Chinatown coLAB

The Chinatowm coLAB 2014 was a 3 day hackathon organised by the Singapore Tourism Board with UP Singapore. More than 120 participants came together over 28th-30th March 2014 to design and prototype tech solutions to let visitors experience and enjoy our Chinatown even more.

Click here to see the winning ideas!

We all have our Chinatown stories.

Squeezing your way through the crowds at the Chinese New Year street market, and queuing for hours for barbequed pork. Seeing the Thaipusam procession in front of the iconic Sri Mariamman Temple. Having Cantonese porridge at Chinatown Complex Market or Maxwell Road Market, and instantly remembering why you keep coming back all these years. Watching the seventh lunar month Ghost Festival shows. Or even shopping with Mum at People’s Park as a kid.

Such is the richness of Chinatown, where many of us live, work, study, play, practice its deep traditions, or simply enjoy the experience that is Chinatown.

And we've enjoyed sharing this experience with our visitors. Of the 14.4 million visitors to Singapore in 2012, about one-third visit Chinatown, making it the second most visited attraction after Orchard Road.


We want to improve visitor experience through better storytelling by bringing to life 
Chinatown’s heritage and stories of its community and businesses.

Chinatown coLAB 2014

Dates: Friday, 28 March to Sunday, 30 March 2014

Venue: 237 South Bridge Road

We need your participation! Come to the workshop and hear from urban design and travel experts, and learn from technologists. Join us at the hackathon weekend and collaborate with heritage enthusiasts, Chinatown insiders, developers and designers on innovative ideas.

Pre-coLAB Workshop

Dates: Tuesday, 25 March

Venue: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Nagapuspa Theatre (288 South Bridge Road)




You are invited to learn, play, collaborate and network, be empowered and empower others with your energy and ideas!

If you have never been to an UP Singapore event or a hackathon, see the FAQs here.


The workshops, featuring Chinatown insiders, travel industry and technology experts, will provide a backdrop to the hackathon. It will dive into the issues surrounding the themes, as well as visitors to Singapore.


Meet other people who love Chinatown and are passionate about Singapore’s heritage. Connect with technology gurus and expert developers. Share your expertise with less experienced developers. Form new connections with like-minded innovators.


Find partners, swap ideas, and discover opportunities. You may just end up starting your own business at this hackathon. You will also have the opportunity to tap into STB’s Tourism Technology Fund, as well as to work with the Chinatown business community to bring your idea to market!

Get rewarded

We have some great rewards coming your way. Watch this space for updates!

Our Partners

Community Partners
Supported by
Venue Sponsor


Singapore’s Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most popular destination experiences attracting millions of overseas tourists and locals, whether visiting the markets, cultural icons, food stalls, or participating in the signature Chinese celebrations and festivals. It is a mix of old and new, a place where disparate cultures converge.

Beyond Chinese landmarks, the neighbourhood delights with beautiful heritage buildings dedicated to Indian, Malay and Arab communities. Its Chinese (牛车水) and Malay (Kreta Ayer) names – literally, “bullock cart water” – refer to the water for the community in the early days of the British settlement, that used to be transported by bullock carts driven by Indian workers. The ever-evolving neighbourhood is now also in the heart of the financial district and office workers from surrounding buildings flock here in the evening. Chic nightclubs and cutting-edge restaurants exist within traditional shophouses.

This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together Chinatown locals – many of whom have lived and worked in Chinatown for many years – and businesses – many of which are heritage brands – to work on ideas alongside the wider community.



Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)on the conservation of Chinatown.
Other online resources reccomended by URA :

My Conservation Portal: A Gateway to Information on Our Built Heritage

Chinatown Map and History

Chinatown Walking Maps & Leaflets

Clans and associations


Online resources recommended by Singapore Heritage Society:

“Bullockcartwater” blog , which “(shares an) observation of life in Singapore Chinatown” Its Facebook page

“Singapore Chinatown” Its Facebook page, about the area that is known as “Tua Po” (大坡) to many older Singaporeans.

“Diaspora of Amoy Street” Its Facebook page

“Chinatownology” website, dedicated to the “history, heritage and culture of Singapore Chinatown and Chinatowns around the world”.

