By Tara Bal, Head of Communications, NetApp APAC


Before we know it, we’re finishing up the first quarter of 2015. These few months have been nothing short of exhilarating as tech companies pit their latest innovations and coolest gadgets against each other’s at the recent Consumer Electronics Show and Mobile World Congress. Virtual Reality is becoming more of a reality and the coming 5G allows us to create new possibilities to use data intelligently and on the fly. Going beyond consumer tech, we caught up with Rick Scurfield, President, NetApp APAC to discuss how innovative technology is the key building block not just for businesses, but can be used in the greater scheme of things for city planning.


Tara: Rick, in the New Year’s Eve interview on Channel NewsAsia, you shared how technology is the driving force behind building smarter cities, one which uses Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions to address transport, sustainability, infrastructure and security issues. What exactly are these technologies and how are they shaping cities of the future?


Rick: Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with big data and video analytics are gaining new insights for businesses and governments. As devices and electronics become increasingly connected to the internet, more data is being captured than ever before. However, without meaningful analytics, big data is just a lot of noise. The power of analytics lies in its ability to predict future happenings based on data collected today. By making sense of data, analytics can help businesses and governments better prepare for the future and proactively formulate contingency plans.


Today, predictive analytics is a part of our everyday lives, though sometimes without us consciously aware of its presence. Retailers can use predictive analytics in markdown optimization – when is it the best time to cut the price of a particular item to boost sales and turn inventory faster.


Tara: Singapore has been gearing up for its plan to transform into the world’s first Smart Nation. How has technology been a big part of this initiative?


Rick: Technology has a heavy hand in Singapore’s Smart Nation plan. Being well-advanced in the area of video surveillance with cameras populating public places like on public transports, roads and buildings, video analytics provides further insights and intelligence for more effective city planning.


As the country continues on its Smart Nation journey, the Singapore government launched the Smart Nation Platform (SNP) to provide better connectivity, facilitate the sharing of data among Government agencies and, eventually, allow Singaporeans to better anticipate and react to events.


By the end of this year, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore will install 1000 sensors in six high-traffic areas across the island to monitor things such as air and water quality and public safety. These sensors are tailored to suit the requirements of that particular area; in areas like Little India and Geylang, sensors are deployed to enhance safety and security whereas other areas, environmental sensors are installed to monitor water levels for flood prevention and air quality in the event of haze.


Tara: Apart from Singapore, how are some of the countries in the region transforming their cities with technology?


Rick: Across Southeast Asia, millions of people still lack access to affordable, quality healthcare. Yet, the number of people who have access to connected devices is steadily on the rise. This has paved the way for new web and mobile applications that can deliver timely healthcare needs to people who are unable to travel to seek out medical advice.


Tele-health services transform connected devices into portals for clinical care, allowing patients to communicate virtually with doctors and receive health advice. Some of these eHealth apps can streamline or even automate the consultation process, saving time and costs for everyone.


Thank you, Rick, for giving us a peek into the future! Singapore and the region is well on its way to build smarter cities. As Singapore turns 50 this August, we celebrate its many achievements and eagerly await the future developments.