Smart City vs Smart Community vs Smart Residential Community


What is Smart City?

Smart city became a hot topic since the United Nations released a report titled “Urban and Rural Areas 2009”, saying that by the middle of 2009, the number of people living in urban areas (3.42 billion) had surpassed the number of people living in rural areas (3.41 billion) and since then, the world has become more urban than rural. The figure was expected to climb exponentially every year, in the report “World Urbanization Prospects: 2018 Revision”, it stated that 55 % of the world’s population is residing in urban areas in 2018 as compared to in the 1950 whereby only 30% of the world’s population was urban, and by 2050, 68% of the world’s population is projected to be urban.

Since we expect the population to continue migrating from rural areas to cities, and not the other way round, hence city development and sustainable urbanization were the topics widely discussed, and three major points were emphasized:

• As the world continues to urbanize, sustainable development depends increasingly on the successful management of urban growth, especially in the low-income and lower-middle-income countries where the most rapid urbanization is expected to happen between now and 2050. Integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers are needed, strengthening the linkages between urban and rural areas and building on their existing economic, social and environmental ties.

• Urban growth is closely related to the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. A well-managed urbanization, informed by an understanding of population trends over the long run, can help maximize the benefits of agglomeration while minimizing environmental degradation and other potential adverse impacts of a growing number of city dwellers.

• To ensure that the benefits of urbanization are shared and that no one is left behind, policies to manage urban growth need to ensure access to infrastructure and social services for all, focusing on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, education, health care, decent work and a safe environment.
Many papers were tabled by scientists and experts at the high levels, and the concept of Smart City seemed like the solution to the world that has further moved towards urbanization at a greater speed.

What is Smart City? There are different definitions for Smart City, not a single one accepted by all, so it is hard to precisely define what is Smart City. Wikipedia gives us this definition: A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's assets. These assets include local departments' information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life.

There are four factors contribute to the definition of a smart city that most commonly accepted, is listed by Deakin and Al Waer, in their published Journal of Intelligent Buildings International: From Intelligent Cities to Smart Cities as follow:

1.The application of a wide range of electronic and digital technologies to communities and cities;

2. The embedding of such Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in government systems;

3. The use of ICT to transform life and working environments within the region;

4. The territorialization of practices that brings ICTs and people together to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer.

Six Pillars of a Smart City

Let us look further into the most common six pillars to build a Smart City. 

Pillar 1: Smart mobility or smart traffic management
Mobility and transportation shall be simplified for city residents and visitors.  The inflow and outflow of people into and from the city or the travel within the city has to be made easy and seamless, and planned so as to provide comfort to all citizens. Smart traffic management should focus on how to reduce traffic congestion as well as road and traffic safety. We believe that the efficiency in traffic management will help eliminate extra commuting hours and save of fuel.  

Pillar 2: Smart Environment
There are many features to smart environment such as autonomy adaptive behavior to environment, and interaction with humans in a simple way. Smart environment is not possible without the rapid evolution of pervasive computing. One of the goals of a smart environment is that it supports and enhances the abilities of its occupants in executing tasks. These tasks range from navigating through an unfamiliar space to providing reminders for activities and to moving heavy objects for the elderly or disabled. For a larger scope of smart environment, we believe that clean resources such as water, air and energy are essential for our city residents to lead healthy and productive lives. A low-pollution and low-emission environment coupled with clean resources will ensure a sustainable development path for a Smart City.

Pillar 3: Smart living
A smart city is focused on providing and developing a desirable place to live, work and spend time in. Quality of life is essential to the prosperity of a smart city. The factors contributing to quality of life include cultural facilities, health conditions, individual safety, housing quality, education facilities, touristic attractiveness and social cohesion.

Pillar 4: Smart economy
The smart economy is a new field to stress on how a city is attractive as well as competitive with regard to factors such as innovation, art, culture, productivity, and most of all international appeal.

Pillar 5: Smart Governance 
Smart governance suggested that the role of ICT is important to achieve openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence for the five governance goals. Smart governance further encloses better city planning, emergency management, budgeting, and forecasting based on real time data describing needs as well as changing priorities. In addition, it also relies on strategic orientation and better healthcare that reduces the impact of aging populations. At last, it ensures the aggregation and monitoring of energy production and consumption data in order to provide better management policies.  

