• Published Date: 29 Jun 2017

               The Housing & Development Board (HDB), in collaboration with Imperial College London (ICL) and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to embark on a $5.3 million research programme to study how smart sensing and analytics can enhance services within housing estates. The collaboration, inked at the Urban Sustainability R&D Congress today, is part of HDB’s efforts to leverage smart technologies for developing liveable and sustainable homes of the future.


    2          Spanning four years, the research programme will study how sensors and sensor networks can be enhanced to make data collection more efficient and reliable for the monitoring and analysis of estate-level services such as lifts, water pumps, and lighting. 


    3          The research programme is part of HDB’s Smart HDB Town Framework which maps out how HDB will create liveable, efficient, sustainable and safe towns for residents. Specifically, the collaboration comes under the Smart Estate domain, where HDB will leverage smart technologies to collect and analyse data, so as to better understand the usage patterns of common services, optimise maintenance with minimal disruption in services and create innovative solutions to provide a more pleasant living environment. Please refer to Annex A for more information on the Smart HDB Town Framework.


    4          Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive Officer of HDB, said “Estate services form the backbone of any residential town. Their performance directly impacts the quality of living of its residents. The ability to monitor the health of these services in real-time can greatly change the way estates are maintained. With data collected from a strong network of sensors and analytic tools, we can carry out analytics more efficiently and accurately. Common services in HDB estates can then be better optimised, maintained and managed.  The end result is quality living for our residents.”


    Three Key Facets of the Research Programme


    5         To enhance the performance and reliability of key Mechanical and Electrical services in housing estates, the research programme will look into three specific areas. More details are as follows:


    1. To Develop New Smart Sensors and Improve Design, Operation and Maintenance of Sensor Networks

      It is important that data collection methods are efficient and reliable. Part of the collaboration will involve the development of new sensors that come with computing capabilities, so that they can carry out basic data processing at the point of collection, in addition to their basic function of signal transmission.

      For example, instead of simply transmitting data back to HDB's Data Analytics Centre in one-second intervals, when such fine-grained data may not be useful or meaningful for analysis, the new sensors could have the capability to aggregate and compute large chunks of data collected into 15-minute intervals, so that analysts can examine data patterns more efficiently and accurately. Furthermore, transmitting purely processed data would help to reduce the bandwidth required and make the transmission process more sustainable over the long term.

      In addition, the team will study how sensors can be better deployed for more effective monitoring of estate services.  For example, as data transmission may be blocked by existing tall structures, the research programme will study how sensors can be better located in urban environments, so that sufficient amounts of data may be smoothly transmitted and collected for more accurate data analysis.


    1. To Integrate Multiple Sources of Data for Better Reporting and Informed Decision-Making

      To enable a more comprehensive view and understanding of the vast amounts of data collected for better informed decision-making, the research will look into how large amounts of municipal data (e.g. data from estate services, environmental sensors, building profiles etc.) can be aggregated into a central repository for better data mining and the gathering of insights. This information can then be shared with relevant Town Councils and agencies so that they can devise targeted solutions that best meet the specific needs of their estates.

      For example, various streams of information about an estate’s environmental condition, building profile, exposure to the elements, usage patterns and so on can be examined together with the data on the performance of the lifts. Further research can then be undertaken to find out if these factors have any impact on the durability and performance of the lifts. With such data-based capabilities, local agencies may seek solutions to improve performance of the lifts.


    1. To Strengthen Capabilities in Predictive Analytics for More Efficient Estate Maintenance

      With the ability to better analyse the performance of estate services, the data can be shared with the Town Councils to help them to further optimise the maintenance frequency and cyclical replacement works needed for these services.

      For example, data collected from individual lift components, such as the temperature of the lift motor, lift speeds and vibrations, lift alignment with the ground, and even the frequency of misuse of lifts, could facilitate the prediction of potential lift faults. Abnormalities detected can help to pre-empt lift faults by improving the maintenance regime and taking a more targeted approach when maintaining lifts.  


    Expansion of Smart HDB Town Framework to Include Smart Communities Domain


    6          Under the Smart HDB Town Framework, HDB had initially focused on four domains - Smart Planning, Smart Environment, Smart Estate and Smart Living.  As a further refinement, HDB will be including a fifth domain, to enable Smart Communities. Data collected on demographics, social trends, and lifestyle preferences, can be harnessed to better understand the needs and preferences of residents. Suitable smart applications can be developed to bring them closer together and to empower residents to take greater ownership of their community. It will also create future communities that are more inclusive and resilient.


    7          For example, through gamification (the process of turning an activity or task into a game or something that resembles a game), applications could be developed to promote community bonding, with an element of fun. The application could allow residents to display a list of items that they require assistance with (i.e. carpooling, buying of groceries, house cleaning etc.). Neighbours could then respond to these requests and “earn credit” for help rendered and exchange the credits for discounted goods and services at neighbourhood shops etc. Further details about this new domain under the Smart HDB Town Framework will be provided when ready. 


    Awards for Outstanding Research and Development


    8          Separately, HDB was conferred two awards at the Minister for National Development Research and Development Awards. The Awards recognise the important role that research and development plays in creating an endearing home and a distinctive global city. The winning projects are:


    • HDB’s Complex System Modelling Tool – developed in collaboration with EDF and Veolia, this tool was conferred the Merit Award. The tool is able to simulate a built environment and analyse the impact of various smart and sustainability initiatives to be introduced into a town (i.e. LED lights, solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems etc.).  This enables town planners, architects and engineers to accurately assess the trade-offs involved when introducing new smart and sustainable features in HDB towns. They can then choose the most effective and cost efficient combination of solutions to achieve the desired sustainability targets.
    • HDB’s Floating Wetlands and Freshwater-Tolerant Mangroves – developed in collaboration with NTU, NUS, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic, this project was awarded Special Mention for its ability to protect riverbanks, improve water quality and promote biodiversity along the Punggol Waterway. With the system, water quality along the Waterway has improved by up to 30 per cent. In recognition of these achievements, the system was also conferred the ASEAN Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award and the IES Prestigious Engineering Award in 2016.   


    9          In all, HDB has been conferred six awards since the commencement of the Minister for National Development R&D Awards in 2011. More details on the various awards can be found in Annex B.