“Chinese Temples” blog, “creating a trail of Chinese temples in Singapore”. It’s Its Facebook page

Singapore Chinese Taoist Temples It’s Its Facebook page

YourSingapore resources for tourists:

Chinatown Culture & Heritage

Chinatown Heritage Centre

Chinatown Trail

Chinatown Food Street

Chinatown Street Market

Chinatown Shopping

Theme: Improving the Chinatown visitor experience through community engagement, storytelling and technology.

There is a lot more to Chinatown: the secret Chinatown behind doors, along the laneways and in the memories of the local community. Let’s draw on the Chinatown residents’ experience and knowledge, engage with the community to tell their stories.

Go past the obvious and get the ‘insider’ view of what makes Singapore’s Chinatown different to other Chinatowns around the world.

How can we best use technology to enable or enhance your ideas for Chinatown?

Challenge 1: Collecting Stories

How can we unearth, document and share the treasure trove of stories in and around the Chinatown community?

How can we use technology to enable the collection of data and stories to map out Chinatown through the ages and visualise the data to help us better understand the Chinatown story?

Challenge 2: Telling Stories

Let’s use technology to transport visitors to another time, another world to experience and engage with the history and culture in a super sensory way that digital technology can enable. Utilise technology to easily explain and make accessible the stories of Chinatown, such as:

• Migrant histories and ways of living in the past

• Local customs and practices

• Traditional Chinese medicines

• Homegrown businesses and heritage brands

• Clans and associations

• Chinatown’s multicultural landscape

• Cuisines of Chinese dialects and food heritage

How can we help visitors navigate all that is on offer and find what they want; or even better, what they didn’t know existed? How can location-sensing technology seek out visitors, as they pass through Chinatown to offer them experiences, content and offers to enhance their enjoyment?

How can we enrich the experience of Chinatown’s two main festival events, the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival light-ups?

Challenge 3: Connecting Chinatown Businesses with Visitors

What might Chinatown businesses do to better connect with visitors/customers through social media-facilitated or technology-enabled solutions?

Heritage Marker at Thian Hock Kheng temple

Special Challenge: Chinatown Heritage Markers Challenge
(Prize: $750)

How can we better weave in Chinatown’s Heritage Markers within the precinct experience?

Special Challenge: Data Challenge
(Prize: $750)

This prize will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the best use of the datasets that is released at the coLAB and / or the best mash-up of coLAB and external datasets.

There are so many options to explore when you combine vibrant community, rich stories and enabling technology. Ultimately, how can everything come together to make a memorable experience for our visitors – locals and tourists alike that keeps them coming back, again and again?


Here's all the data on offer during the coLAB!

Geospatial data

Locations of activities, hotels and eating places in Chinatown listed under with ratings and reviews provided in 3 different files and can be viewed in a map format.

Singapore Tourism Board Annual Overseas Visitors Survey data

Never before released raw data from overseas visitors survey between 2010 and 2013 (Quarter 3) over 80,000 rows of information on country of residence, gender, age group, mode of arrival, purpose of visit, places of interest visited, weighted expenditures in different categories such as food & beverages, accommodation, shopping and type of accommodations.

Email us at to get access to datasets released during the hackathon.


All participants are expected to abide by UP Singapore's code of conduct.

Chinatown coLAB 2014

Dates: Friday, 28 March to Sunday, 30 March

Venue: 237 South Bridge Road

The hackathon is free. But we require a $15 deposit, in order to prevent overbooking. This will be refunded in full upon check-in at the event.


Day 1: 28 March, 2014 (Fri), 6.30pm - 9.00pm
Time Activity  Speaker  Organisation
6:30 PM Registration & Dinner
7:00 PM Welcome address
7:05 PM Opening Address  Poh Chi Chuan Singapore Tourism Board
7:15 PM Chinatown background and heritage  Jeya Journeys
7:25 PM Why Chinatown is worth doing something about, and what the challenges are  Chua Ai Lin Singapore Heritage Society
7:40 PM Introduction to themes/challenges  UP Team
7:50 PM Conservation, urban design and experience  Kelvin Ang URA
8:05 PM Heritage Science as a complex system Assoc Prof Andrea Nanetti and Assoc Prof Siew Ann Cheong NTU
8:15 PM An Insider's Chinatown Victor Yue Blogger behind Bullockcartwater blog
8:30 PM Team Pitching
9:00 PM Team Formation


