Behind Singapore's smart-city ambitions is an expanding industry of technological tinkerers eager to upset a traditional real estate industry.
Mr Tan Min-Liang, chief executive of gaming peripherals manufacturer Razer, became the latest mover of this trend at the ground-breaking ceremony of its upcoming South-east Asian headquarters yesterday.
He also launched Echo Base, a start-up that aims to incorporate artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and other next-generation technologies into real estate projects.
Razer's new 19,300 sq m headquarters in one-north, for instance, will be managed by Echo Base and serve as a showcase of several building technologies that enhance security and user experience.
Its proprietary Chroma lighting technology will be used on the exterior. The same technology can be found on Razer's gaming peripherals such as keyboards and mice.
"There is an opportunity for us to provide a digital layer, or understanding, to traditional real estate players," Mr Tan said in launching the start-up.
Speaking at the ceremony, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat noted how Razer's technology has allowed it to create a new line of business.
"Because technology is either an enabler or a disruptor, I think that too many people have become too defensive and think that it is going to disrupt us," said Mr Heng. "I think we should take a more proactive stance."
The Razer chief executive is not alone in dipping his toes into the property and building technology industry despite lacking real estate experience.
At a separate event yesterday, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced a $6 million Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme which will fund the development and commercialisation of innovative building solutions.
Mr Wong said: "They are coming from tech start-ups and software companies; a whole range of different companies are now offering new innovative solutions that can be applied in the built environment space."
Expert said these moves by private industry and the Govern-ment are a sign of the growing sub-industry of high-tech building services, and help to boost Singapore's status as a leader in smart-city technologies.
Veteran urban planner Steven Choo said that over the years, Singapore has come to the forefront of innovative building technologies, especially in the region.
He noted its push last year for the Smart Cities Network during its Asean chairmanship, which has been well-received by countries such as Thailand.
Many smart solutions that were developed and tested in Singapore are also starting to become popular in other countries, owing to growing international demand, others said.
Part of its success is due to government support, said Mr William Temple, co-founder of local energy technology firm Ampotech, whose smart metering system now has a potential market in Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
Ampotech's innovations in energy meters were developed with funding support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, and brought to market with help from a Building and Construction Authority grant.
"Such grants and accelerator programmes help start-ups prove that their technologies work; otherwise, it would be difficult for them to go around knocking on doors," said Mr Temple.
Echo Base managing director Bryan Lim said it, too, has already sealed a multi-year deal to develop a master plan for an entire smart city in South-east Asia. He declined to reveal the identity of the city.
A smaller scale project could be done in Singapore too, he said, adding that such talks are under way.
"Traditional real estate is ripe for disruption. There is much we can do at Echo Base to provide next-generation services for smart buildings and cities of the future," said Mr Lim.