean one thing: the IMDA is serious about propelling Singapore forward in the digital age. “The convergence will enable Singapore’s media and technology industries, which were previously seen as separate, to interconnect more efficiently and seize new opportunities – reflecting the spirit and purpose of the IMDA,” he said.