Pillar 6: Smart people
For a smart city to thrive, the human factor has to be accounted for. Since ICT is one of the main infrastructures for smart city, city residents have to possess additional technological skills that allow them to interact and benefit from their smart city as well as to improve it.

Figure 1: Smart City and its 6 Pillars

Smart Community

And, what is Smart Community?

Often, Smart City is used in plural form - Smart Cities, and it is interchangeable with Smart Communities. I state my disagreement here, but I will revisit later to elaborate my points.

If we refer to the Smart Communities Guidebook, developed by the State University of San Diego (1997), Smart Community is described as a geographical area ranging in size from neighborhood to a multi-county region whose residents, organizations, and governing institutions are using information technology to transform their region in significant ways. Co-operation among government, industry, educators, and the citizenry, instead of individual groups acting in isolation, is preferred. The technological enhancements undertaken as part of this effort should result in fundamental, rather than incremental, changes.

And in the Implementation Guide (1997), developed by the same Institute: 
A “smart community” is a community in which members of local government, business, education, healthcare institutions and the general public understand the potential of information technology, and form successful alliances to work together to use technology to transform their community in significant and positive ways. 

Because of these unified efforts, the community is able to leverage resources and projects to develop and benefit from telecommunications infrastructure and services much earlier than it otherwise would. Instead of an incremental change, a transformation occurs which increases choice, convenience and control for people in the community, as they live, work, travel, govern, shop, educate and entertain themselves. Smart communities or regions are also economically competitive in the new global economy, and attract and promote commerce as a result of an advance telecommunications infrastructure. 

Based on the above definition, even though it is much simpler, if we compare it to the lengthy description of a Smart City, it seems like the essence of the two definitions does not  have much difference.

Smart City vs Smart Community

But, should the term Smart City be equated to of the Smart Community? Since there is no single definition accepted by all, I rather champion the difference for easier comprehension.

Let us look at the definition of the words “city” and “community” to discern the difference.
According to the very first paragraph of Wikipedia, a city is a large human settlement. Cities generally have extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitation, utilities, land use, and communication. Their density facilitates interaction between people, government organizations and businesses, sometimes benefiting different parties in the process.

Whereas the first paragraph in Wikipedia, a community is defined as a small or large social unit (a group of living things) who have something in common, such as norms, religion, values, or identity. Communities often share a sense of place that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a country, village, town, or neighborhood) or in virtual space through communication platforms.

From the two definitions, you may find that “City” is referred more to as an infrastructure to house people, but “Community” is referred more to the people themselves. Hence, even if we add the word “Smart” before the word “City” or “Community”, the former still should focus more on infrastructure, and the latter should  focus more on people. 

And, in view of its infrastructure or info-structure nature, Smart City should be more about government-led megaprojects, and Smart Community even with or without the involvement of government can be a community self-initiated projects, and normally smaller in term of scale. 

Learning about the Smart City’s stakeholders could help us understand the complexity of a Smart City project. Nearly all Smart City projects are founded upon collaboration in the triple or quadruple of local administrations, knowledge institutes, industry and citizens. This means that involvement of the relevant stakeholders and governance play a dominant role in the successful implementation of any smart city project. The complexity of most smart city projects means that many stakeholders need to be involved, and the fact that many independence exists between these stakeholders, a large variety of interests have to be aligned. The following list of possible stakeholders has been drafted:

       Municipality, local government, politicians
       Other local authorities
       Regional authorities
       National authorities
       Transport operators, owners of transport infrastructure
       Energy network operators and energy suppliers
       Owners of infrastructure, building and land
       End users of buildings and services
       Real estate developers
       Investors, financial institutions, banks, private equity
       Citizens, tenants
       Bottom-up initiatives
       Local businesses
       Construction industry
       Architects, planners
       Advisors, consultants, engineering
       Knowledge institutes and universities
       Providers of technical solutions
       ICT consultants

Figure 2:  Preliminary Visualization of Actor Network

The first four government authorities namely municipality, local government, regional and  national authorities almost inevitable in kick-starting any grand plan of a Smart City project. And with the fundamental ICT info-structure built by the government, for example smart traffic, smart governance and smart economy, only different community groups with different interests may initiate their own smart community projects. The involved parties are varied depending on the objectives to be achieved by different community groups or business groups. With the ubiquitous ICT info-structure provided by some tech giants like Amazon to enable the global accessibility for the cloud computing, it became less dependent for some communities on government’s infrastructure to start their own smart community projects to serve their own smart purpose.

