Remote Area Connectivity Solution (RACS)
By Jack Toh, Executive Manager, Smart Nation Platform Solutions
Smart cities are only as good as their connectivity.
As Singapore embarks on her quest to build a Smart Nation, network connectivity — in my opinion — is core to this vision. The possibilities of future cities are endless: with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, driverless cars and a coherent network of smart devices and sensors, we can make life safer, more convenient and create new opportunities for our citizens.
However, all these technologies depend on us having a robust connectivity network and getting the basics right goes a long way in fulfilling our Smart Nation vision.
An objective in my work is to solve the issue of connectivity in remote areas of Singapore. Due to geographical and pragmatic reasons, remote areas like the offshore islands have very weak network signals, posing a challenge for the deployment of technological solutions.
What is the Remote Area Connectivity Solution?
Our goal is to respond to the increasing need for agencies to use technology to help our officers perform mundane tasks more efficiently. We also aim to harness data in a timely manner to aid incident responses and future urban planning. An improvement in network connectivity is therefore essential for technological solutions to work effectively.
An integral component of the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) is its connectivity layer. It provides several Whole-of-Government connectivity solutions to meet the requirements of different technologies.
The Remote Area Connectivity Solution (RACS) is one such connectivity solution, which solves the issue of poor connectivity in remote areas by using different connectivity technologies like Wi-Fi, 4G and TV White Space (TVWS) spectrums to provide Internet connectivity to remote locations. These include the offshore islands of Singapore, assets in the middle of the seas, as well as mobile vessels.
RACS enables the trial and use of advanced technologies beyond mainland Singapore, such as robotics, drones, smart sea fairways and long-distance underwater communications.
With RACS, government agencies can power technological solutions like Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics in remote areas. RACS reinforces SNSP’s Whole-of-Government connectivity strategy of providing affordable connectivity services for agencies’ sensor and IoT deployment.
How does RACS work?
To support connectivity among agencies, RACS uses multiple types of wireless technologies. One notable solution includes TV White Space (TVWS) technology: an innovation that allows access to the presently untapped and under-utilised source of spectrum between television broadcast bands.
The unused spectrum between TV stations — white spaces — is the result of television stations operating in geographically separate areas to avoid interference with one other. On top of that, not all television channels are utilised, particularly in areas of the country where the population is less dense. Thus, this unused spectrum holds rich potential for expanding broadband capacity and improving access for many users, and TVWS technology is a way to meet the demand for frequency spectrum of high-speed wireless broadband Internet access, machine-to-machine communications, smart metering and outdoor environment monitoring services.
TV White Space signals are less prone to interferences caused by weather conditions, sea waves,or passing ships, providing steadier and more reliable data input which can be better translated into insights to better inform policies and allow for improvements to public services. This makes it a reliable, low-cost solution that allows long-range connectivity for data transmission. It can even potentially provide Internet network connectivity for islands such as St John’s and Kusu Islands. This service is proactively monitored and managed by GovTech’s Smart Nation Operations Centre around the clock.
So far, several agencies have already expressed their interest in deploying RACS for a host of applications. Robotics and IoT will allow these agencies to automate operational processes to improve efficiency and reduce manpower costs. Meanwhile, connectivity technologies will enable the agencies to access online applications for improved productivity.
RACS and the Smart Nation Vision
RACS is, I believe, a major stride towards actualising the Smart Nation vision because it brings the connectivity needed for technological transformation to the entire nation — not just within the mainland, but to our surrounding waters and islands as well.
For instance, the Singapore Land Authority has been conducting trials with us using unmanned drones and sensors to monitor and manage approximately 11,000 hectares of state land, which is far more efficient compared to SLA officers having to frequently physically scour the islands.
This can be made possible only with a combination of network connectivity solutions, which include 4G, Wi-Fi and TV White Space signals.
With RACS under way, its potential to improve and support existing infrastructure will truly take us to the future of a seamless, interconnected network that will enhance our quality of life.
Keen to share with us on any potential use cases for 5G? Write to us at email@example.com with your ideas.
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