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Harnessing the Internet of Things to improve lives

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Mr Steve Leonard
Singapore can lead the world in the use of analytics to achieve these goals, says Mr Steve Leonard of IDA.

The Internet is poised for its next big transformation, and Singapore is well positioned to harness its potential to improve people’s lives.

Since it went mainstream in the 1990s, there have been tremendous changes in what is known as the Internet, said Mr Rajnesh Singh, Regional Director of the Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau at the Internet Society. Rudimentary HTML-driven navigation has given way to interactive Web 2.0, and the Internet is now being used for applications such as telephony, video conferencing. video streaming and the like.

The next transformation will be the Internet of Things, where machines and devices start to talk to each other. This is where things will start to change in sectors such as logistics, environment management, food and beverage and many others, said Mr Singh, who was delivering the welcome speech at the Internet of Things Singapore Conference on 6 December. “It will help improve the way we do things, improve lives. The opportunities are tremendous.”

And Singapore is positioning itself to take advantage of these opportunities, with its aspirations to become a smart nation.

“Singapore can lead the world in the use of analytics to improve people’s lives,” said Mr Steve Leonard (pictured above), Executive Deputy Chairman of IDA.

Sharing his thoughts on “How the Internet of Things will change everything you know today and its relevance to Singapore”, Mr Leonard said it can “help solve problems before they become problems”.

He cited the example of healthcare, where Singapore is harnessing data and analytics to transform the way certain chronic diseases are being managed. For example, instead of having diabetic patients spend extended periods of time in hospitals, there are other ways of providing them with care in a meaningful way while offloading some of the strain on the healthcare infrastructure.

Analytics can be used to determine the patient’s condition, lifestyle choices, the environment in which they live and work, and through that, better understand their behaviour. If the data suggests that patient is likely to forget to take his medication, healthcare providers can devise a way to remind him to do so. Or if the patient has financial issues and has problems settling his medical bills, a payment plan could be developed to help him address the issue. “Roughly 400 factors go into this calculation, and out of that comes a personalised regime to help the person remember to take medicine and to escalate the care if needed,” he noted.

Healthcare is one of the sectors where there are tremendous opportunities for Singapore tech companies to develop solutions in the Internet of Things, data and analytics. “Healthcare is an example of an area where there are local and global opportunities to push the use of data analytics to improve people’s lives, “said Mr Leonard. Other promising sectors include financial services, because Singapore is already a financial services hub and the industry is already a big user of data; and manufacturing, which is one of the pillars of the Singapore economy.

Also presenting at the conference was Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director of A*Star’s Institute of Infocomm Research, who shared the vision of a City Dashboard, backed by a secure and scalable data exchange. The dashboard will allow agencies to monitor data from a wide range of sensors deployed across Singapore, for example, sensors to monitor noise levels at Clementi and sensors on Jurong Island that can detect the smell of hydrocarbons.

The opportunities and implementation challenges facing the Internet of Things in the retail and logistics sectors were also discussed at the conference. Mr CK Lim of Ascent Solutions highlighted the challenges in the logistics sector when he covered business cases and the limitations of RF technology in his presentation on “Sense and Response Logistics”. Mr Ching Yin Sing, Director, Strategic Business Development, NCS, spoke about opportunities for using video analytics in the retail industry.

With the Internet of Things, data and analytics, Singapore has a great opportunity to do something on a bigger stage, said Mr Leonard. The challenge for tech companies here is to solve problems that are important to a lot of people and also important to Singapore. “To do this, we have to be big enough and small enough,” he said. “Big enough to be relevant; and small enough to experiment, practise and learn.”