Imagine setting your home temperature, unlocking your door remotely and booking condominium facilities through a few taps in a single app on your smartphone. Such a streamlined lifestyle will soon become a reality with the launch of Corals at Keppel Bay, a Keppel Land waterfront development, which will come fitted with the home management system Habitap from Philip Tang & Sons.
Touted to be the first fully integrated platform that combines smart-home control, condo management and lifestyle offerings, Habitap will be made available to all the 366 units in its first launch. Philip Tang & Sons took 18 months to realise its vision for smart homes, and its aim for the app is for it to be in 2,500 Singapore households by the end of the year. We chat with the company’s CEO, Franklin Tang, about his outlook on technology’s influence on how we live.
What’s the potential of the Internet of Things (electronic networks among devices that permit the exchange of data)?
I think it’s not going to stop, and I think Singapore is early in the sense that our government has highlighted that IoT is something to look out for but late in the way that people in Asia lag those in the US, for example, in terms of adoption of technology for home automation.
How receptive are Singaporeans to the smart-home concept?
We’re very comfortable with our phones, and the smartphone has allowed people in general to accept technology. If technology is given to them from a device they are comfortable with, you increase your rate of success. Don’t underestimate the pioneer generation — they actually understand and can use (the system) fairly easily because they’ll say, “It’s an app, I’ve used an app before.” As long as the operating system and environment is familiar, the chances of adoption are much higher.
But we’re already seeing smart fridges and air-conditioners…
You can have all these devices, but if you have to use an app for every device, you’re not going to find it convenient, so you have to start from a usability point of view. There’s no point giving me 50 items, because if I can’t control them I can’t use them. So our strategy is to be the app to be used in your phone.
Is smart-home living something people don’t realise they need?
If you’ve never tasted chilli, you never know what you’re missing out on. Technology is like that, if you don’t use or try it, you never know, so I think the moment consumers taste it — and we have to give them just the right amount of the technology — once they understand it, it sticks.
How far away are we from smart cities and societies?
I think there will be lots of development in the next 24 months, and we should not take more than five years to see a real transformation in Singapore. I’m taking the cue from when previously we had broadband internet. We’ve achieved it in a very short time — everyone has fibre internet, it’s in every home, so I think with the resolute from the Singapore government, smart cities will just be a matter of time.
For those concerned about security and being hacked, what will you say to them?
We have Keypasco to secure a device to a user ID, so you can never use any other phone that is not registered to that user ID. This prevents another user from unlocking your door. We employ standard industry-grade security, so we’re no different from other tech companies. If (crooks) hack through your phone they will be able to gain access, but the hacking has to take place first. We have a 24-hour service, the moment you notice something is wrong, we deactivate your whole account, so we have that workflow to support the users.