Big push for science and tech research

Services and digital economy

In the next five years, $19 billion will be pumped into scientific and technological research under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan. Funding will be prioritised in four key areas where Singapore has a competitive edge or which meet national needs. The Straits Times looks at how these four areas will transform Singapore in the next five years.

An interactive map of Nanyang Technological University. Research areas will include urban mobility.
An interactive map of Nanyang Technological University. Research areas will include urban mobility.

Automated technologies will become increasingly more pervasive in the next five years, and this will affect almost every aspect of daily living, from travel to work and play.

Self-driving "pods" - small, single- seater vehicles - may bridge the first and last mile from a commuter's home or workplace to the nearest train station and vice versa.

And getting a quick answer to a question from a company or government agency may be done through intelligent live chat and automated question-and-answer systems, where computer software can understand your question and provide an answer.

These are among the innovations that Singapore's services and digital economy sector will explore with the $400 million in funds it will receive from the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan.

Research in the sector will focus on urban mobility, healthcare infocommunication technology and services productivity.

These will support the Smart Nation programme and Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan that aims to improve daily living through the integration of technology.

Urban mobility research will supplement the Transport Ministry's efforts to produce a "car-lite" Singapore by improving the public transport system. And sensor-based systems and data analytics can help autonomous vehicles avoid jams and choose the quickest routes.

Further research and development into Internet-connected devices will also aid in healthcare and improve the lives of the elderly through sensors at home that monitor health or remind them to take medicine.

Advances in natural language processing, machine learning and media analytics could lead to real- time subtitling of live television shows in multiple languages.

Cyber-security research will be another key component of the services and digital economy sector.

Lester Hio

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2016, with the headline Services and digital economy. Subscribe