Singapore is not the only place that has switched on to being Smart.
Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Dubai and Spain are among the many countries embarking on smart city initiatives. Many of these centre on the sustainable use of energy and more efficient government services. Most of them aim to improve residents' quality of life.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The Sunday Times was in the state in March to check out an app of the Dubai Police. It includes:
•A certificate of traffic record. This is a person's driving history from the time he gets his licence. It shows traffic fines, accidents and other violations. If he has a clean slate, he can use it electronically to get better auto premiums from his insurance company.
•Traffic accident report. Drivers can make a police report using their smartphones. They snap a photo of the accident or sketch a drawing on the touchscreen to show the positions of the cars. This is e-mailed to police with the drivers' particulars. An official report is issued within two hours. Forty per cent of all road accidents are reported through this channel.
•Drive Mode. This notifies drivers via a voice message of traffic accidents near their homes. It can be configured to within a 10km or 20km radius. This feature also suggests an alternative route.
•Transactions Bar. This is where every e-transaction is recorded. It could be the issue of a driver's licence or an online fine payment. A soft copy is kept in a digital evidence box. Once recorded, the files cannot be changed. Only the user can easily view the materials.
Over at the Dubai Police command-and-control (C&C) centre, a huge wall-to-wall screen of the city is on one side of the room. Video feeds are pumped in by surveillance cameras, enabling police to monitor traffic activities.
This centre monitors all calls and e-mail from the public, whether it is to report a crime or someone who has fainted. Between 6,000 and 7,000 calls and e-mails are received on weekdays, reaching 10,000 on weekends.
The centre's features include:
•Emergency numbers: These are configured to be visitor-friendly - for example, just as one calls 911 in the United States, the same number in Dubai will also reach the police. The C&C also accepts the emergency numbers of Europe, China, Russia and India. Its police in the centre can speak seven languages, including Persian, Urdu, Dutch and Mandarin.
•Heart patient services: Such patients can register their addresses, phone numbers and next-of-kin details. The centre can see the concentration of "hearts" on its big screen, which means that police can station ambulances in the vicinity to provide more immediate help. Once registered cardiac patients dial 999, police instantly recognise them. Within 15 minutes, an ambulance with paramedics can arrive to treat them and, at the same time, their next of kin are contacted.
•Closed-circuit cameras near emergency exits at public places like the airport and malls can be remotely controlled by the C&C centre in an emergency. During last year's New Year's Eve inferno at a 63-storey hotel, police used the cameras to locate people and evacuate them. Hundreds of thousands had gathered there to watch fireworks, yet no one was seriously injured.
BOSTON, THE UNITED STATES
A digital dashboard in the mayor's office keeps him updated on the health of his city. The central piece of information comes from CityScore, which counts 24 metrics from Wi-Fi availability to crime statistics to grants for the arts, said a report in The Economist magazine. Anything above one on CityScore means all is going as planned, while under one means the mayor is likely to act. The dashboard also charts happenings such as the number of road potholes filled every day.
Smart city services target different segments that include healthcare for the elderly, sustainable use of energy and mobile payments. The city also supports entrepreneurship, making available government data to develop third-party apps.
Some of its smart solutions are:
•Mobile payment for parking. One-third of all payments are made via the app.
•GrowSmarter, a project that aims to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. It includes a scheme for hybrid cars to guide drivers to routes that limit the number of stops, and environmentally friendly trucks with equipment that allows traffic signal prioritisation at junctions.
•Drive Me is the world's largest pilot in self-drive cars.
SONGDO, SOUTH KOREA
South Korea is building a city from scratch to showcase smart solutions.
Songdo aims to reduce carbon emissions by 70 per cent and cut energy use by 30 per cent. Electric-powered water taxis will ply canals, and energy-efficient trains will link Songdo to Seoul.
New concepts include sensors embedded everywhere to tell temperature and weather, while household waste is sucked into underground tunnels before being processed at waste plants.
•The Sunday Times' trip to Dubai was sponsored by US-based infocomm technology firm Avaya.