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Trialling of Smart Nation services progressing well: IDA

Smart Nation drive creating an environment that provides new growth, market opportunities for firms here, it says

There is a need to try out new ideas, some will fail but others may succeed, says Mr Leonard


WORK on the Smart Nation is progressing well and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is leading the drive to prototype various technologies and services.

Speaking to The Business Times on Wednesday, on the sidelines of CommunicAsia 2015, Steve Leonard, IDA's executive deputy chairman, noted that trialling and prototyping the HetNet (heterogenous network) is progressing in the Jurong Lake District.

HetNet will make it possible to use various communication technologies in order to ensure strong connectivity which is vital for the various smart services that would be available in Singapore.

Mr Leonard also noted that trials were being conducted on some services that are part of the Smart Nation vision. One is the autonomous vehicle trial being done in the one-north area. In this trial, self-driving vehicles are being tried out on the roads to see their viability to argument Singapore's transportation network. It is envisioned that people with disabilities can avail of these vehicles if they prove to be roadworthy.

Another important trial is being done by National University Hospital to see if remote healthcare is viable. In this trial, patients are being monitored at home with smart devices so that they can be provided earlier intervention in order to reduce the number of visits to hospital.

To emphasise the importance of these healthcare trials, Mr Leonard cited the statistics that one per cent of hospital patients in the United States account for 23 per cent of healthcare costs. His point is that a viable remote healthcare set-up can dramatically reduce healthcare costs in Singapore by having fewer number of people getting admitted to hospitals.

On a more general note, Mr Leonard observed that the Smart Nation drive can be successful only if all age groups can be brought on board to use technology with an open mind. Be curious and see what happens as nothing great has been achieved in human history by someone saying let's take this small incremental step and not try anything dramatic - there is a need to try out new ideas, some will fail but others may succeed, he said.

"If you limit your Smart Nation journey to something like, look I have a new booking app for this (or that) and so we have a Smart Nation, then that's very incremental progress and really does not change the lives of people." He added that he is trying to push the idea that we can do more, such as having a pill with a chip embedded in it to monitor our health or location bracelets for people with dementia. "Let's not say all this is too scary or it's a breach of privacy. If we are nervous then let's discuss the issue and not take it off the table."

IDA announced at CommunicAsia 2015 that the Smart Nation drive is creating an environment that provides new growth and market opportunities for businesses in Singapore.

Various initiatives launched to support the Smart Nation vision are showing encouraging results. Mr Leonard noted that one such initiative is Accreditation@IDA that helps young innovative Singapore-based technology companies build their credentials in order to be in a better position to win projects from government agencies and large enterprises. Eight companies have been accredited in less than a year since the initiative took off in July 2014. Of these eight accredited companies, KAI Square and Inspire-Tech have successfully won two new government projects, and three more projects are undergoing final evaluations. These are estimated to be worth more than S$1 million each.

"We set up the Accreditation@IDA programme to help promising Singapore-based young tech companies grow their business, as well as to bring new innovation into government services. With the robustness of the accreditation process, the participating companies have been able to improve the quality of their products and business structures," he said.

He added that IDA has worked with government CIOs (chief information officers) to open doors for the accredited companies, helping them bring their new ideas and technologies to key stakeholders and decision makers across the government.

"The results so far have been amazing, with accredited companies having developed a pipeline of more than 100 projects in cooperation with at least 50 agencies, worth potentially many millions of dollars to these small companies," Mr Leonard said.

Separately, IDA announced that the first major phase of the Multi-Tier Cloud Security (MTCS) Singapore Standard (SS) 584 has been completed and 13 Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are now certified across different tiers. The MTCS standard is the world's first cloud security standard that covers multiple tiers of cloud security. It can be applied by CSPs to meet differing cloud user needs for data sensitivity and business criticality. An IDA spokeswoman said in Singapore's drive to become a Smart Nation, such security clarity is a key part of building trust through transparency as cloud grows in importance.

She added that the MTCS standard seeks to drive cloud adoption across industries by giving clarity around the security service levels of cloud providers, while also increasing the level of accountability and transparency from CSPs. Certification of the CSP is carried out by accredited third-party certification bodies.

In a related announcement, IDA said that in order to ensure greater security assurance for data sensitivity and business criticality for enterprises, IDA will be launching a new programme named Support for Cloud-enabled Certified Secure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Success in short.

Success seeks to collaborate with MTCS-certified Infrastructure-as-a-Service CSPs to encourage and support more Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) with SaaS offerings towards MTCS certification. ISVs sign on to host their services on a Success partner for a range of incentives. In return, they will undertake MTCS certification for their SaaS, encouraging their adoption of sound risk management and security practices.

Some of these incentives can include SaaS Enablement Support, Training & Professional Services Support, Technical Consultancy Support and Discounted Pricing for Cloud Services, IDA said.