According to Statista, a statistic portal, number of smartphone users from 2014 to 2020, the number of smartphone users is forecasted to grow from 2.1 billion in 2016 to around 2.5 billion in 2019, with smartphone penetration rates increasing as well. Just over 36% of the world's population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018, up from about 10 percent in 2011. All these numbers contributed to more and more self-initiated Smart Community projects and they are viable even without government intervention.

Figure 3: Number of Smartphone Users from 2014 - 2020

Besides, the Smart City planning papers tabled by the elitist groups are always ideal to assume a good government is in place to look after their own people’s interest, or the government usually has a larger worldwide humanity goal. But that was not always the scenario it turned out to be. According to a weekly, The Economist, on its June 2nd -8th issue, featuring “The Surveillance State”, the adoption of ICT in a Smart City project may serve opposite functions against the humanity. It says “Under an authoritarian government such as China's, digital monitoring is turning a nasty police state into a terrifying, all-knowing one.”

“Since the digital revolution has transformed surveillance, as it has so much else, by making it possible to collect and analyze data on an unprecedented scale. Smartphones, web browsers and sensors provide huge quantities of information that governments can hack or collect; data centers allow them to store it indefinitely; AI helps them find needles in the digital haystacks thus assembled. Technologies that once seemed a friend of freedom, allowing dissidents in dictatorships to communicate and organize more easily, now look more Orwellian, letting autocrats watch people even more closely than the Stasi.”

In its conclusion statement,  “Police rightly watch citizens to keep them safe. Citizens must watch the police to remain free.” It is of the utmost importance that unless necessary, smart community projects should remain independent, and keeping its own data in control and serving its own purpose.

Since there are so many books discussing about Smart City, I shall focus all my topics towards Smart Community with the intention to promote practicality instead of generalization, to be more specific, it should be about Smart Residential Community.  

Smart Residential Communities

We understand that the world is evolving, and society has become increasingly digital, mobile, and connected. Smart communities in short, are the places that recognize the trend and willing to adopt the intelligence infrastructure effectively, deliver services efficiently, collaborate freely, and analyze data for local benefits. Smart communities achieve exciting lifestyle benefits for residents, robust economic opportunities, and more efficient governance within a safe and healthy environment.

We should agree that there is no universal way to design a community of the future, and there is no standard smart community in terms of achievement; hence one can set their own scope of contribution, so I particularly draw my scope of discussion towards the Smart Residential Community, where Smart Living is inevitably, my highlight.

Although we narrow down the scope from Smart Community to Smart Residential Community, when we referred to Wikipedia once again for definition, it led us to something like this, "A residential community is a community, usually a small town or city, that is composed mostly of residents, as opposed to commercial business and/or industrial facilities,..." which is also playing quite "big", and will not easily be viable when come to implementing a "smart" residential community project. Because residential communities will not normally like to think of something beyond their reach at a "town" or "city" level, but rather focus on some issues that surrounding their neighbourhood.   

But the main objectives of Smart Residential Community still would be quite similar to of Smart Community or even the same with Smart City, which are:

1. To enhance security 

A Smart Residential Community, same like Smart Community, is a collection of interdependent human-cyber-physical systems, in which the states of these systems are estimated and adapted by IoT technology. It enables sustainable societies that can offer increased well-being, safety, and security.

2. Easy to manage and convenient

The once PC-oriented and Windows-based software has slowly been taken over by the web-or the cloud-based system, more required functionalities inflicted by the ubiquitous personal smartphones, achieving conveniences and easing management at the same time. 

3. Social & Communication platform

Smartphone is the communication tool, when loaded with specific App either on iOS or Android platform; it sparks the interactive functionalities to the advantage of Smart Residential Community.

The Practical Focuses 

We will discuss the topics of Smart Residential Community in more details in the following blog articles. I just state a framework outline here for our academic research coverage and the practical implementation suggestions and guides:

1. What are the essential areas to be covered in forming a Smart Residential Community? For example, visitor management system, vehicle management, surveillance and patrolling system and etc are the core modules for a Smart Residential Community.

