Throughout his career, our Summit Speaker has designed and implemented in excess of 200 bespoke software applications, spanning more than 10 industry verticals with more than 100,000 users in the region.
Habitap has been making waves with its fully integrated smart living management system. How did the idea first come about, and how did Habitap manage to overcome the difficulties of integrating platforms that were working in silos?
I started out working for Philip Tang & Sons., a custom developer of systems for private sector companies in Singapore and beyond, where the focus was on design and building software for the first 10 years of my career. In 2011, the company had already started to move into developing our own brand of products.
In 2015, we partnered with a global tech giant to build a prototype of a smart home in Singapore. In the process of building that prototype, we realised that despite the abundance of Internet-Of-Things (IoT) or smart home products globally, they were either poorly integrated or not integrated at all.
This resulted in us having multiple apps for different products, and we had the huge task of integrating all of them. The extent of effort required to do so was something the average non-“techie” person would not be able to accomplish. That prototype, being in line with Singapore’s vision for Smart Nation, registered strong interest from local private property developers.
We realised then that there was a gap that could be filled and having an integrated solution to consolidate all these apps and functions would make things very convenient for homeowners. That’s how Habitap was born and Corals at Keppel Bay was the first residential project to have Habitap as an offering.
Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative has encouraged local tech start-ups like yours to explore the benefits of smart home solutions. What’s your opinion on its potential?
I believe this is the way forward when it comes to using smart solutions for everyday tasks. I think the future of smart homes will be software-driven with user-friendly interfaces and people getting to pick the interface they are most comfortable with. There will also be more smart devices, more seamless integration, and better performance, in the form of voice and facial recognition.
We are already seeing that shift taking place. Today, smart home features have become a must in almost every new residential development, with the provision of smart locks and basic controls. In fact, we see developers increasing their basic provision.
For Habitap users, these smart features include controlling the air conditioner, curtains, TV, amongst others. This can also be done through giving voice commands to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. With dynamic controls, Habitap allows users to book facilities remotely and access it using their smartphone. Lastly, users are able to invite and manage guests with the app doubling up as a smart intercom and replacing the need for access cards. Conceptually, Habitap is everything you need for condominium living.
Habitap has always been a highly differentiated product. We pioneered the concept of an integrated app and created a completely new segment in the property market. With this, Habitap has to continuously improve and innovate to provide users with a connected lifestyle via smart homes which are software driven and have user friendly interfaces.
Are Habitap’s solutions utilised in your own home or office?
The honest truth is I have not had the time to completely implement Habitap at home, although my wife appreciates some of the features such as lighting control, cameras and motion sensors, which are primarily targeted at monitoring my 2-year-old son. We have plans to build our very own Habitap home and have been looking for a suitable location.
Habitap is currently planning and designing our new office space which will double up as a collaborative space for all things smart. It will showcase and allow us to evolve with the latest trends in technology, user experience in homes and offices.
Do you foresee anything that may hamper Singapore’s journey towards a Smart Nation? If so, how can things be improved?
It is difficult to predict the future in the technology space, especially with the rate of obsolescence and growth in R&D. However, Singapore is unique when compared to some other parts of the world. In Singapore, we live in tightly-knit communities with amenities and offerings all within the same area whereas in some other countries, people live in spread out areas in individual houses due to space abundance. The way we use products also impacts the way IoT is applied in our homes.
Singapore also has the ecosystem that is necessary for the Smart Nation initiative to succeed, with high connectivity and smart phone penetration. What’s more, the government has identified an overall direction and is working with different stakeholders to bring this initiative to life. The creation of the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) which emphasises the adoption of smart technologies to reap productivity gains by digitising facilities management is one good example.
We now see a nationwide cashless payment system being developed and a new app which was recently launched to manage public parking. There is a clear impetus to use technology to do things efficiently and productively and many are open to using such technology if they can see the benefits.
Adding another feather to Habitap’s cap is its recent project with Maxwell Chambers. Jointly developed with Habitap, the new app will aid hearings, and can even allow users to request secretarial services and order food. As an industry innovator, what are your thoughts on the future of IoT?
Technology has resulted in certain tasks and jobs becoming redundant as a result of new solutions being able to meet the very same requirements. But this also means that there are new ways to do things. We saw this when SMS was prevalent and apps started eating away at that dominance via the use of WhatsApp, Skype, etc. It took some time before the latter was accepted and normalised to the point that even elderly folk, including my parents, are now able to communicate with messaging apps.
My view is that we will see even more of this in the future. Right now, we use apps to execute tasks but the platform might change in the future, it could be voice activated or even carried out using gestures. Ultimately, it is about convenience and a seamless user experience which is why certain things have become second nature to us, just like turning the light on using a switch. Hopefully, one day we will be able to talk to our house and have it voice activated just like in the movie Iron Man. Habitap is working towards this reality by innovating and improving on what it currently offers
On that note, why has Habitap decided to exhibit at NXTAsia, and what will Habitap showcase?
NXTAsia is a major exhibition and conference for the technology industry and a good platform to come together and share insights from various industries on the adoption of IoT and smart technologies. This is also a good opportunity to learn and collaborate with likeminded people and organisations as well as for more problems to be solved by harnessing the collective thinking on using technology to advance society.
We are excited to be a part of NXTAsia 2018, where we will be showcasing Habitap’s smart home and smart office offerings.
Any exciting developments in the pipeline for Habitap?
We have already started working on enhanced features for our residential offering such as an improved mobile app design, offering online payments for maintenance fees and facility booking deposits, and improving the overall performance of smart homes. We are also integrating other community services such as carpark, lift control, and security systems. The latest features include deploying connected parcel stations for collection of deliveries as well as letter boxes which are keyless and integrated to your Habitap app. We are also working with lifestyle partners to create completely new services and business models as an evolution of our lifestyle partnerships. The next step in the evolution is to make Habitap seamless with everyday life and this would mean that one does not have to use a specific mechanism or device for Habitap to function.
We launched with Corals at Keppel Bay in July 2016 and have since rolled out Habitap and its smart home and community offerings at The Glades, The Clement Canopy, Highline Residences, Kandis Residence, Park Place Residences, and Amber 45. We have another three residential projects which will be launched later this year and have seen a continuous stream of interest from property developers to include Habitap as part of their offering to private homeowners for their upcoming project launches as well to customise the app to the individual needs of each of the developments.
On the commercial front, Habitap is behind MySphere, the app that covers M+S’s two mixed-used integrated developments, DUO and Marina One. The MySphere app allows users to access the buildings turnstiles using your mobile phone, eliminating the need to use a physical access card to enter the building. Habitap is also working with Boustead on their new smart building, “ALICE”, integrating both front and back end systems into a holistic facilities management system. We have also completed the first smart office in Singapore for a service office brand and have been engaged for similar upcoming projects. In the legal sector, we are working with Maxwell Chambers for the world’s first smart hearing centre. Habitap is also going overseas with two confirmed smart office projects lined up in the region.