Transforming Singapore into a smart nation has meant that the Geospatial Specialist Office within Singapore’s GovTech agency has taken a key role in the virtualisation of the nation
Singapore announced its plan to become a Smart Nation in 2014, deploying smart technologies to enhance citizens’ lives, create business opportunities to power the economy, and bring about more anticipatory digital government services.
In October 2016, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) was formed to drive the Smart Nation vision and public sector’s digital transformation. Housed within GovTech is the Geospatial Technology Office (GSO) which partners various government agencies to apply and deploy geospatial technologies in citizen-centric public services.
GovTech’s GSO has been supporting Singapore government agencies to apply geospatial technologies across many projects.
One of these is the OneService app, developed with the Municipal Services Office, which leverages geospatial technology to improve municipal service delivery. The GSO team also worked with National Parks Board to use a mobile and web-based enterprise geospatial map-based system to help park officers to better manage park facilities, file records of tree health and maintenance inspections, and plan locations for new tree plantings.
GSO also plays an instrumental role to architects and set up Geospace, a national repository of 2D data for the government to share and access 2D data. It worked closely with the Singapore Land Authority to set up the standards and mechanisms of access. GSO also helped to develop OneMap, an authoritative map for the government and business to access and build location-based applications.
Beyond playing a major role in architecting government-wide geospatial systems, GSO also provided consultancy to agencies in geo-analytics and emerging geospatial technologies. This includes the study of soil and geology-based on borehole data, 3D tunnel modelling, analytics for elderly care management, and ambulances transportation reach.
“Geospatial technology is one of the key capabilities that GovTech and the Singapore Government are developing to enhance the public sector’s operational planning and delivery. Increasingly, we want to build up our capability in indoor positioning and mapping, using photogrammetry for 3D mesh reconstruction and modelling, as well as developing virtual reality and augmented reality applications to enhance the public sector’s work efficiency and productivity,” says Kenneth Lim who heads up GSO.
Beyond two-dimensional (2D) geospatial data, Singapore wants to build up her three-dimensional (3D) geospatial capability. Singapore’s growing population and land shortage has made 3D geospatial technology an important tool in Singapore’s drive towards being a smart nation.
“Elevation has become more important,” says Lim. “When you are limited to build to your left or to your right, you either have to go upwards or downwards. And when you go either up or down, then 3D becomes important.
“Three-dimensional geospatial data is new to Singapore, and we need standards early at this stage so we can harmonise them across all agencies,” he adds.
GSO is looking to establish 3D city modelling standards via the CityGML, an open standard from the Open Geospatial Consortium. This standard will ensure interoperability across the whole of government. Beyond interoperability, industry support and capability need to be developed so that the local eco-system can sustain the drive and adoption of the standard, says Lim.
“What we have seen around the world [for 3D geospatial data] are a lot of uses around buildings. In Singapore, we need to do a little bit more, so we’ve actually upped the standards for vegetation, roads and other types of cases,” he adds.
Another 3D flagship project GSO is working on is Virtual Singapore. First announced by the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November 2014, Virtual Singapore is set to be a key enabler of the Smart Nation vision, used to test bed concepts and services, support planning and decision-making, and provide a platform for technological research to solve emerging challenges for this city state.
The Virtual Singapore project is managed by the tri-partite of National Research Foundation (NRF) that provides the funding, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the body that actually acquires the data, and which will operate the platform, and GovTech, the technology lead partner.
Kenneth Lim describes Virtual Singapore as an “enabling infrastructure”, which will host a common and integrated 3D model of the city and include things like geometric/geospatial, topological, and semantic data as well as real time and legacy data.
To date, the agencies have completed the modelling of Virtual Yuhua in the Jurong Lake District of the city, a designated area of smart city innovation and showcasing. This area is already a test site for the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) Greenprint initiative, that explores the use of sustainable and green elements including solar panels, LED lights, improved pedestrian networks and extended cycling networks.
However, from 2018, the Singapore government will progressively deploy the Virtual Singapore city model as a dynamic, real-time 3D digital platform for public sector agencies to use, and potentially citizens, researchers and private enterprises.
This sharing of this 3D city model allows for optimised, co-ordinated and efficient urban planning. By utilising big data and aggregating information from the public and private sectors, the potential of this platform is vast, and its realisation will be fascinating to watch.
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