Since becoming an independent state in the 1960s, Singapore has continually captured global headlines, thanks to its development into one of the world’s most prosperous countries with strong international trading links. Its ‘open for business’ attitude has ensured that its 2011 GDP per capita of US$59,900 equals or exceeds that of many western European states.
Like Japan, the Singaporean population’s median age of 40.1 is relatively high; the nation has similarly gone all out to embrace new technology – including contactless. This is hardly surprising since its export-led economy is driven by consumer electronics and IT products. The economy has seen fairly robust growth over the past decade with Real GDP growth averaging 7.1% between 2004 and 2007. It dipped slightly (0.8%) in 2009 on the back of the global financial crisis, but bounced back in 2010 to notch up double digit growth of 14.5% followed by 5.3% in 2011.
Singapore’s cell network is dominated by mobile network operator (MNO) SingTel Mobile, followed by StarHub Mobile and M1. In March 2011, its cell phone penetration rate was estimated at 155.79% over a population estimate of around 4.7 million.
The nation has made considerable progress with contactless and NFC in recent years, something that those attending the GSMA’s mobile money event – hosted by Singapore last year – couldn’t fail to notice. In fact, 2011 was the year in which there was a continued trend towards adoption of the technologies with a host of projects in sectors such as transport, payments and advertising.
Taxi operator Comfort Delgro showed its confidence by installing contactless payment facilities across its 15,600-strong fleet of vehicles. This enabled passengers to pay for their journey simply by tapping their contactless payment card against a touchscreen in the back of their cab.
SMRT, Singapore’s second largest public transit operator, launched NFC-enabled iMobSMRT media hubs in its stations nationwide. The Nokia-backed scheme enables SMRT’s 2 million-plus customers to book taxis, download maps and guides, receive offers and access entertainment and news. Merchants involved in the scheme include Forever 21, Asia Pacific Breweries, Nubee and Jobstreet.
Coca-Cola teamed up with MEC, Clear Channel and Tapit to launch an NFC-enabled poster campaign for its Fanta soft drinks. This involved installing 200 posters equipped with NFC chips or stickers, which could be accessed with the tap of an NFC-enabled handset, at major locations across Singapore.
The true extent of the country’s ambitions were demonstrated by a scheme initiated by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). During the year it put together a consortium – which included Citibank, DBS Bank, M1, SingTel, StarHub, EZ-Link and Gemalto – to develop and deploy an interoperable NFC and mobile payments system throughout the country. This will enable residents to use their NFC handsets to make contactless purchases in taxis and at more than 20,000 retail outlets. The service could eventually be extended to incorporate transit ticketing, mobile couponing and loyalty applications.