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Thursday, 2.12.2021
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Picture this: hot-pink driverless electric vehicles, stuffed to the brim with food deliveries, cruising along our highways.

That's the image painted by So Yong Heng, oversea market representative of Neolix, the company that manufactures said four-wheelers, at a recent demonstration with foodpanda. And the wheels are being set in motion. A trial will take place at National University of Singapore's UTown from mid-October, says Miro Banovic, operations and innovation lead at foodpanda, which is partnering Neolix to roll out this modern-day food-delivery initiative.

"During this trial, the robots will assist with completing the last-mile deliveries during peak periods, and transform into a mobile convenience store." The company aims to expand the "vending machine on wheels" concept to more residential estates in future, he says, adding that the project is in line with Singapore's vision of being a smart city.

But then what will happen to the livelihoods of delivery riders and staff, and how will it affect the businesses of 24-hour convenience stores?

Smart city is a buzzy concept for sure. Yet I'm not entirely sure about what it implies for my personal life and job security. Will jobs be displaced by bots? Will The Terminator rule?

foodpanda's Mr Banovic says the adoption of autonomous robots is not meant to replace riders. "It is an extension to our fleet to help lessen the constraint on our delivery riders. Engaging autonomous robots will help to solve challenges such as long customer waiting times due to lack of available riders, and deliveries to inaccessible locations."

Samuel Chng, who heads the Urban Psychology Lab within the Smart Cities Lab in the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, says it is inexorable that in the years to come, more parts of our lives will be intertwined with technology. Think how computers came into workplaces decades back and smartphones entered our lives not too long ago.

Innovation is a wonderful thing and a force that brings huge benefits for many people. Many innovative technologies were created for unmet needs and to improve our lives. Take smart watches, which are now ubiquitous on many wrists.

The buzz on my Fitbit reminds me that it is time to take an amble - so that I do not become a slob amid the pandemic. All's well and good, and I was at first enamored with this gizmo that would also tell me the number of hours I slept. But as the novelty wore off, I started to mull over the "what next?"

What's next, is companies such as Cigna Singapore partnering health software developer PAI Health to launch the world's first health insurance that harnesses wearable tech. Using PAI's interactive Health Dashboard which tracks customers' cardio-respiratory fitness and activity levels, Cigna Singapore will be able to develop a health insurance pricing plan tailored to the individual's "real time" health behaviour and lifestyle.

Raymond Ng, CEO and country manager, Cigna Singapore, says that Singapore's Smart Nation initiative has definitely been accelerated in the past few years, particularly in the areas of urban safety and technological resilience. "Being a smart city also looks at the ability to support better living using technology, and health resilience should be considered as an important yardstick as well. We believe that embedding wearable technology to health cover is just the first step towards empowering self-care and having better health resilience over the long term."

Mr Ng adds that wearable technology enables customers to better monitor their body's biometric information and keep track of their health goals, as it can detect subtle increases in heart rate and decreases in blood oxygen levels - signs that may signal the onset of an illness.

Ng Chong Jin, deputy head and senior consultant of the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, agrees that smart watches can provide useful information objectively for doctors to review and gain insight about the patients' well-being. Some can also reveal the mental well-being of patients with an electro-dermal activity sensor which can be used to determine the stress level.

"Overall, smart watches allow the users to take ownership of their own condition and monitor their own mental and physical health status in a longitudinal fashion. But it is important to note that the detection features do not replace a visit to the physician should it show abnormal results like irregular heart rhythm, which will require a more thorough evaluation."

While the idea of a smart city spells tech and more tech to most people, Dr Chng says this is far from reality. "A smart city should be more human-centric than technology-centric. It should enable and bring new possibilities for work, life, and play for those living in these cities. And in doing so, enhance the quality of our lives. A smart city needs to be more than a city with smart technology. People making smart use of technology and engaging in smart and meaningful work are essential too."

Forrest Gump might say: smart is as smart does.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Vivien Ang

Quelle/Source: The Business Times, 25.09.2021

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