Singapore announced its Smart Nation initiative in 2014, a nationwide effort to harness technology across a wide swathe of areas and sustain its position as a leading global hub worldwide. Since then, the country has emerged first in the 2017 Global Smart City Performance Index and came as first-runner up at the OXD’s 2018/2019 Smart City Government ranking.
China, on the other hand, is a world leader that aims to shore up its smart city credentials, with more than 500 smart cities being built to date. China’s goal of making smart cities a commonplace for citizens has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its transformative effect on society.
In order to drive further cooperation between Singapore and China to achieve these shared goals, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and KrASIA jointly organized the Singapore x Asia Innovation Partnership Forum 2020.
During our first session, held virtually on 3 September 2020, guests from CapitaLand, Zhencheng Investment, Gobi Partners, ST Engineering, JD Digital, Anacle, M1, Shui On Land, Huidu Environmental, Moovaz, Shiyu Technology, and Viatick gathered to share their thoughts.
The following piece is a summary of insights shared by our speakers adapted for public release.
Beh Kian Tek, Singapore Economic Development Board, executive vice president
The Singaporean government has always welcomed partners from all corners of the world to invest in us and use Singapore as a springboard into Asian markets.
Singapore has indeed faced challenges in urban design, such as a shortage of medical resources and traffic congestion issues, which can impede innovation and progress. However, problems encountered in the process of development can ultimately be resolved through development itself. Singapore has successfully optimized maintenance mechanisms for its public transportation systems and enhanced the service experience for medical services through remote diagnosis and treatment technologies. We believe that serving the wider community is a key starting point to achieve the goal of building a smart city.
Aylwin Tan, CapitaLand Group, chief customer solutions officer
Although it is a renowned real estate player in Asia, CapitaLand’s vision doesn’t stop at simply constructing buildings. Rather, CapitaLand wants to participate actively in digital transformation and in discovering new technologies. Presently, companies in the industry face challenges due to digital transformation needs, as well as changing social policies, talent demands, and business models. CapitaLand is exploring the construction of smart office buildings and smart shopping malls while keeping an eye on new developments in smart property management, 5G, smart travel, and smart agriculture.
Li Jianwei, Zhencheng Capital, founder and managing partner
Smart city construction in China has received strong government support. For example, the widespread use of health codes during the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a smart city initiative under the auspicious of the government. If Chinese companies want to seize smart city trends, they need to be leaders in technology, but also, they need to try to get in touch with government procurement processes. Strong government support is a unique advantage that Chinese companies can benefit from when striving for leadership in the industry.
Ku Kay-Mok, Gobi Partners, managing partner
It is common to overestimate the changes that technology can generate in the short term, but simultaneously, underestimate the changes that it can generate in the long term. The essence of a smart city is the ability to transform an “Internet world” to a”world of Internet of Things.” Southeast Asia alone has insufficient resources to build smart cities. China’s advantages in hardware technology should be combined with advanced software from other countries before being adapted to the local Southeast Asian market to drive development. In addition, Chinese companies can use Southeast Asia as a springboard to enter wider global markets because the costs of trial and error are low, and successful products are difficult to dislodge from local markets.
Chew Men Leong, ST Engineering, chief marketing officer
5G technology will play an important role in the construction of smart cities because of its key role in closed-loop automation sectors such as autonomous driving and big data analysis. Governments in China and Southeast Asia should recognize this, while understanding that the construction of smart cities needs to involve private enterprise. The government should play a matchmaking role to ensure that it maximizes the advantages each player brings to the table. At the moment, ST Engineering is cooperating actively with local governments in Fujian, Yunnan, and other locations in China.
Nathan Yao, JD Digits, vice president
JD.com has implemented new smart city technologies extensively across Beijing, Xiong’an, Hebei, Nantong, and Jiangsu. We believe that data integration is key to building a smart city. Currently, companies possess large amounts of data, and weaving these isolated islands of data into an interconnected network can optimize production capacity and generate new opportunities. There is room for improvement in this regard for future policymakers and private enterprises.
Alex Lau, Anacle, CEO
Developing countries are not necessarily going to be relegated to the backseat in smart city construction. These countries are blank sheets of paper, and as long as local governments have firm goals, and established Chinese companies can do a good job in localizing their products, Southeast Asia’s developing economies can also catch up. However, companies need to pay particular attention to the demand characteristics when developing smart technologies, so that they can solve pain points in the market.
Clifton Chin, M1 Limited, head of Smart Services, Product Management, Digital Office
M1 is insistent on using smart technologies to improve standards of living in the community. The company cooperates extensively with other industry partners and government agencies, with a particularly strong interest in security monitoring, Internet of things (IoT) platforms, and adapting technologies to an aging society. In the future, M1 hopes to continue participating in various verticals of smart city construction.
Blair Wei, Shui On Land, senior business strategy manager, Executive Office
Shui On wants to focus on the human element of smart city construction across its projects and hopes that startups will share common interests when seeking co-operation. It also hopes that startups will possess a deep understanding of the challenges faced by the real estate industry when seeking partnerships.
Aina Chai, Huidu Environmental, president
Huidu Environmental focuses on creating packaging materials that can be used smartly and efficiently. On the business-to-business (B2B) side, Huidi hopes to help customers realize advancements in product information, and help e-commerce companies upgrade their management systems. On the business-to-consumer (B2C) side, Huidu focuses on product safety and tracking during transportation.
Danielle Lin, Moovaz, head of Marketing and Data
Efficient and smart-technology optimized moving services can be very helpful in constructing smart cities. Moovaz collects user feedback and operational data extensively at various nodes in the whole process to optimize its services and increase transparency. The firm also believes that knowledge sharing between industries is integral to achieving win-win solutions
Xu Qiang, Shiyu Technology, CEO
Accurate GPS services are indispensable to constructing smart cities and helping them transition from a purely physical to digital space. Shiyu Technology uses geomagnetic technology to develop advanced positioning systems to connect various city landmarks. Globalization is necessary for technology companies, but in the process of internationalization, firms need to adopt technology to suit local markets.
Zeal Zhu, Viatick, vice head of operations
Geolocation services have broad application potential in smart city development, such as in asset management and allocation of medical resources. Viatick benefitted greatly from government resources over its growth trajectory, such as support in developing intellectual property, carrying out proof-of-concept work, and approving projects. In the future, Viatick hopes to cooperate extensively with other companies and governments to refine city construction.
CapitaLand, ST Engineering, Anacle, M1 Limited, Moovaz, and Viatick are Singaporean companies that are actively looking for Chinese partners to establish cross-border partnerships. If you are interested in making contact with them, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Singapore x Asia Innovation Partnership Forum, this time focusing on fintech opportunities and insights across the region. For our latest event updates, subscribe to our newsletter.