Singapore’s status as a Smart Nation is internationally recognised. The city-state ranks first in the Global city performance index 2017Innovfest unbound, the anchor event of Singapore’s Smart Nation Innovations Week, is the perfect opportunity to update ourselves on the projects currently developed by the Smart Nation, in collaboration with universities, startups and the private sector.

Innovfest unbound is organised by Unbound and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore, one of the world’s top universities.  The event is also supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the government agency responsible of new technologies. It gathered over 13,400 entrepreneurs, corporates, government agencies, institutes of higher learning, investors and tech startups during two days (5-6th of June).

Why is Singapore the smartest city in the world?

Singapore is an indisputable leader when it comes to smart mobility, safety, healthcare and convenient administrative services.

Smart Mobility

Singapore has applied smart, connected traffic solutions, in conjunction with very strong policy curtailing car ownership in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles on its roads. This vision makes Singapore the perfect place to experiment with smart alternatives to cars based on the sharing economy. In 2017 and 2018, Singapore has seen the consolidation of ride-hailing services. The Singapore-based Grab acquired Uber’s Southeast-Asian business in March. Singapore has also seen the arrival of stationless shared bicycles oBike, Ofo or Mobike and the first electric car sharing service, BlueSG.  BlueSG plans to deploy 1,000 cars, which makes it the world’s second biggest electric vehicle car-sharing programme after Paris. “Smart mobility is the possibility to combine multiple options of commuting to go from point A to B faster and at a lower cost. BlueSG is just another alternative” explained managing director Franck Vitte during a conference.


Singapore is considered one of the safest places in the world. It ranks second in the Safe Cities Index 2017 after Tokyo. Since 2012, over 52,000 police surveillance cameras have been installed in the city.


Singapore focus on addressing healthcare service provision for elderly citizens through a range of technologies, including digital service platforms as well as remote monitoring devices.  Among other initiatives, Singapore’s think tank ACCESS Health International and NUS Enterprise co-created the startup competition and incubator Modern Ageing Singapore in 2015. Every year, winners receive a grant to develop their idea within the next 3 years. The winners were showcasing their innovations at Innovfest unbound.

Smart Administrative Services

The Singapore Government has also accelerated the delivery of key strategic national projects, including the National Digital Identity portal SingPass, the adoption of PayNow which makes e-payments more integrated and interoperable, and the Moments of Life application which aims to address citizens’ pain points when transacting with the Government.

But that’s just the beginning. The Smart Nations has many more projects in the pipeline.

Singapore’s next round of innovations to truly become a Smart Nation

Singapore is betting on on-demand driverless taxis with NuTonomy, a spin-off from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. The project started in July 2015. In August 2016, Singapore already conducted the world’s first public pilot with NuTonomy. They conducted a full drive in 2017 without any manual takeovers. The model of NuTonomy is not a car you own, but a car that is part of a ride hailing network, to shift away from the model of personal car ownership. Singapore needs to figure out how to use their existing roads more efficiently to accommodate the growing population and economy. NuTonomy’s team works closely with the government to turn this vision into reality. They hope to operate the first autonomous vehicles in five years.  New towns in Singapore will be designed with autonomous vehicles in mind. For example, there could be more green areas to replace unnecessary car parks.

Virtual Singapore is another ambitious project that will be completed in 2018. It allows scientists and urban planners to conduct experiments and run simulations through a data-rich, 3D model of Singapore at the touch of a button. When looking at a representation of a building, the computer knows what kind of building it is, and what kind of roof, walls, doors and windows it has. Therefore, you could find all the roof surfaces for buildings of a certain height and calculate how much energy you could expect to generate by installing solar panels on the building, for example.

Meeting with National Research Foundation and Dassault Systems during a learning expedition in Singapore for our clients, to showcase Virtual Singapore “3DEXPERIENCity”.

The government is also planning to turn lampposts that dot roadsides to sensors to collect everything from temperature to wind speed, and even record and recognize faces of people walking the streets. These capabilities may be used for performing crowd analytics and supporting follow-up investigation in event of a terror incident

Strong government, university and private-public collaborations are the keys of Singapore’s success

Looking at these latest developments, it is clear that the key to Singapore’s success as a Smart Nation lies in its strong government agencies and universities and their support to the startup ecosystems and private-public collaborations to innovate.

The epicentre of Singapore’s startup ecosystem itself has been created through a collaboration between NUS Entreprise, the incubator of the telecommunication company Singtel and the Media Development Authority of Singapore. It’s called the Launchpad and has been created in 2011 to consolidate the previously dispersed entrepreneurial community in Singapore for increased synergy and economies of scale. The Launchpad ecosystem counts 14 accelerators, 23 incubators, 439 startups and 15 investors/VCs.

According to a study released during Innovfest unbound, Launchpad entrepreneurs form 86% more connections since the Launchpad has been established in 2011.  They also attract more investment from venture capitalists and angel investors than other entrepreneurs, and grow faster despite a smaller proportion of mature startups.

Innovfest unbound also showcased 400 startups and tech research projects, most of them supported by NUS Enterprise and contributing to making Singapore smarter.

For example, the startup MediLot is using a dual blockchain solution to store digital records of a patient’s health information (medical histories, treatment plans, etc). The current Electronic Health Record system in Singapore is lacking in terms of privacy, security and data analytics. Using blockchain will allow patient’s data to be decentralised, every patient will have access to their own health record, they will hold their private key and have control over who can view their health records.  The technology used in MediLOT has been developed over 5 years and published in more than 20 peer reviewed scientific publications. Its team is mostly composed of searchers from NUS.

Another example is Almatix which showcased the prototype of their autonomous electronic wheelchair. Almatix is an NUS spin-off company founded in April 2018 by researchers from NUS. The company will provide mobility to seniors or persons with disabilities.

Innovfest unbound is the ideal event to attend for corporates interested in the topics of smart mobility, smart health and smart cities in general. Don’t miss the event next year,  and join our customized learning expeditions in Singapore to meet innovators disrupting your industry, and generate new ideas and partnerships for your enterprise.