Punggol Digital District secures first batch of global players; more than 2,000 jobs to be created
SINGAPORE: Four global companies in the fields of blockchain, cybersecurity, robotics and smart living solutions have confirmed plans to set up base in the upcoming “smart business district” in Punggol, becoming the first batch of international firms to do so.
These companies, as well as other tech agencies and associations that have confirmed their plans in the Punggol Digital District (PDD) at this stage, will collectively create more than 2,000 technology jobs , national industrial estate developer JTC said on Wednesday (Jul 28).
The four companies are: Boston Dynamics, Delta Electronics Int’l (Singapore), Group-IB, and Wanxiang.
The latter two will locate their regional headquarters in the Punggol Digital District, which remains under development and will progressively open from 2024.
Described as “Singapore’s first smart business district”, the 50-hectare district will incorporate a business park, the Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) new campus as well as community facilities.
It will be powered by an open digital platform, which will collect real-time data from the district and can be used to roll out solutions such as optimising temperatures in buildings.
When fully ready, the Punggol Digital District is set to create 28,000 digital economy jobs, authorities have said.
“The strong business interest and investments in PDD is testament to Singapore’s reputation as the region’s digital innovation hub,” said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong at an event on Wednesday where he announced the first batch of international firms.
He noted that the digital economy is a bright spot for businesses around the world amid the disruptions of COVID-19. It is also “critical to the economic success for Singapore and Singaporeans”, he said.
While Singapore is already home to many global tech firms, Mr Gan said it needs to keep enhancing its value proposition in order to remain the location of choice for tech businesses in the long term.
The country has taken “active steps” such as remaining “vigilant and determined” in its approach to combat the pandemic, as well as strengthening its digital infrastructure including plans for two nationwide 5G networks by 2025.
READ: Singapore on track to roll out 5G by 2025; Singtel, StarHub-M1 joint venture issued final awards
It is also on track to achieving its “smart city” ambitions, with the Punggol Digital District being “a living lab for new concepts and solutions” in artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, cybersecurity and smart living.
Mr Gan described the digital district in Punggol as the first to integrate physical and digital spaces between a business park and an academic institution.
“The co-location of businesses and the future Singapore Institute of Technology brings businesses to talent, and talent to businesses,” he said.
The Punggol Digital District also offers businesses “plug and play” digital infrastructure through the open digital platform, which makes data available for companies, students and the public to testbed new concepts and solutions in a safe environment before actual deployment, the minister added.
Apart from these unique offerings, Mr Gan noted that companies also stand to “benefit from Singapore’s status as an open global hub for innovation, business and talent”.
“The PDD will create good job opportunities for Singaporeans, including those living and studying in the Punggol district,” he said.
The 2,000 jobs that the inaugural batch of four companies are expected to create range from digital forensics and data analysts to solution engineers, cyber threat hunters, and artificial intelligence and blockchain developers, according to JTC.
WHAT THE COMPANIES PLAN TO DO
One of these global players is US-based robotics company Boston Dynamics, best known for its “Spot” robot.
The four-legged robot was previously used by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to trial robotics applications. For instance, Spot patrolled Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park last year as part of safe distancing efforts.
Moving forward, Spot will be used in the Punggol Digital District to “test real-world use cases” such as laser scanning of construction sites and inspecting remote or dangerous environments.
Boston Dynamics will also partner local start-up dConstruct Technologies and SIT on the learning and applied research of robotics systems.
By using Spot and dConstruct’s proprietary software programming tool, students will be able to develop robotic solutions to improve campus experiences.
“Our robotic stack is something that we’re going to provide to SIT, to empower their students with the same capability to actually have self-driving robots on campus, and this will allow them to actually solve a lot of their campus challenges,” said dConstruct’s chief technology officer Chong Jiayi.
“For example, they want to do autonomous scanning – ability for robots to scan to construct a 3D digital twin on campus. These are some of the very exciting projects that we are going to be empowering SIT in partnership with Boston Dynamics," he added.
The local start-up will also be moving into the Punggol Digital District by 2024, said chief financial officer Hazel Kuok.
“We will work with the industry and the education institution in the same ecosystem to develop workforce capabilities in robotics hardware and software. We see the PDD as the nucleus for this opportunity,” she said.
Meanwhile, Delta Electronics, a global provider of power and thermal management solutions, has launched its first automated container farm at the Punggol Digital District’s site gallery.
It also retrofitted the site gallery with its Internet-of-Things-based automated solutions, such as lighting controls and video surveillance. These are integrated into the open digital platform, allowing for remote monitoring and machine learning of usage patterns to optimise building performance.
With these, the company will set up a PDD Smart Living Programme to provide companies with access to smart living solutions for learning and test-bedding purposes.
Asked why the company is keen on being located in the Punggol Digital District, managing director Cecilia Ku cited the advantages of a fully-digital platform and the potential for partnerships.
“Without the company giving up source code, JTC and the Government actually worked out a way to make the data available for technology companies like us (to) test out solutions,” she told CNA.
One area is smart farming where the company will be able to work with others to develop different hydroponic seeds or species of vegetables.
Another area that it plans to test bed is its smart living solutions.
“The Government’s plan is to go green and has a Singapore Green Plan 2030 so we are trying to … see whether we can convert existing buildings to green buildings first,” said Ms Ku.
“We will monitor the energy consumption and everything. With the data collection, if we need to transform the green buildings to super-low energy (in future), then we have the data to know which areas to work on … So this is something that we want to test out in PDD because there’s data available.”
Delta Electronics also has plans to set up a regional headquarter in Kallang by 2022, in addition to a satellite office at the Punggol Digital District.
With these coming up, the company will be investing almost S$30 million over the next five years.
International threat hunting and cyber intelligence firm Group-IB and Chinese conglomerate Wanxiang will be locating their regional headquarters in the new digital district.
The former will collaborate with SIT to design and engineer a virtual testing environment for early-stage companies and start-ups to test their solutions to cyberattacks.
It also partnered the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and cybersecurity community Division Zero to organise the inaugural PDD bug bounty programme, where students were given four hours to identify “bugs” that can compromise smart lighting and building management systems hosted on an isolated network managed by SIT.
Such applied learning is an example of future cybersecurity activities that will be organised to nurture talents, JTC said in its press release.
For Wanxiang, it is teaming up with blockchain accelerator Tribe to launch a blockchain makerspace and incubation programme for students and start-ups.
The company will also join hands with a local training provider to launch a series of programme to help mid-career professionals build skillsets and provide certification in areas such as blockchain and cloud computing.
TECH AGENCIES, ASSOCIATIONS
Apart from the international players, the ecosystem at the Punggol Digital District will be further strengthened by the CSA, GovTech and a network of tech associations, said JTC.
It added that the PDD will house the highest concentration of cybersecurity associations in Singapore.
The associations, together with other industry and community groups, will curate activities like international conferences and hackathons to upskill students and mid-career job seekers in the digital tech field, the press release said.