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Inside Singapore’s Smart and Integrated District

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Life in the future Punggol Digital District (PDD) might be like a scene from a science fiction movie. There may be a lot going on in the district, like a fleet of robots coming and going. These robots are used to deliver food orders. They can go through gantries, get into lifts, and get to the front doors of the offices where the food is going on their own.

The Open Digital Platform (ODP) is PDD’s digital backbone. It is what makes this smart last-mile delivery operation run smoothly. This is a proprietary technology that JTC and GovTech worked on together.

“With the ODP, we are ushering in the next era of smartness. For the longest time, the conversation on smartness was stuck on the connecting of systems and sensors. No one was able to articulate anything beyond that,” says James Tan, director of JTC’s Smart District Division and GovTech’s Sensors and Internet of Things (SIOT).

The PDD combines the campus of the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and JTC’s Business Park spaces in Punggol North to form Singapore’s first fully smart district. PDD will not only contain critical digital economy growth companies like cybersecurity and digital technology, but it will also be an inclusive and green lifestyle attraction for the surrounding neighbourhood.

The ODP is a game changer since it is an interoperability platform that not only connects diverse smart technologies but also allows them to exchange data and share controls. It is an operating system that, like Android, can perform functions such as unlocking a door or regulating the air conditioning unit from a centralised command, control, and communication (C3) panel.

One of the clear-cut use cases where the ODP is critical to the efficient operation of operations is smart last-mile delivery. Interoperability is required for the various smart solutions, ranging from Continental Automotive Technology’s autonomous mobility robots to the food delivery app and PDD’s facilities management systems.

The digital twin is another important component of the ODP. Consider it the SimCity counterpart of PDD, but fully operationalised. This virtual 3D environment receives live data from sensors in actual facility management systems.

Personnel, for example, can control PDD using the digital twin. Previously, they would have to go on foot patrol to spot abnormalities like unlocked doors or broken turnstiles. The live data now informs them of what is happening on the ground. They are also made aware of any potential threats.

Director James said that their headquarters was built in 2000, and several of the legacy systems were so outdated that they didn’t even have interface connectors. They had to first collaborate with product producers to create analogue connectors. Then they created their own gear to accomplish the analogue-to-digital conversion. It took about a year to retrofit all the facilities’ management systems.

But the effort has paid off. Anyone with access to the C3 dashboard can interact with virtual things and acquire control over physical systems. Furthermore, whenever there is user feedback, such as a faulty air conditioner, facilities managers can run a historical playback and initiate an investigation using an empirical, data-driven approach.

In addition, robots can now take over arduous tasks like postal delivery through integration. The trial will then move on to the smart last-mile delivery, offering The JTC Summit occupants a taste of what it will be like to operate in PDD before it formally launches.

Simultaneously, they are installing the ODP at the recently constructed Woodlands North Coast, and have begun developing a digital twin of the mixed-use business and lifestyle district as they continue to refine the ODP ahead of its eventual rollout in 2024.

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