Remote control your home

Romesh Navaratnarajah24 Aug 2017

Smart homes are changing the way we live, making our lives more convenient.

Property developers are taking advantage of new technologies to build smart homes, which is in line with Singapore’s vision of being a smart nation. We investigate.

By Romesh Navaratnarajah

In his recent National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted three issues that are important to Singapore’s long-term success, one of which is making us a Smart Nation.

“Smart Nation is about Singapore taking full advantage of IT to make this an outstanding city in which to live, work and play,” he said.

Interestingly, property developers have been integrating smart home technology into their local projects since the early 2000s. City Developments Limited (CDL) is considered one of the pioneers, having introduced the internet-ready i-Home concept in The Equatorial condominium at Stevens Road in 2001.

Since then, the company has continued to innovate and introduce new features in its residential projects. In 2012, CDL partnered with Japan’s Daiwa House to roll out the first-of-its-kind Home Energy Management System (HEMS) in the Echelon at Alexandra View.

The system controls air-conditioners and lighting usage via smart devices like iPads, thereby enabling residents to save on energy bills. Users will get email or SMS alerts if they exceed the energy usage limit.

CDL has also invested $2.25 million in a research and development collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) School of Design and Environment to bring about innovations in smart and climate-resilient building technologies to address the future lifestyle needs of its home buyers and tenants.

Savvier homeowners

According to Franklin Tang, CEO of mobile app builder Philip Tang & Sons, most new private residential projects feature basic smart features and technology.

“Based on what we have seen in the last 18 months, I believe there will definitely be considerable growth towards critical mass for smart home systems,” he said. “Homeowners have become savvier with smart homes and the various possibilities that arise from having such features.”

The homegrown company was recently announced as the developer for M+S’s MySphere mobile app, the first integrated live-work-play app for Marina One and DUO.

Given that developers have various projects, Tang believes their vision is for homeowners and office workers to seamlessly transfer across the various developments to meet their daily needs.

“This represents convenience through improved efficiencies which benefit homeowners, especially those who happen to work at commercial buildings owned by the same developer,” he said.

Tang, who focuses on software design and product development, personally oversaw the design process for Habitap, Asia’s first fully integrated smart home management system that allows homeowners to control their environment through their app or voice activation tools such as Amazon’s Alexa.

Instead of having many apps to do multiple things, Habitap allows users to control and monitor their home, manage community facilities and curate their lifestyle through a single app.

Some of its functions include unlocking the door remotely, setting the home temperature, controlling curtains and blinds and booking facilities. There are also community features such as bike sharing, and users can invite and manage guests with the app doubling as a smart intercom, thus replacing the need for access cards.

Singapore a Smart city PGNV 116

Singapore is striving to become one of the most connected cities in the world.

Costs may vary

Homeowners have the option to install Habitap when they purchase their homes, but Tang did not disclose the cost. “The budgets vary based on the profile of property and the expected purchaser profiles. This also varies across the region,” he said.

Habitap is currently being used at Keppel Land’s Corals at Keppel Bay and The Glades condominiums, and will also be implemented at Highline Residences at Tiong Bahru, which will be completed in 2018.

Ng Ooi Hooi, president (Singapore) at Keppel Land, said residents’ feedback is that they enjoy the convenience of living in a smart development.

As part of its brand philosophy of ‘Thinking Unboxed’, the developer is investing heavily in smart living solutions. “In line with Singapore’s Smart Nation vision, we want to keep abreast of and harness technology and lifestyle trends for homes and offices that are desirable to our customers,” said Ng.

“We are looking to continuously improve Habitap to better serve residents’ needs. We will use the feedback and data gathered from users of the current version of the application to improve subsequent versions.”

He added: “We plan to implement Habitap in our new residential developments in Singapore and overseas. Looking ahead, we are exploring to extend the platform to our hospitality, commercial and retail assets.”

A rival to Habitap

Meanwhile, Chinese developer Qingjian Realty is introducing the hiLife app, which is a rival to Habitap, at all its existing and upcoming projects. This includes the recently launched Le Quest mixed-use development in Bukit Batok, which is expected to be completed by end-2021.

“Homeowners will be able to manage their smart home devices, and access a virtual concierge where they can order food from caterers, sign up for classes and book facilities at any time of the day,” said Yen Chong, deputy general manager at Qingjian Realty.

In addition, Qingjian plans to roll out new solutions for tenants as well. “We are working with Koufu – the operator of the smart food court in Le Quest – to serve local traditional breakfast in the clubhouse to homeowners. We are also looking into developing a smart unmanned food delivery system that can deliver orders to homeowners’ doorsteps,” Chong said.

The hiLife app has also been adopted in many residential projects by managing agents and developers due to its ease of use.

Kee Lek Yong, 38, a hiLife user who lives at the D’Zire condo in Hougang, said the app is simple and easy to use, and makes home management more convenient. “Previously, without the app, I had to manually fill in forms to book barbecue pits and other facilities which was very troublesome.”

Said Chong: “As technology is advancing at a rapid speed, Qingjian Realty has to look far ahead and incorporate necessary infrastructure to support smart living in future – when developments receive the temporary occupation permit. We will continue to ensure our homes are well-equipped with the capability to meet the evolving needs of future homeowners.”


Smart homes Singapore PGNV 116



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