February 26, 2024

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Smart Cities around the world – Estonia

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Despite being a small European nation with 1.3 million citizens, Estonia punches above its weight when it comes to digital adoption, and is often lauded as one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world.

The country made the news in 2020 when it launched its Digital Nomad visa in August — the first of its kind — allowing foreigners to live within its borders for up to a year, all while working for an employer in another country. Just one example of Estonia’s avid and early adoption of tech-related initiatives.

Because Estonia has so warmly embraced technology, it naturally has fascinating smart city initiatives and projects that are worth a closer look.

eID and Digital Services

When Estonia gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, the government had to build up its public services from scratch, and from the start, it decided to go digital.

“Estonia was a relatively poor country,” Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid said during a CNBC interview. “Our public sector, our government and our civil servants wanted to offer our people good quality services. We did it straight away digitally because it was simply cheaper, easy.”

Today, over 99% of Estonia’s government services can be done online, from paying taxes to checking health records and prescriptions, to even e-voting!

But the backbone of the system is Estonia’s digital ID service — aptly named eID — which allows citizens to identify themselves when making online transactions. In fact, enabling digital signatures has allowed the country to save up to 2% of its GDP annually.

Estonia’s eID system is similar to Singapore’s very own SingPass, which also allows Singapore residents to digitally verify their identities. This grants users access to over 2,000 online services from government and private organisations. With SingPass, one can instantly check their CPF account balances or even apply for a home online.

But there are some key differences between the two systems. For example, usage of the mobile version of eID requires an individual to own a specially-registered SIM card that is secured with a passcode. While in Singapore, we use the SingPass Mobile app, that’s secured with either a fingerprint, face recognition or a 6-digit pin.

Either way, Estonians and Singaporeans can both agree that digital identification that facilitates e-transactions goes a long way to making our lives much, much easier.

Mobile Parking Payments

Mobile Parking PaymentsEstonians have been paying for parking via mobiles for 20 years!

Parking.SG, launched in 2017, allows Singaporean motorists to pay and manage their parking sessions via a mobile app. Gone are the days of hunting down a 7-11 to buy paper parking coupons, or the fear of finding a fine plastered on the windscreen after returning from a longer-than-expected makan session.

But did you know that Estonia was the first country in the world to implement a mobile parking payment system? Estonians have been enjoying mobile parking payment since 2000.

The aptly-named Mobile Parking system can be used in public parking facilities and even private ones. It’s all done conveniently through a mobile app. Around 90% of all parking charges are paid via the system.

Recent improvements to the Mobile Parking app include a fully automated solution; a parking session automatically begins when the vehicle is turned off, and ends once its started up again. This is achieved when the app is paired via bluetooth to a vehicle’s in-car entertainment system.

Even payment is simple, as the cost of the parking will be simply added to the driver’s mobile phone bill at the end of the month.

Smart Zebra Crossing

When we talk about smart cities, vehicle-related solutions dominate the headlines, from electric self-driving cars to the above mentioned smart parking system. But what about smart city solutions for the most basic commuter — the walking pedestrian?

Well, how about a smart zebra crossing sign? Developed by the Estonian company Bercman, this smart sign has been installed in four locations. Three are operating in Estonia and one in Helsinki, Finland.

But what is it? Well, named the Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk (of course) is a street-sign on steroids. While traditional signages passively provide information to road users and pedestrians to keep them safe, this smart sign is able to take active steps to prevent accidents from occurring.

Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk, an IoT cloud-based platform, monitors sensors to report traffic flow and parking availability across Amsterdam. When Smart Flow was first launched, the average time required to find a parking space was significantly reduced by 43 percent. On top of that, it helps drivers to make more fiscally responsible choices by listing the cheapest options within the area.

How is this done? According to Bercman, “…narrow artificial intelligence algorithms are used, which are capable of predicting the moving trajectories when a pedestrian might be run over by a vehicle”. The sign would then emit audio warnings, and flash red LEDs to grab the attention of both pedestrian and driver to prevent an accident.

Now that’s really smart.

A Smart Commitment

In 2019, the Estonian government co-funded €17 million into a fund that focuses on developing solutions for cross-border integration of smart cities. The project, dubbed the “Finest Twins”, aims to make the neighbouring capital cities of Finland and Estonia — Helsinki and Tallinn — more digitally integrated.

Additionally, the initiative will fund a challenge that seeks to award 10 proposals that solves urban challenges identified by the local governments of Estonia. Each successful proposal would receive up to €1.5 million each to fund a large-scale pilot test.

The fund is the most valuable research and development fund in Estonia, and signifies the commitment Estonians have made towards the smart city dream. As such, we can be sure to expect further exciting smart city developments from Estonia.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: www.tech.gov.sg

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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