This is one vision of the near future. Chain bars gradually filling up with a Tuesday night post-work crowd. Travelators idling outside the Subway and Starbucks that click on when you approach, ready to carry you from the ‘food centre’ to the ‘fitness zone’. On the walls, bright and cheerful signs telling the residents to eat right and be happy for the sake of their health.

This is Mapletree Business City on Singapore’s west coast, a gleaming black-glass business park bulging with manicured greenery, and the centre of the city-state’s ambitious plans to become a ‘smart nation’, roping its transport, health and housing systems together using data and connected devices – the so-called ‘internet of things’ – and exploiting advances in automation to reduce the number of people needed to keep the country running.

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December 5, 2016