Boomtown City

Singapore is taking giant steps in the direction of a digital future. The “Lion City” is young, ambitious, and changing rapidly. This is a story about a city that knows only one direction: forward.

Text Verena Hoefert  Picture Juliana Tan

It’s bustling at Boat Quay in downtown Singapore. Tourists crowd around the landing stage, and the launches, illuminated with red lanterns, dock and cast off here in order to plough through the waters of the Singapore River. In former times the boats of Chinese traders were moored here, food was sold directly on the shore from cookshops, and the water had a very unpleasant smell. That was back in 1819, when Singapore was still a collection of fishing villages along a winding river on the swamp delta. That’s all a thing of the past now: the swampy ground and its stench have given way to glittering skylines.

The best way to get a first impression of the impressive Asian metropolis is on board one of the small vessels launched here at Boat Quay. In the evening hours, you can sail from there along the old water lifeline that leads into the head of Marina Bay. Glittering and sparkling, the iconic Marina Bay Hotel rises up like a UFO sent from a distant galaxy with its three towers and world-famous surfboard terrace. The shining white lotus blossom building of the Arts&Science Museum gleams on the water. In the background, the “Supertrees” stretch into the horizon, tall overgrown steel constructions that seem to have sprung directly from the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar. Opposite this, the illuminated skyscrapers of the financial district rise to dizzying heights. Visitors quickly feel like they are on a journey into the future.

“Singapore is always on the move. The city continuously reinvents itself.”

Holger Lindner, Head of the Product Service Division


“I’m convinced that this is what the future of nursing care for the elderly will look like.”

Foo Soo Guan,

Head of the Smart Elderly Care Center 

Welcome to the city-state that aspires to become one of the most modern and digitalized cities in the world! The young country was only founded in 1965, but the story of its subsequent success since then is unprecedented. Singapore actually had no initial capital at the time: hardly any raw materials, no water, no industry, no tourism. Singapore’s currency is progress and innovation, which are expressly desired by the government and strictly monitored on the basis of a strategic master plan. Within a few decades, the Lion City made the leap from a developing country to an international banking and trading metropolis as one of the most important container ports in the world as well as one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations. Our company quickly recognized the potential of this extraordinary city. TÜV SÜD has been represented in Singapore since 1995 and has more than 600 employees there today.

Mini as a country, maxi in high-tech 

Singapore is one of Asia’s foremost pioneers in matters of innovation. At the same time, the country with 5.5 million inhabitants and an area of around 700 square kilometers is not particularly large – you can travel from one end of the city to the other in 45 minutes. Its relatively small size is very advantageous for innovations. “We are a small country. You can pilot and implement projects very fast and successfully on a small scale and then adapt them in other countries,” explains Jackie Tan, Global Business Line Manager for Industry 4.0 at our location in the Science Park in the western part of the city. When you talk to Singaporeans or one of the many expats living there, two words come up again and again: fast and smart.

  People here have learned that digital change/disruption is coming – and fast. Not tomorrow but now. This makes an innovative spirit absolutely essential: “Singapore is a front runner. As a company, you either keep up or you’re gone,” says the specialist, cutting to the chase. Those who can’t hold to the fast pace have a hard time. Innovation is fostered and driven by the government. “A target is set, and then it’s full speed ahead. The government is very pragmatic here,” he continues. “But if you’re smart, you can accomplish a lot.” He is an expert for the Industry 4.0 - Smart Industry Readiness Index at TÜV SÜD and works in the team of Dr. Andreas Hauser, who heads the Digital Service Center of Excellence in Singapore. In the timespan of a year, the Industry 4.0 team has grown from a single employee to ten. Using the Index, companies can find out how ready they are in their digital processes or Industry 4.0 transformation. “The index is an excellent door opener for us: My customers keep asking me: What’s next? What should we be doing now? Can you help us?” In addition to the Index, the government has also launched an Industrial Transformation Map (ITM) which is created to show the company how it can or must change in order to remain viable in a digital future.


It is not just companies that have to meet high standards; Singapore itself also aspires to be a pioneer – a smart nation, so to speak. That’s why this smart nation is also nurturing pioneering technologies such as autonomous driving. To experience this yourself, you only have to go to the innovation quarter One North, two railway stations from our Singapore location. Self-driving cars are not a vision of the future there – you can see them driving by on the street. It is the home of a real test corridor for CETRAN, a project in which TÜV SÜD is cooperating with the local Ministry of Transport and the approval authority.

Or you can visit the Smart Elderly Care Center, designed as part of the Digital Center of Excellence, where a model senior citizens’ apartment equipped with modern nursing care equipment is on display. It includes a nursing bed, prepared pill containers and medication schedules, and a blood pressure monitor on the table. Motion and acoustic sensors for privacy and a telemedicine robot also belong to the inventory. In the corner there is a robot which can move about the apartment and on which an iPad and sensors are installed. If no movement is detected over a period of several hours, this means that someone may have fallen or there may be an emergency – so an alarm is triggered. The apartment is connected to an alarm center, from which a caregiver or nurse can intervene. They know the person and also have access to their medical records and medication, for which consent is of course required.

Technologies for seniors

The apartment is a showroom exhibiting what care for the elderly could look like in the future – a bit smarter than it does today. “I am convinced that this is the future of home nursing care for the elderly,” says Foo Soo Guan. The seniors could interact with the nursing care robot or communicate using the iPad. “Older people in Singapore are more tech-savvy and open to new ideas. It’s easier to get seniors up to speed on how to use a tablet or a nursing care robot here – assuming simple user interfaces, of course,” explains Foo Soo Guan. A study with 65 patients is currently subjecting the system to field-testing. The aim is for our company to be able to offer certification for these types of nursing care environments; guidelines are currently being drawn up for this. “We have visits here every week from interested parties: doctors, nursing care services, organizations such as the Red Cross, insurance companies and medical technology manufacturers,” reports Foo Soo Guan. TÜV SÜD is investing not only in smart nursing care but also in the boomtown in general. A slice of the future is currently emerging further west in the city in the Jurong Lake District. A futuristic commercial real estate area is being developed there. One of the first buildings being constructed is TÜV SÜD’s new Asian headquarters, which the entire Singapore team is to move into in 2020. When project manager Gilbert Lau looks out onto the current construction site, the excavators are diligently digging their way into the ground, and trucks laden with dirt thunder past tirelessly. The tropical sun beats down mercilessly, with a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Lau lifts his hard hat and wipes away beads of sweat from his brow. He gestures in the direction of the area of the International Business Park on which the new building will soon stand. A total of 221 bored reinforced concrete piles had to be cast into the ground to support the new building. Almost every day, Lau is on the construction site, where he has his office in the container park. Land is a scarce commodity in Singapore. Everything is therefore growing upwards – the skyscrapers are springing up like mushrooms.


“There’s a shortage of space in Singapore”

Gilbert Lau,

Project Manager

Far away from the construction site, the building is already being built in virtual reality. “Here we can see an exact 3D model of the building and, at any time, ‘walk through the building’ which is really quite impressive. Walls, floors, mechanical and electrical system are visible, studied and analysed before concrete is poured,” reports Lau. The method for creating a digital copy of the new building is based on Building Modeling Information (BIM). This allows you to see how cooperation has been re-envisioned in a modern working environment. In open-plan offices, teams are to work together on their projects without separation by division or department. TÜV SÜD’s new Asian headquarters will thus fit in perfectly with the futuristic backdrop of the Lion City, not just in terms of this project but also in all future projects that the teams work on locally. What began with a collection of fishing villages over 50 years ago has long since become a success story – and there’s no end in sight.

The innovation drivers

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Hong Kong

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