SINGAPORE: Virtual Singapore, the 3D digital model of the country, will be launched next July at the World Cities Summit, agencies leading the project said.
The programme was first announced in November 2014 as part of Singapore's Smart Nation drive, a nationwide initiative that was highlighted as one of the three key issues Singapore needs to address at this year's National Day Rally speech.
Virtual Singapore, which was originally targeted to be ready by the end of this year, will be an online platform that contains information such as real-time traffic data and weather conditions.
The team behind the S$73 million technology, which comprises the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the National Research Foundation (NRF), said it has completed the 3D model of the whole island and is now working on developing tools like route planners and hazard alert systems.
Users will also be able to gather details that range from the amount of direct sunlight a particular housing unit gets to the number of parking spaces right below a housing block.
When ready, the system will be rolled out to public agencies first, the SLA and NRF said. The team has not decided when businesses and members of the public will be able to start using the platform.
“The geographic data that we have today, such as locations, physical structures, buildings, traffic data, (they) will be shared on the Virtual Singapore for all the public agencies to use, and they will use them for their planning, services, and operations,” said Mr Ng Siau Yong, director of SLA’s geospatial and data division.
The team added that it is in early rounds of discussion with statutory boards JTC and the Land Transport Authority (LTA). JTC may adopt it for the planning of the Jurong Innovation District, while the LTA could apply it to its plans for the Ang Mo Kio walking and cycling town.
But the technology could be used for more ambitious projects, said Mr Ng.
He gave the example of testing driverless vehicles, where companies will not need to put the vehicle on an actual road with heavy traffic - a risky situation - but simulate it safely in a virtual environment and test it under various road conditions.
Virtual Singapore can also enhance town planning in a country with very little space to experiment, he added.
"Singapore is a very unique situation. We are a very densely built environment, with (many) high-rise buildings,” Mr Ng said. “With Virtual Singapore, the public agencies will be able to make use of more accurate and precise information to plan the city better."
Urban planner Surbana Jurong said it is likely to use the system when it is launched. On average, half of the company's income comes from projects in Singapore, it said.
Mr Wong Heang Fine, the company’s group chief executive officer, said that with Virtual Singapore, it will be better able to understand the public’s needs and this will help to refine its plans.
Useful data, said Mr Wong, includes public transport commuter behaviour and the times of the day when certain areas in Singapore would be more congested.
Being able to “immerse” oneself in the virtual world, which also allows them to study how buildings and spaces “interact”, is another way Virtual Singapore can be helpful, Mr Wong said.
When planners are able to understand “how residents feel … if you put a tall building of 6 to 8 storeys versus a building of 12 or 10 storeys”, he said, “you get better urban design, better-looking buildings – buildings that are more sustainable”.
But though the programme allows them to test their products in various hypothetical conditions, it cannot predict public sentiments, he added, and urban planners must still gather feedback from the community before any work is complete.