Singapore

First app in HDB 'digital ecosystem' announced

Residents will soon have a mobile device application that allows them to make appointments with banks or clinics in Housing Board (HDB) estates or apply to use public spaces such as void decks.

It can even prompt them when nearby shops are having promotions.

While the beta version that will be released by the first quarter of next year contains only a directory of commercial shops, the app will have more features adapted to residents' needs by the year's end.

It is part of a tie-up by HDB, telco StarHub and tech start-up Sentient, and is the first app in a planned "digital ecosystem" to use smart technologies and data analytics to create services that benefit residents.

Through data collected - such as residents' interests and frequently asked questions - agencies can better plan and manage community facilities.

For example, knowing which shops are frequently searched for by residents could give HDB planners an indication of the type of shops in demand, and help them adjust planning guidelines.

Over time, the platform will get more data sets as other public agencies and private companies come on board, such as the location and availability of carpark facilities.

Yesterday, the HDB signed an initial agreement with Sentient, StarHub, IBM and the Infocomm Media Development Authority to develop these apps.

StarHub's digital platforms director Nicole Cheah said: "The end goal is for residents to be able to use the app to, say, find a neighbour to take care of their dog while they are travelling. We want to nudge people in a safe way to find moments to connect, so that it's not just about saying hi in the lift."

At the same HDB inaugural Innovation Festival event held at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, where the mobile app was announced, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong launched a $5 million fund to encourage businesses to come up with innovative solutions to make public housing estates better.

The Cool Ideas Enterprise scheme is an expansion of an existing programme, initially aimed at members of the public to come up with ideas to improve HDB estates.

The expanded scheme is targeted at companies with ready products but which need funding or mentorship.

The first two companies to join the programme are Hocklim Engineering, which is working to install an earth-retaining system to stabilise steep slopes cheaply, and FytoSol, which created a nanogel that can let different types of plants grow on HDB rooftops.

Mr Wong said: "Sometimes we may get complaints because the ideas may sound good and look good, but you may get unexpected reactions that you had not anticipated. But that's what innovation is all about."

Technology