HDB is launching an app designed for residents' convenience

(Photo: ST File)

Residents will soon have a mobile device application that allows them to make appointments with banks or clinics in Housing Board (HDB) estates or sign up for classes held at community clubs.

It will even prompt them when shops nearby are having promotions.

While the beta version that will be released by the first quarter of 2019 contains only a digital directory of commercial shops, over time, the app will have more features adapted to residents' needs.

It is part of a tie-up by the HDB, telco StarHub and data analytics firm Sentient, the first app in a planned "digital ecosystem" to use smart technologies and data analytics to create services that benefit residents.

Through data collected - such as residents' interests and frequently asked questions about their neighbourhood - agencies can glean insights to help them better plan and manage community facilities in future.

For example, knowing which shops are frequently searched by residents could give HDB planners an indication of the type of shops that are in demand, and help them adjust planning guidelines for commercial shops.

Over time, the platform will get more datasets as other public agencies and private companies come on board, such as the location and availability of car park facilities.

On Wednesday (Nov 28), the HDB signed an initial agreement with Sentient, StarHub, IBM and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to develop these apps.

At the same HDB inaugural Innovation Festival event, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong launched a $5 million fund, spread over the next two years, to encourage businesses to come up with innovative solutions to make public housing estates better.

The Cool Ideas Enterprise scheme is an expansion of an existing programme. But it is now targeted at companies with products ready for implementation but are in need of funding or mentorship.

The first two companies to join the programme are Hocklim Engineering, which is working to install an earth-retaining system to stabilise steep slopes more cheaply, and FytoSol, which had created a nanogel that could let different types of plants grow on HDB rooftops.

Noting that innovation is a never-ending journey, Mr Wong said: "Sometimes the ideas may not work so well. Sometimes we may get complaints... but that's what innovation is all about."

Written by Rachel Au-Yong for The Straits Times