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8 Ways Singapore Has Embraced Technology To Make Lives Easier

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

When foreigners think of Singapore, they think of a country that can keep up with the countries in the West. It is a city-state that has become a hub of commerce and a forerunner of the use of green technology and energy in Southeast Asia. So much so that it has become one of the region's important gateways for tourists and businessmen alike.

Now on its 56th national day, Singapore is still a country dedicated to improving the lives of its citizens and those living within its borders. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the government's drive to improve, innovate and create technologies that improve Singaporeans' quality of life (QoL) is as strong as ever - from creating a more accessible and convenient chatbot service for the public to taking the first steps to transform the country into an eco-friendly one.

To celebrate Singapore's National Day, let us look at some of these improvements that we can soon enjoy or are already enjoying thanks to the country further embracing technology.

1. More Support for EVs

Since the launch of Singapore's Green Plan 2030, the government has expressed and shown more support for electric vehicles (EVs), especially so in the first half of 2021. During this year's Budget Speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the government will put in more resources to support the transition from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to EVs.

A Tesla EV supercharging point at Orchard Central's carpark.

Part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 is to phase out ICE vehicles for EVs as well as double the charging points for EVs. For the latter, the government recently launched the Electric Common Charger Grant which encourages owners of non-landed private apartments and charging operators to install charging points in condominiums and private apartments. An example of such a charging point is the Tesla supercharging point on the ninth floor of Orchard Central's carpark.

Additionally, government rebates on the purchase of EVs and the cost efficiency of such vehicles are already more than enough for Singaporeans to switch or purchase one. Transport Minister S Iswaran said that the EV adoption rate rose from 0.3% to 1.3% during the first half of 2021. This means that 1,549 of the 640,247 cars in Singapore are now electric in nature. The transport minister then said that he expects that the number of EVs on the road will continue to grow in the coming years.

2. Autonomous Bot Carriers

A picture of the Camello, OTSAW's autonomous last-mile delivery robot that is being tested for public use in Singapore. Credit: OTSAW

If you ever thought that the idea of robots delivering your groceries or medicine to your doorstep is only possible in science fiction movies, then think again. This idea is now being tested for everyday operation in Singapore, where OTSAW's autonomous last-mile delivery robots are providing on-demand deliveries to consumers residing in Punggol.

Kee Lay Cheng, Group Director for Properties and Land for Singapore's Housing & Development Board (HDB), said that the government is always seeking new ways to better serve residents and shoppers. This includes the use of OTSAW's copies of its autonomous delivery robot named the Camello.

The trial is expected to provide consumers with more convenient and faster deliveries as they can now have their groceries delivered directly to their homes whenever they want after shopping, instead of adhering to a fixed delivery schedule. A mobile app will notify consumers when the robot is in transit and when it has arrived at their doorstep. A simple QR scan to verify a consumer's identity is all that's needed to claim the goods stored within the robot.

Should the test be successful, these autonomous robots will soon be a common sight in more parts of Singapore.

3. Sunseap Floating Solar Farm

An aerial picture of Sunseap Group's floating solar farm located within the Straits of Johor. Credit: Sunseap

Another technological achievement the country recently claimed is being the home of one of the world's largest floating solar farms. Sunseap Group, Singapore's leading solar energy provider, completed the construction of their floating solar farm located in Johor Strait in March 2021.

Sunseap Group's floating solar farm consists of more than 13,000 solar panels that are expected to produce around six million kilowatt-hours of energy per year - an amount that could offset a year's worth of emitted greenhouse gases from more than 900 passenger vehicles, according to the company.

According to Sunseap group founder, Frank Phuan, the construction of the solar farm is an important milestone for the company as similar instalments offer "exciting opportunities" for countries that do not have enough land to use the typical instalment of solar panels to tap into solar energy. Nevertheless, this is another win for Singapore's Green Plan 2030.

The floating solar farm can also be a tourist attraction once the pandemic is declared over. The instalment's second deck is airconditioned and can be used as a visitor centre and viewing gallery to see the entirety of the floating solar farm.

4. Reservoir Monitoring Drones

Credit: Singapore Public Utilities Board

Public Utilities Board (PUB) officers who work in six of Singapore's reservoirs are now able to do their jobs more efficiently thanks to the deployment of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) unmanned drones in the area. The switch from physical monitoring to the use of drones is due to the challenges in manpower in properly monitoring and taking care of all 17 reservoirs in the country.

According to PUB, the drones are capable of saving up to 5,000 man-hours and will lead to the improvement of its operations and meet future needs. The drones allow officers to survey larger areas, collect comprehensive data from the reservoir's waters to check for excessive aquatic plant growth and algal blooms and trigger alerts when illegal or suspicious activities are detected.

