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IoT and the Smart Nation

last updated 03 November 2017
Prof Toh Chai Keong

Sensing capabilities enabled by IoT will drive the development of Smart Nation applications, but interoperability remains a challenge, says Prof Toh Chai Keong of IDA.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the essential elements for Singapore to realise its vision of a Smart Nation. “Without sensing capabilities, we cannot build context and intelligence, we cannot build Smart Nation applications and from there develop the smart services that we envisage,” said Professor Toh Chai Keong, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

Prof Toh was speaking at a panel discussion on the IoT  at the CommunicAsia Summit, one of the events taking place under the umbrella of the Infocomm Business Media Exchange 2015.

It is estimated that IoT is set to create a US$19 trillion global opportunity. Moderating the panel discussion, Mr Michael Gryseels, Director, McKinsey & Company, said 2015 is the year that IoT peaks in terms of the hype cycle. “It is getting into the vocabulary of enterprises, and use cases are starting to become real,” he said.

In Singapore, IDA is working with industry and public sector partners to develop a Smart Nation Platform (SNP), which comprises a connectivity layer and a sensing and IoT layer. “We believe that with sensors and IoT, the environment will become more and more intelligent and interactive,” said Prof Toh. “With smart sensing and smart meters, we will be able to generate useful data, drive analytics and develop applications in smart health, smart transport and smart living.”

One obstacle to these plans, however, is the fragmented nature of the IOT world as it stands today, and this is an important issue that IDA is looking to address.

From the government’s perspective, standards are very important, said Prof Toh. “We want IoT devices to interoperate so that they can be deployed pervasively across the country as we roll out sensors across the Smart Nation.”

Prof Toh Chai Keong

Prof Toh Chai Keong: “We have to make sure that security is in place before we introduce smart applications to the nation.”

IDA is working with ecosystem partners to make progress in this space, and also carry out trials and test bedding for IoT applications. Prof Toh pointed out that Singapore presents a good location for driving these efforts, with its reputation as one of the easiest places in the world to do business and its top ranking in the 2015 World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report for network readiness.

Security is another important aspect of IoT that Singapore is addressing. While there are significant economic benefits to collecting and opening up data for sharing, there is also the danger of data being misused.

Mindful of this, the approach that Singapore has taken is that data used in Smart Nation applications should be anonymised so that the origin and source of the data cannot be traced. Security efforts also have to cut across the entire IoT spectrum, whether it is protecting devices, putting in access control measures, writing security code, or looking at security from the policy perspective, said Prof Toh. “We have to make sure that security is in place before we introduce smart applications to the nation.”

Besides Singapore’s perspective on IoT and the Smart Nation, the panel discussion also covered the changing role of telcos, how companies have to determine where they sit in the IoT value chain, and the changing needs of a new generation of consumers. Panellists included Mr Dmitri Chen, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Specialty Sales, Asia Pacific and Japan, EMC; Mr Barry Lerner, Chief Information Officer, Southern Pacific Solutions Marketing, Huawei; Mr Rangu Salgame, Chief Executive Officer, Growth Ventures and Service Provider Group, Tata Communications; and Mr Loo Boon Chee, Head, IoT Development, Smart & Safe City, SingTel - NCS.