Lifestyle

S'pore's Smart Future Looks Amazing, But Should We Be Worried About Our Privacy?

In case you don’t already know, Singapore is gearing up to be the world’s first ‘Smart Nation’. The Infocomm Development Authority (or IDA) released a statement in June this year about their plans to revolutionize the way we use technology in our daily lives, making our future in Singapore as ‘smart’ as possible.

Last Sunday, IDA released a video that now makes it possible for us to see this future in our own eyes. A peek into the future, if you will.

The video follows a day in a life of a typical three-generation Singaporean family, and following each family member in how technology will improve their daily activities, and even bring a family closer together. Various aspects of the IDA plan were covered in this video, from home living, mobility, to healthcare and integrated municipal services.

From Vision To Reality

image credit: 'Smart Nation, Better Living' video by IDA Singapore
Image Credit: ‘Smart Nation, Better Living’ video by IDA Singapore

From what we see in the video, it is almost seems like the future that creators of ‘The Jetsons’ envisioned, with technology in every aspect of the home and workplace. The mother checks on an app to check the route to her daughter’s school and the time for the bus to arrive, the elderly grandparents make a video call with a health specialist, and the breadwinner of the family checks on his family through notifications on his tablet.

Many of the apps and technology shown in the video were also exhibited on Sunday at ITE College Central, where the National Day Rally was held. The MyTransport.SG mobile app used in the video is a creation of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), providing users information on bus arrivals, available car parks, and traffic conditions on the roads. They are also developing a new business intelligence platform – Planning for Land Transport Network (PLANET) – to help commuters have more efficient and pleasant journeys.

Image Credit: 'Smart Nation, Better Living' video by IDA Singapore
Image Credit: ‘Smart Nation, Better Living’ video by IDA Singapore

The elderly couple in the video engage in tele-rehabilitation, an initiative by National University of Singapore and National University Health System, allowing the elderly to perform supervised rehabilitation exercises at home. The Housing Development Board’s Smart Elderly Monitoring and Alert System will then allow caregivers to monitor the elderly who live alone without intrusion, giving them peace of mind.

Other apps not highlighted in the video include myENV, a mobile app developed by the National Environment Agency that provides important environmental information, such as rainfall and Pollutant Standard Index (PSI), and provides feedback portal for environmental issues such as littering; and a Police Camera (PolCam) project by the Singapore Police Force to record information necessary to assist in investigative work.

The Issues On The Flipside

As part of the Smart Nation project, the IDA is developing a Smart Nation Platform (SNP), which will bring Singapore closer to becoming a ‘Smart Nation’ with three focus areas: Connect, Collect, and Comprehend. This way, they aim to improve citizens, businesses, and government agencies’ ability to leverage technology in everything they do.

Image Credit: Yahoo! Singapore
Image Credit: Yahoo! Singapore

According to Today, the final phase of SNP will be available in 2015, making the future very visible in our horizon. However, there are concerns being raised. Though the implementations have its benefits, the road to getting there seems to include large amounts of data collection that may seem intrusive. For example, The Police Force’s PolCam, which has been installed in 350 HDB blocks, have reportedly solved 18 crime cases and provided leads in another 109 cases, but will create a level of surveillance that not many Singaporeans will feel comfortable with. Other than the PolCam, ST Electronics’ smoker detection system relies on cameras to monitor for smokers, and NCS’s technology uses video analytics software to watch for illegal parking.

A ZDNet article also points out that there are privacy issues that should be addressed about how the relationship between the government agencies and private companies working together on SNP will be affected by the Personal Data Protection Act. Since the PDPA does not apply to ‘public information’, which set of rules will the information collected by the SNP be dealt under?

Hopefully, these issues will be addressed. The glimpse of Singapore as a Smart Nation looks captivating and full of potential, and does not need sensitive privacy issues plaguing this beautiful image of the future.

 

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