The rise of smart cities

Source: StraitsTimes on June 2, 2017 | Irene Tham, Chang May Choon, Lim Yan Liang, Walter Sim, Julien Bouissou and Florence de Changy

With more than 60 percent of the world's population expected to be urban residents by 2050, the challenge to build more "smart cities" has become urgent. With the advent of digital technology and big data, changes are afoot, be it in public transportation, citizen services or the way businesses are run. To discuss these changes and evaluate the processes under way, one of France's leading newspapers, Le Monde, in partnership with The Straits Times, is organising a conference titled "Smart Cities: Which visions and models for the 21st century?" at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy today. And, in a four-page special, The Straits Times and Le Monde showcase Asian cities that have, in their individual ways, applied smart city solutions to enhance the quality of life.

Imagine the convenience of transferring money to a friend or a vendor just by using the other party's mobile phone number instead of his bank account number.

This may happen before the month is out.

A Central Addressing Scheme slated to be rolled out will dispense with the need for bank account numbers - a bugbear of e-payments now.

Instead, the scheme - backed by the Association of Banks in Singapore - will map mobile phone numbers to bank account numbers for funds to be credited, saving senders the hassle of asking for and entering a recipient's account number.

The new function will be integrated into banks' existing apps, such as DBS PayLah, UOB Mighty, OCBC Pay Anyone, Maybank Mobile Money and Standard Chartered's SC Mobile.

It is believed that the service will bring down the merchants' costs of going digital, allowing even hawkers and owners of small shops to go cashless.

E-payment is a key part of Singapore's Smart Nation drive, which received "turbo-charging" following a reorganisation of the public sector teams involved in its design and implementation

Singapore wants to make e-wallets as universally accepted as cash, just like online payment solution Alipay in China.

Part of a $90 million fund to modernise hawker centres has also been set aside to install cashless payment systems to open up e-payments at hawker centres.

Separately, Nets - a consortium of local banks - is upgrading its point-of-sale terminals to accept payment from all banks and payment networks, and through cards or mobile wallets.

As Minister in charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said in March, Singapore is "a victim of its own success" in the e-payment space as it has many options but none quite as universally accepted as cash. It is hoped that the Central Addressing Scheme will provide the streamlining needed.

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