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Smart mapping to help city planning

Esri's ArcGIS platform offers short-term efficiencies and long-term strategic planning advantages.

Mr Pramotedham says: "Today, advances in technology and smart nation initiatives are changing the way cities and organisations operate, and now location-based analytics is increasingly playing a bigger role in driving up this innovation."

AS one of the world's fastest growing cities it is important that Singapore leverages smart technologies to ensure that ongoing developments can meet the needs of citizens now and in the future, says Mr Thomas Pramotedham, chief executive officer of Esri Singapore. Esri helps cities and organisations leverage location-based analytics to develop sustainable solutions that allows them to solve real world challenges and deliver better business outcomes, he adds.

Esri Singapore is a geospatial solutions based company and a provider of the Esri ArcGIS platform. It is a part of the geospatial division of Singapore's oldest corporation Boustead Singapore which has been around since 1828. For the past 30 years, the division has been providing geospatial solutions to government agencies and commercial enterprises across Singapore, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Esri Singapore offers end-to-end geospatial solutions built on a location analytics platform called ArcGIS - a platform that can visualise, process and analyse multiple, large and complex geo-referenced data to produce business insights that provide users with short-term operational efficiencies to long-term strategic planning advantages.

"This is the platform that currently underpins the planning and development of many cities, smart transportation systems, law enforcement agencies and utilities networks worldwide," says Mr Pramotedham.

"The good news for organisations which have yet to invest in advanced geoanalytics or which have made substantial investments in other technologies is there are easy entry points for adopting and growing this capability." The Esri Platform is interoperable with a wide range of common enterprise systems such as SAP, IBM, SAS, Qlik, Microsoft, Autodesk, enabling users to geo-enable their business in a risk managed way and get more ROI from investments made earlier.

Esri's open and interoperable information and sense making platform, mashes and fuses wide varieties of data formats, imagery, 2D and 3D data, real time data, social media feeds, and demographic data among others to provide users with the flexibility in framing analytical problem sets and getting deeper understanding of possible solutions," says Mr Pramotedham.

The platform can be implemented as either a standalone or complementary system over several agile and manageable phases. And it's an investment that invariably pays for itself many times over, he adds.

"For the past 30 years we have been partnering some of Singapore's leading agencies to help the country overcome planning and infrastructure challenges. Whether it's managing Singapore's parks, designing neighbourhoods or monitoring disease outbreaks - our technology has been at the heart of Singapore's development and it will continue to do so as our growing community of users extend the power of location analytics to a broader audience," says Mr Pramotedham.

Powerful tools

"With Singapore's Smart Nation drive, organisations require scalable and powerful tools that would allow them to keep up and manage and get tangible returns from their big data. Our technology injects the space and time elements into any data analytics programme. Big data streams run at high velocity, and therefore the level of performance for processing big data is very important," he adds.

The Esri ArcGIS platform is very familiar with big data. In fact, it automatically and instantly allows users to extract insights from sensors and integrate them with data from multiple business systems to create a dynamic map based view of information.

"This allows users to easily unearth relationships, patterns, and trends that would have otherwise remained buried in static reports. Imagine the ability to visualise information not only by various mapped layers, in 2D or 3D but also across the spectrum of time, allowing users to observe and analyse spatial trends back and forth over periods and units of time," says Mr Pramotedham. It empowers users to take advantage of waves of IOT signals and information for better sense making. The platform integrates and fuses sensor feeds over layers of authoritative data to present compelling visualisations through an intuitive dashboard.

Giving an example, Mr Pramotedham says that LTA used geo-analytics to analyse hotspots of passenger crowding on public buses during peak hours and commuter travel patterns. This enabled them to improve public transport programmes and enhance commuter experience. "In fact, a growing number of Smart Nation projects in Singapore are supported by the ArcGIS platform, and these include LTA's PLANET (Planning for Land Transport Network), HDB's Iplan, SLA's 3D maps for Virtual Singapore, MSO's (Municipal Services Office) OneService@SG and even the local not for profit Food from the Heart's food collection service," he adds.

