Intelligent assistant apps may be common among smartphone users but only CapitaStar members have Sparkle, a fully automated artificial intelligence chatbot concierge and the first of its kind to be piloted by a real estate developer in Asia.

Some 200 guests, including Guest-of-Honour Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office, were given a sneak preview of Sparkle during the CapitaLand & CNN Future Cities: Asia Forum on 21 October 2016. They were also treated to an inside look at the refreshed CapitaStar app, which became available on 1 November.

“CapitaLand was among the first in our industry to embrace online-to-offline and offline-to-online (O2O). With the launch of Sparkle and partnerships with tech stalwarts and well-loved retail brands, we are now leading the way into the next era of consumerism, defined by convergent offline-and-online (O&O;) experiences. This is a first for an Asian real estate developer, and we want to invite our customers to join us to co-create Sparkle by interacting with it and making it smarter,” said Mr Lim Ming Yan, President and Group CEO of CapitaLand, referring to the chatbot’s natural language processing and learning capabilities.

“This way, Sparkle will be a chatbot trained by customers, for customers,” he continued. “Ultimately, we want to create an exceptional customer experience that offers the best of both offline and online. As a market leader with scale and depth across the entire real estate value chain, CapitaLand is in a good position to optimise our customer touch points and harness meaningful data points to map out holistic customer journeys.”

Sparkle became available on the CapitaStar app on 1 November 2016.

Breaking new virtual ground

At the same event, which was organised to spark deeper conversations around the future of urban living, CapitaLand also announced Grab, Southeast Asia’s largest ride-hailing app company, as its Strategic Mobility Partner to bring ‘live, work, play’ mobility to the Group’s customers in Singapore.

Mr Lim and Mr Anthony Tan, CEO & Co-founder of Grab, inaugurated the partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brings ride-hailing functionalities onboard Sparkle. With this agreement, customers taking Grab rides between CapitaLand properties in Singapore will enjoy perks such as special discounts, STAR$® rewards and priority bookings. These benefits have been introduced in phases since 1 November 2016.

CapitaLand and Grab’s exclusive partnership merges online-and-offline (O&O;) to offer greater ‘live, work, play’ mobility

“CapitaLand’s partnership with Grab shows how the lines are blurring between what is online and offline. Our properties are social spaces where people and communities flourish and connect; and mobility solutions such as Grab are very much the venous systems that connect people with one another, and to the built environment. There is great synergy in this O&O; integration. CapitaLand’s physical buildings have helped to incubate many successful Singapore companies and brands over the years. Moving forward, we look to partner more new-economy companies, to help bridge their services to our network of customers,” said Mr Lim.

Speaking on behalf of Grab, Mr Tan said: “Singapore consumers’ readiness to embrace technologies, as well as the country’s robust network infrastructure, have enabled new areas of digital collaboration between online and offline players. This partnership with CapitaLand represents our shared commitment to building innovative services for the cities of tomorrow, and is a step forward in the evolution of Southeast Asia’s mobile ecosystem.”

The partnership was lauded by Minister Balakrishnan for “harnessing technology and collaborating to develop a new service for consumers”.

In his keynote address, Minister Balakrishnan referred to cities as the “centre of gravity” in the world. Acknowledging the rapid urbanisation that Mr Lim spoke of during his own welcome speech, Minister Balakrishnan observed that more people are choosing to live in cities and, with this choice, comes a demand for greater quality of life.

“Cities need to build bridges, not walls,” said the Foreign Affairs Minister who also leads Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative. “It is important to adopt a state of mind that is open to collaboration, new ideas, products and services. This enables greater exchanges, partnerships and value creation to be derived from emerging platform technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, big data and the Internet-of-Things.”

Minister Balakrishnan joined Mr Lim as well as Mr Hubert Yoshida, Chief Technology Officer of Hitachi Data Systems and Mr Ming Maa, President of Grab in a panel discussion on what it takes to be the builder of future cities and the catalysts for change as Asia’s bustling metropolises evolve into smart cities.

While the high-level discussion touched on many areas from technological possibilities and innovation to education and workforce capabilities, people-centricity was a key theme that shone through. According to Minister Balakrishnan, the smart-city focus must always be on “practical liveability”—using technology not for technology’s sake, but to improve people’s lives and livelihoods. Keeping an open mind to new ideas and actively searching for new ways to collaborate and co-create meaningful experiences are essential to this process.

“All of us have a stake in our city of the future. We need to ride the digital wave and keep our eyes on the horizon,” concluded Mr Lim.