Future HDB homes could come with technologies that aid homeowners

HDB flats at Bedok North Road.
HDB flats at Bedok North Road.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The future Housing Board (HDB) flat could come with technologies that help homeowners to manage their utilities consumption, to monitor the elderly and also facilitate home rehabilitation exercises.

Since the start of this year, such technologies have been put to the test in nine mock-up flats in HDB's Centre of Building Research. Seventeen companies and consortiums were shortlisted to set up trials of their smart software and hardware there.

These solutions include wearable motion sensors that enable rehabilitation exercises to be done via video conferencing. Such "tele-health" technologies also allow caregivers and therapists to guide and monitor patients remotely.

Power management systems can also be installed to provide homeowners with real-time information of their energy usage and costs.

These solutions, provided by private vendors, would have to be bought or subscribed to separately. Prices have not yet been worked out.

Dr K Thomas Abraham, chief executive of Sata CommHealth, one of the companies involved in testing tele-health devices, said such technologies would make life easier for patients.

He said: "It is useful for people who are convalescing or not well to travel. They can be monitored in the comfort of their own home and reduce healthcare costs."

Mr Andy Sim, vice president and head of enterprise business for Samsung, another of the companies involved, stressed that smart products in homes cannot be obtrusive.

He cited the example of one of Samsung's products being tested - a sensor placed under a mattress to detect the heart rate, respiration rate and motion level of an elderly resident.

"We have to make it convenient and easy to use. It's important to make it hassle-free," he explained.

The trials are part of the Smart HDB Town Framework, which aims to leverage on smart technology to improve public housing. Build-To-Order flats in Punggol Northshore, launched in May, will come with data ports and additional sockets to facilitate their compatibility with such smart features.

Following these lab trials, HDB will be testing these technologies in the homes of residents in an existing housing estate.

HDB's chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said: "We want to know what is their reaction to some of these devices - are they friendly? Are they easy to use? This feedback will be very useful for the commercial companies to refine their products."