2. Shall the different individual Smart Residential Community be interconnected to become Smart Residential Communities?

3. If so, how the interconnection shall be established?

4. What are the communication technologies and the IoT hardware involved to build a Smart Residential Community?

5. Cloud computing and smartphones, the two technologies that spark the Smart Residential Community system;

6. Security issues in Smart Residential Community, physical access issue and data security issue.

7. What are the social functionalities that constitute a Smart Residential Community?

8. What are the roles of Smart Home in a Smart Residential Community?

9. Are E-billing and e-Payment part of the integral Smart Residential Community System?

10. How to initiate smart environment in a Smart Residential Community?

11. Is e-commerce a part of a Smart Residential Community system, what type of e-commerce shall a Smart Residential Community promote?

12. To discuss Smart Living, we also shall look into the relationship of a Smart Workplace or a Smart office with a Smart Residential Community.

13.  The deployment of Blockchain, Big Data & AI to build a future Smart Residential Community system


1. In this topic, readers are supposed to learn about the concept of Smart City, sustainable urbanization as its major objective, and the six pillars in building a Smart City namely, smart mobility or smart traffic management, smart environment, smart living, smart governance, smart economy and smart people.

2. Smart Community is the concept often gets equate to Smart City, but the author disagrees with, discerning the two definitions whereby the Smart City focuses on government-led infrastructure initiatives, whereas the Smart Community focuses on the self-initiated projects for different community groups. The author highlights that an authoritarian government might launch a smart city project that works against humanity, jeopardizing the goodwill of a smart city.

3. Notwithstanding whether Smart City, Smart Community or even more specific Smart Residential Community, development vision is to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's or community’s assets.

4. To enhance security, easy to manage and convenient, and to promote social and communication functionalities are the main objectives to build a Smart Residential Community, as well as a Smart Community.

5. The author establishes a list of topics concerning Smart Residential Community, which would be discussed in the following chapters and can be served as blueprints for implementation.


1.      “Smartphone Users Worldwide 2014 – 2020”, Statista, The Statistics Portal,
2.      United Nations, “World Urbanization Prospects, The 2018 Revision”,
3.      The Economist, “Perfected in China, a threat in the West”, June 2nd – 8th 2018.
4.      Mohammad S. Obaidat & Petros Nocopolitidis, editors, “Smart Cities and Smart Homes, Key Enabling Technologies”, Publisher: Todd Green, 2016, pg2-7.
5.      Azahara, “Smart Cities vs Smart Communities”, 5 June, 2017.
6.      J. Borsboom-van Beurden, J.Kallaos, B.Gidroz, J.Riegler, M.Noll, S.Costa, R.Maio, “Smart City Guidance Package for Integrated Planning and Management – Planning and Implementation of Smart  City Projects: Phases, Common Obstacles and Best Practices, Key Performance Indicators, Upscaling and Replication”  Intermediate version, June 2017, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
7.      Definition of “City”, Wikipedia,
8.      Definition of “Community”,
9.      Definition of “Smart City”,

Teh Hon Seng, Group CEO of TimeTec Group of Companies. Prior to forming TimeTec, Teh led PUC Founder (MSC) Bhd to be listed on MESDAQ (ACE) market of Bursa Malaysia in 2002. Teh initiated the R&D in fingerprint technology in 2000, which later developed into a renowned global brand for commercial fingerprint product known as FingerTec. In 2008, he foresaw the trend of cloud computing and mobile technology, and over the years, he had strategically diversified and transformed its biometric-focused products into a suite of cloud solutions that aimed at workforce management and security industries including smart communities that centered around the cloud ecosystem. Teh is also a columnist in a local newspaper and a writer of several books.

Near Field Commerce – Another Rising Trend for e-Commerce After O2O

Near Field Commerce – Another Rising Trend for e-Commerce After O2O

The history of e-commerce can be dated back as early as 40 years ago when an innovative English entrepreneur, Michael Aldrich, connected a television set to a transaction processing computer with a telephone line in 1979, and created what we called “teleshopping”, thus started the concept of shopping at a distance. 