Visitors of the MacRitchie and Marina Reservoirs from the start of June 2021 may have seen a drone flying overhead during their visits. Meanwhile, Serangoon, Kranji Lower Seletar and Lower Peirce Reservoirs will have their own monitoring drones by the third quarter of 2021.

5. Acceleration of Digitalisation

Credit: HR In Asia

The high infectivity of COVID-19 became a challenge to various governments of the world as more and more people turned to technology to work and study. As such, digitalising became a high priority in Singapore to provide citizens and foreigners with the ability to use services while staying at home.

To accomplish this, and to accelerate digitalisation, the Singaporean government announced in June 2021 that it will procure an estimated S$3.8 billion to increase its spending on info-communications technology (ICT). According to Singapore's Government Technology Agency (GovTech), 70% or S$2.7 billion will be spent on 250 projects to transform, integrate and streamline digital services across the country's different sectors to create a more "digitally empowered nation". The procured money will be used to transform the government's digital services for the future, re-engineer the digital government infrastructure, and increase the number of projects that small and medium-sized enterprises can participate in to increase ICT procurement.

Should the pandemic continue to persist through 2022 and beyond, Singaporeans who find themselves in need of government services will only have to go online in the future to have their requests processed. Even if the pandemic were to be declared over, the convenience of the improved and streamlined digital services the Singaporean government will provide will still be a benefit in the years to come.

6. OneService Chatbot

Credit: Smart Nation and Digital Government Group

Technological improvements to Singaporeans' QoL can also be found in the smallest of things. During the second half of July, Singapore's Smart Nation and Digital Government Group and the Municipal Services Office launched the AI-powered OneService chatbot as part of the country's efforts to support ongoing improvements to the responsiveness of municipal service delivery.

The chatbot allows Singaporeans to report municipal issues more easily and conveniently as it is hosted on both WhatsApp and Telegram. Users can also scan QR codes found at HBD lift landings or use web links to connect with the chatbot.

The service offered by the chatbot is similar to the one currently provided by the OneService app, which takes information from users in a "structured manner". However, there are cases wherein a resident's complaint is unable to be classified using the reporting categories the OneService app provides. As an alternative, residents can make use of the chatbot instead, which collects information in a real-time conversational manner to ensure the report is comprehensively and accurately logged.

Reports are automatically routed to their respective agencies based on text, geo-location and images submitted by the resident.

7. E-Angbaos

Credit: Development Bank of Singapore

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we all go about our day-to-day life, and that includes festivals and public holidays. Although Chinese New Year saw a lot of people queueing for fresh banknotes to give to their loved ones as "angbaos" or red packets, it also saw the rise of another way of sending them: digitally.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore encouraged Singaporeans to send their well-wishes and red packets digitally, and have made it compulsory for Singaporeans to make an appointment with their bank to collect new banknotes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Some mobile wallets and banks in Singapore have also offered incentives to clients who wish to try out sending e-red packets to loved ones.

GrabPay launched a promo wherein users who send their red packets through the app can get a bonus e-red packet for themselves. This bonus e-red packet contained Grab points worth S$0.88 to S$8.88 and were given at random up to eight times per user every day. The Development Bank of Singapore (DBP) also offered personalised e-red packets to clients, in which they could send personalised greetings or festive animations along with the money. Users who redeemed their DBP e-red packets were eligible to win up to S$888.

Despite the apprehension of some Singaporeans with the idea of sending digital red packets instead of doing it traditionally, Singaporeans may see a rise in digital red packets come 2022 due to the rising popularity of e-wallets.

8. OCBC Bank Cardless Cash Withdrawal

Credit: SOCASH

Trying to withdraw cash from the bank without your bank card with you can be inconvenient when you're in a rush. However, that problem was solved back in late 2020, when fintech startup SOCASH announced its partnership with OCBC Bank.

The partnership consists of the integration of SOCASH's technology with OCBC's PayAnyone app through OCBC's open application programming interface, which allows clients to withdraw cash from more than 1500 retail outlets without the need for their physical bank card. Cash withdrawal points include supermarkets Sheng Siong, HAO mart and U Stars. Convenience stores chains 7-11 and Buzz, cafes in residential areas like Killiney Kopitiam are also valid cash withdrawal points.

OCBC Bank Head of Group Lifestyle Financing, Desmond Tan, said that he recognises ATMs as "an essential last mile and a frequently used touchpoint" for their customers and that the partnership is ideal to bring further enhancements to the ease of cash withdrawals customers experience.

The ease of withdrawing cash and the additional number of cash withdrawal points are a boon to Singaporeans, especially for those always out and about. Furthermore, SOCASH said that the partnership allows merchants to reduce their reliance on existing cash logistic processes and helps SMEs manage their cash processes.


Written by John Paul Joaquin

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