Day 2: 29 March. 2014 (Sat), 9:30am – 6:00pm
Time Activity
9:00 AM Breakfast
9:30 AM Teams reconvene and work on their prototypes
10:00 AM Technical Talks
12:30 PM Lunch
2:00 PM Mentoring
4:30 PM Tea
7:00 PM Closing


Day 3: 30 March. 2014 (Sat), 9:30am – 6:00pm
Time Activity
8:30 AM Breakfast
10:30 AM Tea
10:30 AM Presentation Practice Clinics
1:00 PM Lunch
2:35 PM Team Presentations
3:45 PM Judges Deliberations
4:30 PM Closing

Date: Tuesday, 25 March

Venue: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Nagapuspa Theatre

25 March, 2014 (Tue), 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Time Activity  Speaker  Organisation
6:30 PM Registration & Dinner
7:00 PM Welcome address
7:05 PM Opening Address  Poh Chi Chuan Singapore Tourism Board
7:10 PM Introduction to theme/challenges  Adam Lyle UP Singapore
7:20 PM Chinatown businesses and the new wifi network  Renee Lim Chinatown Business Association
7:25 PM The Chinatown community and Chinatown festivals  Philemon Loh Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee
7:40 PM The value of community narratives  Goh Zhen Zi Thinkscape
8:00 PM How we can use technology to enhance visitor and user experience  Felix Lee Tech Entrepreneur and Mentor
8:20 PM Community Mapping of Chinatown Jason Ng and Benjamin Tan SG Cares/NVPC and Vertical Kampong



Come see Chinatown like never before - we have created immersive experiences for our coLAB participants to discover Chinatown all over again and hopefully, this will take your ideas and solutions to a whole new level. Once you register for the coLAB, look out for a notification from us to sign up for the following tours :

Architecture & History of Chinatown

Experience the architecture and streets of old Chinatown as well as discover the history of Chinatown’s early communities.

Clans & Associations of Chinatown

Experience the historic clans and associations in Chinatown and explore the charming architecture and well-preserved old-world interiors of clan houses.

Insider Chinatown

Experience the heart of Chinatown on this walk across Chinatown which will showcase some of the most significant places of worship and focal points for locals.

Chinatown Food Street and Food Heritage

Calling all foodies! Learn more about the cuisines that different migrant dialect groups had brought to Chinatown and connect with the unique food heritage that may not be apparent to the uninitiated, ending at the wet market, where you can still feel the 'real' atmosphere of the old Chinatown.

Passage of Life: Birth, Marriage & Death

Experience the life of the early Chinese immigrant from birth to death. Whether it is getting fortunes told by a fortune teller, a brief teaching on the Yin & Yang of Chinese medicine, carrying a red umbrella at a wedding, or burning paper mansions at a funeral, discover the reasons behind each practice while you explore the many Chinese customs in this journey.

Day 1 - Friday, 28th March


Jeya Ayadurai

Jeyathurai Ayadurai, or Jeya Ayadurai, as he is known, read his degree in International History and Politics at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He is well known for his knowledge of local military history and his significant contributions to Singapore heritage.

A former lecturer in Military History and International Relations at the former Department of Strategic Studies at the Singapore Command & Staff College, he holds concurrent appointments as Director of The Changi Museum, General Manager of Singapore History Consultants (a research and consultancy firm) and Managing Director of Journeys Tours & Travel Services (an awardwinning heritage tour company).

For his contributions in local military history and Singapore heritage, he was conferred the ‘Special Recognition Award’ by Singapore Tourism Board. He is an engaging public speaker whose audience has ranged from royalty to school children.


Chua Ai Lin

Chua Ai Lin is President of the Singapore Heritage Society and an Assistant Professor of History at the National University of Singapore. A specialist in Singapore's social and cultural history of the colonial era, she loves exploring corners of Chinatown to rediscover the complex and diverse legacies the past has left on today's landscape.


Kelvin Ang

Mr Kelvin Ang is the Director of Conservation Management at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore. He has a decade of experience in both architecture and conservation planning. URA is Singapore’s national planning authority, tasked with the mission to planning and conservation authority.

He obtained his Graduate Diploma in the Built Environment (Architecture), and subsequently an MSc. in Sustainable Heritage, at the Bartlett School, University College London (UCL), UK.

Kelvin has led a multi-disciplinary team to deliver several successful projects covering: research, planning and policy matters. These include the gazette of more than 700 additional buildings since 2003, such as the Balestier Road areas and the redevelopment of the historic Beach Road Camp. He has also advised on the restoration and rejuvenation of dilapidated areas for homes, commerce, leisure and tourism. Kelvin is also a community leader in the 1930s Tiong Bahru Conservation Area, and involved in the promotion of built and intangible heritage.


Victor Yue

Victor Yue was born in Chinatown, grew up in Chinatown and got married in Chinatown. He is passionate about heritage, events and happenings in Chinatown and helps to promote various aspects of Chinatown in his own unique ways using English as a platform to reach out to different people. He actively maintains a blog titled 'bullockcartwater', where he uploads the photos and videos that he takes at various events.

It is very interesting to hear Victor's memories of growing up in Chinatown, and of what he knows about the Chinatown of today. He will present Snapshots of Singapore Chinatown - weaving through the streets of Chinatown through the Chinese Festivals.


Dr Andrea Nanetti

Andrea Nanetti is Associate Professor at Singapore Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media and founding Vice-Director of the International Research Center for Architectural Heritage Conservation at Shanghai Jiaotong University. He is advisor to public and private institutions and individuals in Italy, Greece, and China on Heritage Science internationalisation projects. A historian by training (Medieval and Renaissance studies), Andrea Nanetti has both academic and entrepreneurial experience in helping to develop Heritage Science as a domain. His main research interest is in innovation and change in heritage interpretation processes. As a scholar he applies interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary methods to the study of regional man-heritage-landscape systems, national art-heritage-politics relationships, and global histories of intercontinental heritage networks. As an entrepreneur he adopts transnational and cross-disciplinary approaches in access to heritage (ICT tools, new media, and contemporary art), conservation-restoration (selection and coordination of Italian and other European masters for Chinese construction companies, establishment of artworks restoration labs in China), and support to heritage management (advisor to public and private institutions in strategic decisions).


Dr Cheong Siew Ann

Dr Cheong Siew Ann was born in Singapore in 1969. After getting through his primary, secondary, and junior college education in Ama Keng Primary School, the Chinese High School, and Hwa Chong Junior College respectively, and thereafter a contract service with the Singapore Armed Forces, he studied physics at the National University of Singapore. He graduated in 1997 with a BSc (Hons) degree in physics, and went on to obtain his PhD in theoretical condensed matter physics from Cornell University in 2006. He then spent a year and a half as a postdoctoral associate with the Cornell Theory Center, working on biological sequence segmentation, before joining the Nanyang Technological University as an Assistant Professor in Physics and Applied Physics in August 2007. His main research interest is in developing data analysis methods and toy models for understanding the dynamics of complex systems such as biological macromolecules, the brain, earthquakes, financial markets, and infectious diseases. In particular, he works extensively with high-frequency, large-volume time series data, to cluster them, segment them, and also to estimate complex networks based on significant events in such data. His other research interests are in the areas of computational physics and condensed matter physics.


Day 2 - Saturday, 29th March


Duan Tingliang

Tingliang is the co-founder and design chef of MelonSail Pte Ltd. He is passionate in design and mobile. He also loves chatting with all the awesome people


Tang Pak Kay

Pak Kay is a research scientist at the Institute for Infocomm Research. He specialises in wireless communication technologies and Design Thinking for strategic creativity. His current area of work is in the Institute’s Productivity Program, where he is the project manager for the Snap2Tell Alive technology.


Bilal Sethi

Bilal currently works at HERE as a Marketing Manager for APAC, managing the Everyday Mobility portfolio, which focuses on working with mobile OEM’s. Bilal has 10+ years’ experience focusing on product management and marketing mainly in the Canadian telecom industry and moved to Singapore last year to expand on his global experience. Bilal also has an MBA from University of Toronto in Canada.