Internet accelerated the growth of e-commerce in the 1990s, sprouted millions of B2B, B2C online storefronts and platforms. And Amazon, the largest e-commerce store established so far on Earth, started as an online bookstore in 1994, now becomes the everything store; offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptive low prices, registering a revenue of USD178 billion in 2017. 

With the boom and ubiquitous presence of smartphones, it sparked another round of e-commerce revolution, and online-to-offline commerce, or simply O2O, boosted by the mobile technology and beginning to take shape nowadays which stressed on the interactive element between the online and offline business operations. Group purchase platform, Groupon; ride-hailing service providers, Uber, Grab and Lyft; bike-sharing services Mobike and ofo; order online and pick-up at storefront, Walmart to Go are all best quoted examples of O2O business models, which integrate the online and offline business operation to create a seamless and better customer experience. 

Near Field Commerce, NFC  

Near Field Commerce is a term I coined, adopting the well-known acronym, NFC, which refers to near field communication, a communication protocol that take effects within 4cm, often used between two electronic devices, one of which usually is the smartphone, and to be commonly used for mobile payment and mobile access. I removed the word 
"Communication" and replaced it with the word "Commerce"; with the clear concept to adopt smart technology to connect buyers and sellers to complete any business transactions in close proximity.   

Contrary to the e-commerce of promoting the borderless marketing regardless of distance, the B2C or C2C Near Field Commerce champions a short distance business activity, whereby the shorter the better. 

One might ask, the concept is quite like O2O, so why not just stick with O2O, rather than creating a new term that could create confusion?

The difference between O2O and NFC

Just like O2O, Near Field Commerce represents a certain mix of online and offline operations to connect buyers and sellers within the same geographical concerns; but in O2O, buyers are always treated as separate and simple individuals, while in Near Field Commerce, the community is one of the key considerations. When the community comes into the scene, there is a requirement to link the e-commerce platform and the community platform thus e-commerce will appear to be part of the community system. The commercial functionalities can either be B2C or C2C like O2O, but the focus would be on the integration and interaction with the smart community system to achieve a better community experience, rather than an individual customer experience. 

And unlike the O2O’s normally purely business consideration nature, Near Field Commerce has a society value in mind; besides reducing time and cost, cutting waste to a minimum should be the larger environmental perspective concern in one of the NFC’s sacred goals. 

Now let us temporarily shift our attention towards the environmental aspect in relation to e-commerce.   

A boon in e-commerce, a bane in environment 

In general, the prosperity in e-commerce has given the logistics industry a big boost as demands for transport and delivery services soared. 

According to E-Commerce Logistics Market Report, published by Allied Market Research, the global market is expected to garner $535,895 million by 2022, registering a CAGR of 21.2% during the period 2016-2022. The transportation service type generated the largest market share in 2015 while warehousing sub-segment is expected to register the fastest growth during the forecast period 2016-2022. Asia-Pacific is expected to be the largest market over the forecast period.

The rise of e-commerce that boosts the logistics industry, normally tags along with two environmental problems, firstly the carbon emission problem, and secondly the waste of packaging. 

For example, China faces 160 tonnes of packaging waste after Singles’ Day buying binge.  Greenpeace described the annual promotion as a "catastrophe for the environment" that not only creates waste, but also leads to a surge in carbon emissions due to manufacturing, packaging and shipping. In a report published last week, it is estimated that the total orders of last year had produced 52,400 tonnes of additional climate-warming carbon dioxide.

We all know too well that e-commerce helps to eliminate travel time for customers but on the other hand, increases the transportation for the delivery of goods. This is not a simple offset game from one to another, because e-commerce channel, on average, tends to produce more emissions per item for three reasons: e-commerce requires additional packaging, customers purchase fewer items per online transaction, and multi-item orders often result in multiple deliveries. Hence, the purchase volume of a single trip to a physical store requires multiple e-purchases and deliveries. That said, one normally seldom travel far to purchase goods, but with online purchase, shopping and goods now travel around the globe. 

We also know too well that for deliveries, two of the largest sources of emissions are last-mile delivery and packaging. The e-commerce channel can improve its average footprint per item by increasing the number of items shipped per order; but only if all the items can be packaged and shipped together. The Walmart study underscores the importance of shipping multiple items together and avoiding split shipments, which occur when some of the items being shipped are not immediately available from the same distribution center. As a result, the emissions of two items shipped separately are 35% higher than if the items are shipped together.