"Today, advances in technology and smart nation initiatives are changing the way cities and organisations operate, and now location-based analytics is increasingly playing a bigger role in driving up this innovation. Whether it's IOT, data analytics or 3D mapping, we have some of Singapore's most progressive agencies embracing the use of location-based analytics to seamlessly support their key business processes and operations."

The Singapore Land Authority for instance recently unveiled the Singapore Advanced Map, a planning system that integrates 2D maps and 3D models to support its operation, planning, policy formulation and risk management requirements.

Likewise, Singapore Power used the same technology for its Outage Management System (OMS) - a system designed to enhance the capability to respond to unplanned power outages and network disruptions, and sustain efforts to improve and deliver the highest standards.

Interestingly, retailers and mall owners are also turning to location-based analytics to improve store performance and overall mall space utilisation. Having this capability in place allows retailers to understand shopping trends and craft strategies to improve customer retention and drive up revenue.

Mr Pramotedham says that even clean tech companies have embraced the technology to integrate data from sensors such as SmartBins, Smart Compactus, and so on, to provide decision makers with the capability to maximise their mobile workforce and efficiently deploy vehicles and resources based on their capacity.

In the region, the local authorities in Kuala Lumpur use the ArcGIS platform to help reduce landslide casualties and to ensure sustainability of the city's development plans.

Petronas has been using the ArcGIS platform since 2006 to help decision makers strategically plan the company's domestic and international operations.

Mr Pramotedham says Asia Pulp and Paper (APP Sinar Mas) turned to the ArcGIS platform to enhance its capabilities for responding to and pre-empting peatland fires.

Telkom, a state-owned telecommunications company in Indonesia, uses the ArcGIS platform to visualise data such as customer location and demographics, market trends, and the device location such as their Optical Distribution Points (ODP) - to provide decision makers with greater clarity on the distribution of their customers and the extent of their network services. The insights generated through the technology help the company strategically install ODPs in areas where they have a high concentration of subscribers, ensuring high quality services in its phone, Internet, and cable TV offerings.

Transformation necessary

"Adopting smart technologies in today's era of digitalisation is no longer just an option - it's a necessity. Failure to embrace this trend can mean organisations missing crucial market opportunities and losing ground to their competitors," says Mr Pramotedham. "That is why organisations need to take smarter steps to adapt to new technologies instead of passively expecting technology to change the business. Entrepreneurs need to be prepared to undergo transformation of processes and workflows to fully optimise the new technologies available."

In addition, organisations cannot afford to take days or months to process and map out data - in the traditional manner of physical maps - which are required to make decisions on a regular basis. The deployment of location analytics turns those days or months into a matter of seconds or minutes to generate the necessary insights for timely decision making.

"The fast pace of digitalisation and the availability of various types of smart technologies has made us better equipped to address real world challenges now than ever before," says Mr Pramotedham.

"Digitalisation has also presented us with the opportunity to understand our world like never before. Actionable insights derived from smart technologies such as location-based analytics can allow organisations and entrepreneurs to chart innovative ways of making their products and services more inclusive, engaging and meaningful."

Local not for profit Food from the Heart, for instance, used a customised location-based analytics dashboard to help it collect and distribute food to as many beneficiaries as possible. This has enabled the organisation to better serve its 4,500 beneficiaries from more than 150 welfare homes, senior activity centres, self-collection centres and other needy families.

"Likewise, SingHealth uses the same technology to potentially save more lives by cutting the ambulance response times," says Mr Pramotedham.

Looking ahead, he says beyond Esri's engagement with Singapore's most progressive organisations is its commitment to develop and grow an inclusive ecosystem that will push the boundaries of geoanalytics.

"To do this, we have recently launched the Esri Singapore innovation and jumpstart programme which supports organisations that have a strategic business model or offer services that involve a location component or leverages a location strategy for success. Our commitment to creating an open and interoperable platform provides new businesses the ability to innovatively use reliable technology that keeps up with the needs of modern organisations," says Mr Pramotedham.

This programme aims to equip organisations with the capabilities to develop sustainable smart nation solutions that address real world challenges in the communities.

"In fact, the startup initiative we launched in June is a key component of this programme and we are looking at enabling 10 companies with location-based analytics capabilities that can help contribute to the growth of their businesses," he adds.