Anthony Chow, co-founder and CEO of Igloohome, shares with Insignia Review the biology of the smart city, which he refers to as “urban organisms.” Here are the key takeaways from our interview.

What smart access means for the urban organism

Anthony Chow, co-founder and CEO of Igloohome, shares with Insignia Review the biology of the smart city, which he refers to as “urban organisms.” Here are the key takeaways from our interview.

Key Takeaways

  1. Smart access is the catalyst for the convergent evolution of smart city solutions, from disparate urban organisms to an ecosystem of Smart City OS’s. 
  2. Ecosystems and experimentation drive smart access technology adoption. A software ecosystem enables sandbox experimentation on various use cases. New use cases unearths untapped data sources for smarter decisions. 
  3. Survival of the fittest in the smart city space is all about integration — working with the right partners and building across use cases. 

Each city in Southeast Asia — Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila — is an urban organism living in a unique environment differentiated by culture, infrastructure, and policy. Given the region’s disparate urban spaces and needs-based economy, bespoke solutions for individual cities and clients dominate the smart city industry. 

But the trajectory of smart city solutions in the region will be one of convergent evolution. Localized solutions will integrate into unified systems integral to cities across the region — a Smart City OS, as industry players like to call it. And the catalyst for this shift is smart access. 


Smart access as catalyst for convergent evolution of smart city solutions

This goes beyond a keyless world. If the city is an organism, its entirety (ie borders) and components (ie. buildings, roads, power grids) are spatially defined by membranes, or surfaces through which other components or organisms make contact. Smart access makes interactions with such contact surfaces seamless, and they don’t necessarily deal with doors.

Consider the manhole. Manholes serve as access points for telecommunications companies to maintain their lines. As manhole covers are ironcust, anyone armed with crowbars can open up these covers and damage the lines. Having smart manhole covers can easily save telcos millions of dollars in maintenance costs, and ensure less service disruptions.

The challenge here is that manholes in a city have different owners. This points to the importance of designing and implementing solutions for and with people, the DNA of the urban organism.

“The smart city industry is growing to be $400B by 2025, with APAC taking up 42% of this. Smart access can easily take 10 to 20% investment from all of this and the rest will be waste management, data integration, street parking, among others. But smart access forms the core foundation of anything you are trying to build in the city.”

Anthony Chow, co-founder and CEO, Igloohome

Ecosystems and experimentation drive smart access technology adoption

If smart access is the foundation for the smart city, what will drive adoption of smart access technology? Two things — ecosystems and experimentation. More accessible APIs allow enterprise and governments to tap into a software ecosystem like Iglooworks. This widens the coverage of smart access solutions. More use cases can be tested and refined. These are opportunities to make existing and untapped data more efficient.

Think of data as oxygen, and these open source platforms as the red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout the rest of the organism. How can more oxygen be delivered to the rest of the organism? For humans, it’s exercise. For the smart city, experimentation. This leads to discovering more use cases for data.

Take medicine cabinets for example. Medicine cabinets are one of the more valuable spaces in the hospital. With keys, which are easily misplaced, it’s difficult to track supply. Smart access not only replaces the keys but presents an opportunity to know exactly which nurse has gone to which cabinet at what time to procure which inventory. 

The data here not only benefits the hospitals, but also pharmaceutical suppliers and even governments once more hospitals are connected. Data flows better throughout components in the city with more use cases explored. In this way, rather than replacing jobs, smart access solutions enables work to be done more smarter. 

Survival of the fittest is all about integration

The inflection point for smart city solutions is finding model use cases with technology integrations that can be adopted across cities. The challenge is managing the long product development and sales cycles. Startups need a strong runway and network of partners to support growth. 

This is where investments and partners come in. While the innovation gravity well bends toward Singapore, increasing support from governments and the private sector are creating pockets of investment and driving adoption in other Southeast Asian cities, as with Sansiri in Thailand

The condition of these urban organisms dictate investment priorities. For example, a city with an ageing population may focus on smart elderly alert systems, or a city beset with waste problems on materials reprocessing or smart packaging. Startups looking to scale from city to city need to stay abreast of development trajectories, and work like enzymes, catalyzing changes from an inside-out approach.  

As smart city solutions evolve from custom builds to platforms and complex systems, survival of the fittest is all about integration. This means building systems that can easily cater to different contact surfaces and use cases, from cross-border logistics to street-level parcel delivery.

This evolution begins with smart access. 

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Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies, and co-author of the book Navigating ASEANnovation. He is currently Editor of Insignia Business Review, the official publication of Insignia Ventures Partners, and senior content strategist for the venture capital firm, where he started right after graduation. As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.