Walmart’s findings show that for grocery items, the average brick-and-mortar purchase is also more environmentally efficient than e-commerce. When customers buy their groceries online, they tend to buy larger basket of goods than with other e-purchases. However, delivering groceries is carbon intensive because retailers will still need to alter routes to suit customer schedules along with using refrigerated trucks or special packaging. Standard delivery by parcel requires either insulated packaging or reusable coolers that must be picked up from the customers and returned to distribution facilities.

That is why promoting Near Field Commerce would be the solution to build a more environmental friendly community compared with online commerce or online to offline commerce in general. 

The adoption of Near Field Commerce in a smart community 

A smart community system should consider the following elements for Near Field Commerce:

1. A Compulsory in Smart Community 

Near Field Commerce is a must in a smart community system, and the system should have the ability to connect any nearby merchants or service providers to the communities, rather than to promote general e-commerce.  

2. Distance is an essence 

Since distance matters for Near Field Commerce, the merchant platform should be able to provide geographical distance or GPS coordinates information in order to allow the users to pick up from the nearest merchants in their vicinity. For example, the nearest clinic, locksmith, veterinary, plumber are essential in some circumstances. And occasionally, when customers decided to visit some places; distance is the main consideration instead of price. 

3. Merchant directory 

Just like e-commerce platform, the Near Field Commerce platform also should have a merchant directory based on categories, loaded with products, prices, promotions, contact information, customer reviews and etc.

4. Online payment not necessary

Online payment gateway might not be necessary for Near Field Commerce because, sellers and buyers can meet face to face easily, so long as both parties agree; payment method is not the crucial issue. 

5. Eliminate Third Party Logistics 

Short distance is the best distance in promoting Near Field Commerce, the shorter the better, with the objective to eliminate third party dispatch services entirely since sellers and buyers can meet up easily. Besides cutting the cost of delivery that helps reduce carbon emission, it would also reduce the waste in packaging tremendously. You don’t need a special wrapping plastic or box to carry home some groceries. Near Field Commerce promotes the concept of “Grab a book from your nearby bookstore, instead of getting it sent from thousand miles’ Amazon”. 

6. Yard sales to recycle used merchandise

To tie short distance and environmental concerns, what better Near Field Commerce concept than a Yard Sale? A smart community platform should come with a yard sale module to entice the recycling of used stuff among the neighbourhood. Even if you are providing some personal services like tuition, piano lessons, renting out of your own unit; a yard sale within the community is the best Near Field Commerce, whereby it achieves virtually zero distance; eliminate the time and cost of traveling entirely. 

7. Contact info for amenity services 

Even if a smart community system comes with or without a proper embedded Near Field Commerce platform or yard sale feature, it should have a system for the community to add the contacts of useful and best chosen service providers into its system to facilitate the near field commerce activities. For example electricians, movers, cleaners, gardeners, gas suppliers’ contact info and etc. 

8. Delivery to integrate with visitor management system  

Integration of Near Field Commerce platform with a smart community platform is essential at the visitor management system level to facilitate the delivery services from the merchants. Since pre-registering visitor is almost a default built-in feature for a smart community platform, the integration will smoothen the delivery process with a simple QR code scan at the guardhouse and to enhance the security level required by a gated and guarded smart community. Additionally, the information of the delivery such as date, time, merchant, dispatch vehicle and delivery man can be obtained effortlessly.  

9. Third party O2O system integration 

Nowadays, the system developers always adopt open architecture in designing their system as well as provide API, or Application Programming Interface for third party developers to integrate with their system. With Near Field Commerce concept in mind, smart community system providers should consider to establish deep integration of some O2O commerce platform into their system. Take Uber as an example, imagine when calling a cab, relevant information like cab driver and vehicle plate number can be pre-registered, thus speeding up the pick-up and drop-off process. Or in a permissible Airbnb service community, deep integration should be able to facilitate the issuance of temporary pass for tenants and their vehicles for accessing the community within the tenancy period.  Besides achieving better automation, all O2O activities would be traceable at the community level. 

