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'Smart logistics' to feature in Singapore's upcoming ICT masterplan

With the country's next ICT blueprint to be announced later this year, the Singapore government reiterates its smart nation push at this year's imbX show and unveils efforts to make data intelligence more accessible to the logistics industry.

The Singapore government has provided a preview of the country's next ICT masterplan, pointing to the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) in logistics as a key focus area, and continues to push its smart nation goal.

At the opening of this year's imbX conference and exhibition, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the next 10-year ICT blueprint would be unveiled later this year, with the final report on the current masterplan to be announced in August.

He pointed to three focus areas in the new roadmap, which will include a "smart logistics" initiative to drive interoperability across supply chains and tap technologies such as IoT to improve visibility and decision-making for small and large enterprises.

Noting that as many as 25 parties today were required to process one export shipment, the minister underscored the need to make "track-and-trace" technologies more accessible to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). While these companies accounted for more than 99 percent of logistics players in Singapore, data analytics tools were used mainly by large organization and international market players to enhance processes.

Yaacob added that smart logistics will provide much needed boost for smaller players. "The lowered risk of shipment failure will result in cheaper insurance and a reduced need for excess inventory across the entire supply chain," he said. "This is an exciting concept for the international logistics sector, and we hope to realize it in the future."

At a media briefing last week, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) revealed that plans were in the works to refurbish the e-government platform for the local trade and logistics industry, TradeNet. Bids for a tender to add new features and value-added services to the platform were currently being assessed, IDA officials said.

With the smart logistics initiative, IDA said various stakeholders in the industry including cargo owners, freight forwarders, and ground handlers would be able "leverage sensory networks" in airports and seaports for better insights of their supply chains. For instance, the use of RFID would provide higher visibility of shipments and the tags would have sensing capabilities to monitor environmental conditions and ensure these remained conducive for cargo items.

Yaacob further noted that the government was looking to galvanize businesses and the general public to develop ideas that resolve real-world problems. These efforts will be part of its Smart Nation Tech Challenges, which aim to drive collaboration among companies, research institutions, and various participants to develop commercially viable prototypes that potentially can be exported, the minister said.

He added that IDA later this year would be launching its Smart Health-Assist pilot in Jurong Lake District, the residential-business estate designated as a testbed for the country's smart nation technologies and services. This will see the deployment of data sensors in homes to monitor the health of elderly citizens and chronic disease patients.

"Healthcare data may be recorded and sent securely to caregivers and healthcare providers to alert them whenever the elderly or patents require attention," Yaacob said. This would not only allow patients to manage their health from home, it would also reduce the need for medical visits and free up hospital resources, he added.

Smart nation updates

The minister spent most of his opening address reiterating the government's smart nation push, without making any significant new announcements, and instead chose to provide updates for several key initiatives. The next-generation national broadband network (NGNBN), for instance, now supports some 740,000 home and business subscriptions, a 37 percent increase from 2014.

He added that IDA last October launched the pilot of its MyConnection SG mobile app, designed to gather anonymized data on user devices with the aim to improve network experience. Six months since its debut, data from 4,000 mobile users with more than 50 million data points have been collected, indicating areas where there were latency and where data coverage needed to be improved.

Yaacob said: "We shared the analysis with [Singapore's three mobile] telcos who used it to improve data coverage in these spots. The data collected through this pilot will increase transparency of information to help consumers make informed choices on their mobile plans and improve user experience."

He also pointed to another initiative to improve the experience of commuters through a website, called Beeline. Co-developed by IDA and the Land Transport Authority, the site looks to monitor demand for bus routes with the potential of creating new services if there was sufficient critical mass at a certain time.

The initiative taps crowdsourcing and big data to study travel patterns, with the aim to make bus routes "more adaptive" based on changing user demand. Some 1,500 routes had been suggested by commuters since Beeline's launch in end-April, Yaacob said, adding that plans were underway to release a beta of a mobile app version in July.

According to IDA, the app would allow commuters to book seats on Beeline bus routes when they were available.