Mobile app for transportation may be tested in Singapore

A mobile app that lets commuters pay a monthly subscription fee for all their transportation needs, on bus, train or taxi, may be tested here.

Commuters can also specify the origin and destination of a trip on the app, called Mobility As A Service (MaaS). It then plans the trip and estimates the cost.

Finnish transport engineer Sonja Heikkila, 25, who created the app, said: "Commuters will have access to all transportation types through one interface provided by a mobility operator."

The idea was a winner with the panel of judges at the Smart Nation Challenge here, organised by London-based Founders Forum (FF), an organisation of entrepreneurs keen to explore fresh business ideas.

Panel member Steve Leonard, executive deputy chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), said MaaS resonates with Singapore's smart nation priorities. "It is an exciting addition to current thinking and a different model that looks at mobility as a service, offering an interesting way to explore integrating across different transport modes at a lower cost and with more efficiency."

The challenge was held yesterday at the one-day Founders Forum Smart Nation Singapore, co-organised by FF and the IDA at Raffles Hotel.

MaaS and four other ideas in healthcare, food sustainability and energy saving were pitched.

On Monday evening, speaking at the kick-off of the forum in the Istana, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore can tackle smart nation challenges as new ideas can be prototyped and tested here quickly, given the country's compact size and ability to scale.

Yesterday, 200 investors, policymakers and entrepreneurs, mostly from overseas, discussed topics such as doing business in Asia as well as business opportunities in transportation, smart cities and healthcare.

Foreign investors and entrepreneurs asked a panel of experts about the key issues on doing business in Asia.

Mr Alex Lin, chief executive of Infocomm Investments (IIPL), said it was not money but Asian market opportunities that the foreign start-up community needed.

As IDA's investment arm, IIPL has brought more than 100 start- ups to Singapore in the past five to six years, mainly Silicon Valley firms that wanted to expand to Asia.

Not all required funding, he said. "They needed access to markets. So we 'opened' doors to companies we knew in Asia. And many of them are doing well."

Panellist Vinnie Lauria, founding partner of venture capital firm Golden Gate Ventures, said many start-ups make the mistake of introducing the same service they have in the United States or Europe here. "It won't work. You need a different flavour here. If you're doing digital payments, for example, you should look at mobile payments as smartphone penetration in Asia is very high."

Singapore is also turning into a hub for Asia. "It's easy for any firm to set up an office in Singapore. So many start-ups wanting to market in Asia locate their offices here," said Mr Lauria.

In the past 12 months, he has also seen Chinese and Indian companies opening offices here to tap the rich community of venture capital firms and to use Singapore as a springboard to the US and Europe.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg