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Date [ 2015-08-26, 10:44 ]

The city state has moved from Information Science to Data Science and now the move is towards being a Smart Nation.

(Singapore=Koreanpress) Jun Boon-Hwa = Last held in Singapore in 1995, this year the annual Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS) conference provides a forum for researchers and practitioners working on all aspects of information systems.

In his presentation, Professor Toh Chai Keong, Assistant Chief Executive (Engineering & Technology), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, spoke about the nexus of information science and computer science, and highlighted some of the key trends leading from these to the emergence of data science.

The first of these trends: There are more devices than humans today, and these devices come with considerable computational power. Hence, “anyone, everyone, anything can generate data,” he said. “The huge explosion of devices means we have to prepare for that change.”
The second trend concerns how data is shaping up as the “new gold” or the “new oil”. “Content is king, but content can only be generated through data,” said Prof Toh. “As we undertake research, we must understand how data is driving enterprises and markets as a whole.”

Another important development is the speed of Internet access. In Singapore, for example, the nationwide fibre network reaches more than 90 per cent of homes and provides affordable connectivity at less than S$50 a month. This is complemented by wireless or mobile connectivity. With 4G LTE offering speeds of up to 75 Mbps, users can now surf seamlessly on their devices.

Coming up fast next is 5G and by 2020, there will be 10 to 100 times more devices, 10,000 times more traffic, with less than 1 millisecond latency in the delivery of services. 100 Mbps will be available wherever it is needed, with peak data rates capable of hitting 10 Gbps.

“With this connectivity and data rate, we will have this information tsunami,” informed Prof Toh. It is estimated that some 98,000 tweets, 23,148 downloads and 400,710 ad requests are generated every 60 seconds. “We get so overwhelmed by information that we don’t know which information is critical.”

Search engines such as Yahoo and Google have emerged to help users navigate this information on the World Wide Web. But, as Prof Toh pointed out, “The search yields convergence but not necessarily intelligence. It is based on what is out there, but does not quite reason out what that data means.”

Data science was thus born out of the need to address this and make sense of the data. It pulls together various disciplines such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, neuro computing, pattern recognition, statistics, data mining, databases and knowledge discovery. Prof Toh felt it is important to go beyond these individual areas to extract knowledge, “Students go to university to acquire knowledge, not to acquire data. Giving them facts does not make them more intelligent. They have to learn how to analyse and solve an issue.”

As part of Singapore’s plans for a Smart Nation, the government is opening up access to many public sector data sets so that meaningful apps can be created out of the data to solve problems.

Available on the portal data.gov.sg, the data sets cover areas such as business and the economy, education, energy and the environment, finance, safety and security, the population, households, transportation, tourism and recreation, science and information technology, and health. 

The main purpose of the Smart Nation is to tap on data analytics to improve the quality of the life of citizens, added Prof Toh. Among the challenges it aims to solve are those related to the aging population and urban density.

For example, smart healthcare will become increasingly important as the population ages. Minute sensors could be implanted in individuals to monitor their health status round the clock. Analytics applied to this data could help predict the likelihood of an individual falling sick, so that measures can be introduced to prevent this from happening.

Transport also presents a challenge as urban density continues to grow. In a Smart Nation, there are plans to take urban mobility to a new level.  Driverless buses could provide greater connectivity for first and last mile travel, mitigate the problem of driver shortage and give operators more control in fleet management and deployment.

Predictive traffic signalling at road junctions will be able to anticipate and pre-empt traffic flow, detect the presence of pedestrians and adjust the red light timing accordingly. Vehicles will be able to “talk” to each other and issue warning alerts if there is any danger.

Businesses will also be transformed. Data analytics can make business more intelligent and more competitive. Prof Toh expounded,” For example, businesses will be able to gain a better understanding of the size of market, what consumers want, how to position their products in terms of pricing, what their customers are saving and what their competitors are doing.”

Underpinning these developments will be the Smart Nation Platform, an intelligent infrastructure which combines the connectivity layer, the data layer and the intelligent application layer so that citizens can benefit from intelligent applications and real-time insights. Sensors will be deployed island-wide – in homes, on the streets, at bus stops, MRT stations and almost everywhere else – to generate real-time data which is then transported to a data collection point and from there to a computer platform which will make sense of the data and drive advanced applications.

Illustrating this through a transport scenario, Prof Toh cited the example of how analytics can extract and make sense of real-time video feeds. When a traffic accident occurs, this triggers responses such as a re-direction of traffic or the dispatch of an ambulance.  “A lot of amalgamation will take place through data analytics. There will be more intelligence, less human intervention, summed up Prof Toh..”

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