For a city known around the world as a bustling hub of trade and commerce, one of the most striking things about Singapore is how green it is.
Despite open space being precious, nature is a vital part of the island nation’s psyche, with citizens flocking to parks, beaches and gardens in their spare time, and in a city where the future is constantly being reinvented, what is a better way to make sure it stays green than through smart technology?
Best Product Pro has already looked at how the city’s grass is tracked by IoT technology, but it seems that the natural reach also extends to the trees themselves.
Despite the densely packed office buildings and roads, Singapore prides itself on calling itself a garden city, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Botanical Gardens.
Created in 1859, the gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are a popular destination for citizens and tourists alike to relax, exercise or simply sit and observe the thousands of plant species.
The gardens are managed by the government’s National Parks Board (NParks), which manages and oversees a wealth of different tasks as it looks to transform from a garden city into what Tan Chong Lee, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, tells Best Product Pro will be “a city in a garden”.
NParks has fully adopted Singapore’s affinity for technology, with Lee noting that it is currently running about 150 research and digitization projects as it seeks to adopt a science-based approach to its future work.
One of the largest projects concerns the care and management of approximately two million urban trees spread across the island. With a total of some seven million trees in Singapore, they provide a welcome break from the concrete jungle of the city’s business districts, helping to clear pollution and lower temperatures.
But to ensure this vital resource remains protected, NParks, in partnership with Govtech, the technology arm of the Singapore government, has now put online the two million trees it cares for. Using Lidar and machine learning technology, each tree is scanned to create a digital twin of itself that is uploaded to a virtual map of the city.
This digital twin not only provides a location of the tree, but also provides information such as height and girth, which can be compared to average rates for its species to determine how it will grow and when it should be pruned next.
As any gardener knows, pruning is vital for encouraging new growth, but for urban trees it can also be an important safety protocol, as overgrowing branches can block road signs or speed warnings. The data produced by the digital twin can be modeled to see when urgent work is required, reducing waste of resources and manpower and keeping safety high.
However, the information can also benefit the trees themselves. Satellite imagery can be used to spot trees with a lower chlorophyll rate, which will appear yellow or brown to warn that they need immediate attention. The board also has wireless tilt sensors attached to trees that may be at risk of falling, providing data on how much they can lean.
All of these technologies have so far helped reduce the annual number of what Lee calls “boom incidents” from 3,000 in the year 2000 to less than 500 so far by 2022.
To create more connection, all two million trees are also online on the TreesSG online database (opens in new tab). Users can access the database to find trees near them, report any problems they notice, and even email the trees to thank them for the natural benefits they provide.
So it seems that when it comes to staying on top of your health, it may well be the trees that do it – that’s certainly true in Singapore.