Cooler, cleaner air for commuters at pilot bus stop outside Plaza Singapura

The pilot bus stop, which has been erected alongside an existing one outside Plaza Singapura, employs the Airbitat Oasis air cooling and purification system developed by ST Engineering.
The pilot bus stop, which has been erected alongside an existing one outside Plaza Singapura, employs the Airbitat Oasis air cooling and purification system developed by ST Engineering.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Sensors embedded in the bus-stop infrastructure monitor air temperature and purity, levels of which are displayed on a touchscreen board.
Sensors embedded in the bus-stop infrastructure monitor air temperature and purity, levels of which are displayed on a touchscreen board.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
The bus stop has overhead nozzles that deliver cool air of as low as 24 deg C and which is as much as 90 per cent cleaner, with harmful PM2.5 particles filtered out.
The bus stop has overhead nozzles that deliver cool air of as low as 24 deg C and which is as much as 90 per cent cleaner, with harmful PM2.5 particles filtered out.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
The Airbitat Oasis creates a reservoir of cold water through evaporative cooling which is, in turn, used to cool the air it blows out.
The Airbitat Oasis creates a reservoir of cold water through evaporative cooling which is, in turn, used to cool the air it blows out.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Bus commuters can enjoy a cooler and more comfortable wait outside Plaza Singapura in Orchard Road from Monday (March 12).

A trial bus stop, built by ST Engineering, will feature overhead nozzles that deliver cool air of as low as 24 deg C and which the company says is more than 90 per cent cleaner, with harmful PM2.5 particles filtered out.

The smart bus stop will also have a high-tech camera system that tracks commuter flow and average waiting times. It also has algorithms that can spot unattended baggage or suspicious individuals loitering around.

Launched on Monday, the pilot bus stop, which has been erected alongside an existing one outside Plaza Singapura mall, will be on trial for a year.

The project is funded by ST Engineering, which also wants to explore how its air cooling systems – which are currently deployed in places such as the Singapore Zoo and Resorts World Sentosa – can be applied to other outdoor settings.

Compared with conventional air-conditioners which employ refrigerants and generate heat, ST Engineering’s Airbitat Oasis system creates a reservoir of cold water through evaporative cooling which is, in turn, used to cool the air it blows out.

Sensors embedded in the bus-stop infrastructure monitor air temperature and purity, levels of which are displayed on a touchscreen board.

The bus stop was developed by ST Engineering subsidiary Innosparks, a research and development outfit and start-up incubator. It took 18 months to put the bus stop together, from conceptualisation to construction.

Innosparks head Gareth Tang said that the air-cooling system and sensors can be retrofitted to other existing bus stops, making the bus-stop concept easily transferable.

When asked, Mr Tang declined to reveal how much the firm’s bus stop cost. However, he said the Airbitat Oasis unit costs around 60 cents an hour to run, while an air-conditioning system costs more than $2 an hour to operate.

Mr Tang said Innosparks will conduct commuter surveys and share the data collected at the bus stop with the Land Transport Authority (LTA). 

Commuters generally welcomed the cooler wait. While he appreciated the frills, retiree Michael Lim, 70, said it would not be necessary to have the cooling system at every bus stop, as most Singaporeans are already used to the warm weather.
 
Mr Shaji Poozhithara, 42, an engineer, said: “It’s a good idea but will I still feel as cool when the surrounding temperature gets warmer in April and May? We have to wait and see.”
 
While the air emanating from the blowers can be as cool as 24 deg C, Mr Tang said, what passengers actually experience is 3 deg C to 4 deg C higher in the late mornings, and may be even warmer in the afternoons. 
 
This is because of the mixture of the ambient outdoor environment and the warm air the buses are bringing in, Mr Tang said. Similarly, the air pumped out at the blowers is more than 90 per cent cleaner, but as it mixes with the ambient air, this drops to about 50 per cent, he said.
 
“It’s still a lot better than the outdoor conditions. You can actually smell the clean air, and not smell the bus’ exhaust,” said Mr Tang. 
 

The LTA's group director for public transport, Mr Yeo Teck Guan, said: "We are pleased to provide a platform for innovative ideas to be test bedded to improve land transport... We welcome more local companies to test bed ideas that could help make commuting more pleasant."

In August 2016, a group of architects from DP Architects created a pilot bus stop in Jurong Gateway Road, with free Wi-Fi and mobile phone charging points, as a corporate social responsibility initiative. The year-long trial, in collaboration with agencies such as the LTA and Urban Redevelopment Authority, has ended.