New GeoWorks centre to explore how maps infused with data can solve urban problems

SINGAPORE - Commercial drones may soon deliver medical supplies to hospitals or packages to homes, and people living in the same neighbourhood may carpool on demand using an app.

Behind these possibilities lies the use of maps infused with data - such as the flight paths of other drones and the location of tall buildings to avoid collision, or where students in the same school live so their parents could carpool.

Such geospatial information is an area the Singapore Government wants to see greater use of to bring about smarter living in the city.

Towards this goal, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on Monday (July 16) launched an industry centre dubbed GeoWorks where promising geospatial technology start-ups from around the world can aggregate and find deployment opportunities here.

Located at the PSA Building in Alexandra Road, the 15,000 sq ft facility currently houses 22 of these start-ups, which the SLA hopes can solve urban logistics problems like overcrowding on Singapore roads.

"Geospatial technology generates value for the economy... the logistics and transport sectors use it significantly," said Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, at the launch of GeoWorks on Monday.

GeoWorks is an initiative under the five-year Singapore Geospatial Master Plan quietly released earlier in July with strategies to push the envelope in this space to help Singapore thrive in the future digital economy.

Forerunners in this space include ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab which use geospatial information to match riders with nearby drivers. Online grocer RedMart also uses smart mapping information to plan and optimise delivery routes.

The 22 geospatial start-ups in GeoWorks include drone flight management software firms Garuda Robotics, AirMap and Precision Autonomy, as well as carpooling app maker Schoolber.

For one thing, Garuda Robotics is in discussion with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to explore the option of flying drones beyond visual line-of-sight for more efficient unmanned drone flight management. Possible applications include deliveries between blood banks and hospitals, and medical equipment deliveries.

More developments can be expected when Virtual Singapore, the digital map of the country rendered in virtual reality and based on real-time dynamic data, is launched by the end of this year.