Singapore enhances smart city programme with pervasive data collection


As part of its Smart Nation programme, in 2016 Singapore launched the most extensive collection of data on everyday living ever attempted in a city. The programme involved deploying myriad sensors and cameras across the city-state to comprehensively monitor people, places, and things, including all locally registered vehicles. The platform into which all this data will be fed, Virtual Singapore, will give the government the ability to watch the country's functioning in real time. The government has plans to share some of the data with the private sector.
The stated goal is to improve government services via the use of technology, encourage innovation, and better connect its citizens. Even so, it's unclear what applications the system may enable, and some sensor locations remain to be decided. Privacy and security of the data being collected are both significant issues; however, under Singapore law the government does not need to obtain court approval or conduct citizen consultations in order to use the data for law enforcement or surveillance. In other cities, such as New York and Barcelona, projects involving sensors and data collection are typically more narrow in scope and restricted to a single agency. In the case of Singapore, the programme is highly centralised and the scope is ambitious.

Writer: John Maxwell Watts and Newley Purnell
Publication: Wall Street Journal

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