10. Offline shopping mall to achieve Near Field Commerce

For a housing developer that builds a township to include a shopping mall nearby its residential, better engagement between the merchants and residents can be achieved with the Near Field Commerce platform. In this context, the Near Field Commerce should be the reverse of O2O, offline to online, rather than online to offline. Imagine when a physical store in a shopping mall with lesser buyers during weekdays, the merchant receives orders from the nearby residents and delivers the merchandises without hassle to boost sale and compensate their loss during slack time? Imagine an exhausted resident coming home from work, will he/she shop at the nearby shopping mall, or shop at the Near Field Commerce platform, and get their items delivered to their doorstep in the evening? 

11. To ease returned merchandise handlings

One of the significant advantages for Near Field Commerce is the handling of the returned merchandise. Retail is estimated as a $5 trillion market, with about 10% of that being e-commerce. According to Reverse Logistics Association, the return rate on in-store purchases is about 8%, but for online shopping, the rate leaps to 25-40%, causing extra waste of packaging and carbon emission. But for Near Field Commerce platform, with the brick and mortar store nearby, the returned merchandise handling is just a walk in the park!

12. Trust-based commerce 

Several barriers still constrain further growth in long distance cross-border e-commerce, including unreliable and lengthy transit times, complex and ambiguous return processes, customs bottlenecks, limited transparency in delivery, price opacity, limited ability to alter delivery times, and all in all, resulted in limited mutual trust. Because Near Field Commerce platform is not merely based on online communication, it also encourages offline communication between buyers and sellers, where you can look into their eyes, or easily strike a conversation; better relationship and trust can be built within two parties. 


1.   Near Field Commerce promotes short distance commerce to preserve the environment by cutting any unnecessary waste in terms of product packaging and reduce carbon emissions by avoiding excessive transportations. 

2.   Near Field Commerce stresses on eliminating the involvement of third party logistics in business dealings between the buyers and sellers.  

3.   Near Field Commerce encourages online e-commerce platform to better connect merchants with customers as well as complete the business activities within the vicinity.

4.   The online platform can remain as a separated platform to connect into any smart community system or can be any modules developed within a smart community system.

5.   If the online e-commerce is a separate platform, Near Field Commerce stresses on the interoperability and the interactivity between the functionalities of the e-commerce platform and the smart community platform. For example if a delivery is involved, the integration of a visitor management system from the smart community platform is necessary.

6.   For township that contains a shopping mall surrounded by residential areas, the offline commerce should be embedded with online Near Field Commerce platform for the objective to enhance the customers’ engagement and improve business activities.

7.   Near Field Commerce reduces the hassles in the handling of returned merchandise.

8.   Near Field Commerce strengthens the trust and relationship between buyers and sellers.

9.   Since buyers and sellers can meet up easily, the payment methods can be of any kind; online payment is not a compulsory for Near Field Commerce platform.  

10.  Distance info is at the very core when designing a Near Field Commerce system.


1. Laurie Wiegler, “Returns of Online Purchases a Key Factor in E-Commerce Boom”, Transport Topics, August 17, 2017. 

2. “Online-to-Offline Commerce”, Investopedia website

3. Aaron Cheris, Casey Taylor, Jennifer Hayes and Jenny Davis-Peccoud, “Retailers' Challenge: How to Cut Carbon Emissions as E-Commerce Soars”, Bain & Company, April 18, 2017

4. “China faces 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste after Singles' Day buying binge”, The Strait Times, Singapore, Nov 17, 2017

5. “E-Commerce Logistics Market to Garner $535,895 Million, Globally, by 2022”,  Allied Market Research

6. “How e-commerce companies are changing the logistics business”, EDB Singapore, Oct 11, 2016

Teh Hon Seng, Group CEO of TimeTec Group of Companies. Prior to forming TimeTec, Teh led PUC Founder (MSC) Bhd to be listed on MESDAQ (ACE) market of Bursa Malaysia in 2002. Teh initiated the R&D in fingerprint technology in 2000, which later developed into a renowned global brand for commercial fingerprint product known as FingerTec. In 2008, he foresaw the trend of cloud computing and mobile technology, and over the years, he had strategically diversified and transformed its biometric-focused products into a suite of cloud solutions that aimed at workforce management and security industries including smart communities that centered around the cloud ecosystem. Teh is also a columnist in a local newspaper and a writer of several books.