Building a Smart Nation

'Smart' lamp posts to transmit data

Data collected from a network of interconnected lamp posts can be used to detect anomalies and predict situations such as potentially unruly crowds and traffic congestion.

Plans are afoot to turn every lamp post into one that can transmit information gathered from surveillance cameras and sensors across the country.

This network of interconnected lamp posts could form the spine of the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP), which aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to analyse, for instance, video footage collected by various government agencies.

Such data could be used to detect anomalies and predict situations such as potentially unruly crowds and traffic congestion.

"We are making every lamp post a 'smart' lamp post to mount different types of sensors," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech yesterday when he spoke about making Singapore a smart nation and using technology to boost public safety.

The AI-based video analytics system is slated for a trial in Orchard Road as well as selected housing estates from October.

During the year-long trial, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and other agencies will monitor noise, water and sewage levels for better estate management, and install smart water meters in homes to better track the use of utilities, said PM Lee.

GovTech and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will test the lamp posts with trials in selected areas over the next 18 months.

The private sector will also be roped in. GovTech will call a tender at the end of the year for products that will let LTA's 95,000 street lamps be used for transmitting data such as temperature, humidity, footfall or vehicular traffic.

PM Lee said the SNSP initiative was born after the Little India riots in December 2013 - the first public disturbance of its kind in 40 years.

"We were caught a little flat-footed. There were too few CCTV cameras... We had to rely on footage posted by the public on social media," he said.

Around 300 foreign workers were involved in the riot at the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road, which lasted for about two hours.

Since then, more CCTV cameras have been installed in public places. However, the different surveillance systems have not been brought together, said PM Lee.

For instance, LTA has its own cameras to monitor traffic conditions and deter illegal parking. The police have put their cameras at the void decks of Housing Board flats and lift landings as part of efforts to deal with loan sharks.

National water agency PUB has sensors to detect water levels in drains.

In this respect, Singapore lags behind other cities, said PM Lee.

"Many cities already have comprehensive CCTV and sensor networks. And they also can integrate the inputs from all the sources, analyse and make sense of the information, and respond promptly if there is an incident or emergency."

Combining such inputs into an integrated data source is crucial, PM Lee added.

"If one day, we have an incident like the Boston bombings, our Home Team can assess the situation quickly and respond promptly, or even pre-empt it," he said.

In April 2013, twin bombs near the finishing line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and wounded 264.

The Boston police identified the two bombers in three days after pulling together and analysing a vast amount of data from CCTV cameras, social media and footage from the public.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Smart' lamp posts to transmit data. Subscribe