Technology in Times of Crisis: How can AI and IoT help cities?

Calendar 2 Jul 2020
Time 4.00 pm – 4.40 pm, GMT+8 
Location Zoom
cpd2 SIP CPD Pts

BOA-SIA members: no lectures or webinars will award CPD points this year as CPD requirements are waived


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IOT) have been transforming businesses and industries for over a decade, and continue to be among the top disruptive technologies in 2020. Ko Kheng Hwa, Chairman of Envision Digital International and former Managing Director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board and CEO of JTC Corporation and National Computer Board, will share the latest developments in AI and IOT in areas such as the energy sector, and how cities can leverage these to contend with new disruptions such as climate change and even pandemics.

Webinar Video



Slides by Mr Ko Kheng Hwa (PDF: 2MB)

Key Takeaways 

Digitalisation can accelerate decarbonisation. What can be worse than COVID-19? Mr Ko said the pandemic will be tamed, but climate change may be irreversible. Cities should therefore focus on decarbonisation - cut emissions, aim for net zero - for their citizens’ welfare. Digitalisation can accelerate decarbonisation by reducing energy demand and increasing renewable energy supply. During this pandemic, perhaps billions of people have had to suddenly embrace a new digital world: to live, work, play, learn, shop, meet and socialise digitally. Most survived, and many thrived. Cities should seize this strong momentum to accelerate digitalisation and decarbonisation. As Mr Ko declared, “the current pandemic is too costly to let it go to waste.”

Transition to an ‘Internet of Energy’. “When I started my career in computers, the world was dominated by mainframe computers: very big, very centralised. Just like today's power stations - gigawatts capacity.” We are seeing an energy ecosystem transition: from centralised, to decentralised; from huge power plants, to distributed energy resources; from mainly fossil fuels, to renewables. For example, a house with solar panels can be a power generator, storage unit, user and trader. This scenario requires a new grid that is based on an AIoT platform in the cloud to manage this complex, fragmented ecosystem. It will use pricing and trading to optimise, forecast and balance supply and demand to create efficiency.

Cutting energy consumption by 20% or more. When asked how much AIoT can mitigate climate change, Mr Ko replied it can do so very significantly”. One way is by reducing energy use. He noted buildings consume half of Singapore’s electricity. Air conditioning and ventilation consumes 70% of the electricity bill of non-residential buildings such as offices. Even a relatively small building was found to have over a dozen sub-systems related to it, with some 1,200 devices and equipment involved, of different brands. The AIoT solution collected all these devices and sub-systems, machine-to-machine, to cut across data silos to optimise the system. In this way, electricity use in buildings could be reduced by 20% or more.

‘Flattening the curve’ of intermittent renewable energy. Dominant renewable energy, like solar and wind, is intermittent. It drops when it gets dark or windless. Conversely, if favourable conditions create too much energy, it can be ‘perishable’. To avoid instability, many countries limit how much renewable energy they allow. With the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), an opportunity has been created. EV batteries can store energy and provide a buffer to ‘break’ renewable energy’s intermittency. Using AIoT to optimise the energy ecosystem, and prices to shape behaviour, EVs could be charged using discounted, surplus renewable energy on a sunny or windy day. EVs could then sell stored energy back to the grid when there's a shortage, at a premium. “If we do this,” Mr Ko said, “we are able to increase the percentage of renewable energy in any economy.”

Set Frameworks, Invite Solutions to Big Challenges. Noting that Singapore was “starting from a very good situation” as a smart city, Mr Ko proposed how it and other cities could unleash the full potential of AIoT. Cities often face ‘big challenges’. For example, internal combustion engines will no longer be sold in Singapore in 10 years, but the current power grid cannot support widespread EV charging. To address such big problems, Mr Ko suggested for governments to first set up a framework to address some of the issues, and then invite the private sector to provide support and solutions at the overall level, and for specific problems. Mr Ko also noted Singapore had done well to set up regulatory sandboxes in sectors like finance, adding “when we look at the energy transition that’s beginning to take place in some other places, more of this policy innovation in sync with technology and the end objective would be very useful.” Other suggestions included creating a digital layer that was integrated with the urban master plan, and addressing the manpower needs of the AIoT sector.

About the Speakers


Ko Kheng Hwa

Ko Kheng Hwa

Chairman, Envision Digital International Pte Ltd
Former Managing Director, Economic Development Board
Former CEO, National Computer Board Singapore

Ko Kheng Hwa is currently Chairman of Envision Digital International Pte Ltd and Senior Advisor to Envision Digital Group. The group, headquartered in Singapore, owns one of the world’s largest Internet-of-Things platforms for energy management. He is also a Director of public-listed Ho Bee Land Ltd and AIMS APAC REIT Management Ltd and senior advisor to several companies.

Mr Ko’s prior appointments include the Managing Director of Economic Development Board, CEO JTC Corporation and CEO National Computer Board, CEO of Singbridge International, CEO Sustainable Development & Living Business Division of Keppel Corporation, Chairman of then NASDAQ-listed Pacific Internet and senior roles in the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City projects.



Dinesh Naidu

Deputy Director
Centre for Liveable Cities

A Deputy Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), Dinesh Naidu leads teams responsible for curating and delivering CLC’s World Cities Summit, lecture series, magazines and digital platforms. Prior to joining CLC, Dinesh was a researcher-writer and activist in the field of architecture and urban heritage. His past roles include Executive Secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society and Deputy Editor of Singapore Architect magazine. Dinesh has been published in several journals and books, served on various public committees, and been interviewed in media like the International Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Wallpaper, Business Times and Channel News Asia.


Ling Keok Tong

Ling Keok Tong

Director, Services & Digital Economy
National Research Foundation


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