What is a “hackathon”?

The concept of a “hackathon” event was borrowed from the tech community, describing an event where developers collaborate intensely on rapid software projects. UP Singapore organises civic hackathons that recruit skilled, passionate members of the public for a weekend-long competition to co-create digital solutions (apps, websites, enterprise software, etc.) for the selected themes.

It’s my first UP Singapore hackathon / coLAB. What exactly will happen during the hackathon weekend?

Our hackathons are intended to be a fun work event, where people volunteer their time to work on their ideas in teams.

The hackathon starts in the evening (after work) on Friday, 28 March. There is a pitch session that happens that night. Attendees with ideas will do a one-minute pitch to the audience, and people who are interested can join the teams.

Saturday and Sunday morning is work time for the teams. On Saturday, specialist mentors are invited to come and help the teams develop their ideas. The weekend culminates in the team presentations on the Sunday afternoon, and prizes are awarded.

Participants are free to come and go as they please. But if you want to work on a team, please come on Friday night to hear the pitches and join the teams. If you are joining a team, please commit enough time to them, so that you are sharing the workload with them.

Is attendance at the pre-hackathon workshop on Tuesday, 25 March mandatory? What is in the workshop?

Attendance is not mandatory but is highly encouraged. It will be a good primer for the hackathon. At the pre-hackathon workshop, we introduce the theme and specific challenges and invite subject matter experts – industry specialists, technologists, policy makers and / or entrepreneurs – to make presentations to give these challenges the context.

How many people are allowed in a team? Can a team formed beforehand?

Teams typically have 3 to 5 people. Yes, teams can be formed beforehand.

Are the participants free to use any technologies? Will any computing and/or network resource be provided during the event?

Yes, participants are free to use any technologies. Wi-Fi is provided, but participants need to bring their own laptops.

What is the closing date for registration?

We accept registrations up to the start of the hackathon on 28 March. However, as space is limited, we encourage you to register as soon as you can.

Do the participants need to be present throughout the weekend? How long are participants required to stay at the hackathon?

Participants are free to leave and re-join whenever they want. However, if they intend to participate in a team over the weekend, we would encourage them to attend on Friday night (since team formations happen during that session). Participants are free to leave or stay as late as they wish. The workspace will be open till 10pm on Saturday.

Is there any age limit for the participants?

There is no age limit. However, if you are below 18 years old, please let us know ahead of time, so we can prepare a parental / guardian consent form for you.

Should participants be tech-savvy?

Not necessary. We welcome people with different skillsets and would expect everyone to contribute to their respective teams. We ask you to indicate whether you are a Technical and Non-Technical Participant at registration, so we know the mix. A Technical Participant is anyone inclined towards technology and would be able to contribute their coding / development skills.

Why do you need a deposit of $15 at registration?

The $15 deposit is only to ensure that participants remain committed to attend our event and show up. Once they register at the front-desk, the amount will be refunded.

What is UP Singapore?

“Urban Prototyping” is a new movement where people from the public, private and people sectors come together to tackle the wide range of social and environmental challenges facing our cities. Urban Prototyping (UP) is a platform managed by Padang & Co (, the Open Innovation Company, for crowdsourcing ground-breaking innovations – creating technology and data-enabled enterprises by giving participants access to new technologies and data. At the heart of this platform is a UP community of 4,000 innovators.


First Prize Winner: Team Easy City Net

Team Easycity Net’s “Chinatown in your pocket” app combines iBeacon (positioning system) and GPS, as well as Augmented Reality, to take the user on a journey through Chinatown. The free wifi access means users (without mobile data access) can still access real-time data on Chinatown sights and businesses. There is also a “Meet the People” feature that allows the user to take a picture with icons like Sir Stamford Raffles. Check out their presentation here!

Runner Up: Team Treasure Hunt

This app allows visitors to discover the secret treasures of Chinatown using iBeacon technology.The app offers visitors different treasure hunts to go on including temple treasure hunt, Chinatown food hunt and Secrets of Chinatown. Once the visitor chooses the hunt and ventures close to one of the landmarks on the hunt, the app offers information, hints and stories pertaining to that particular landmark. Visitors are able to share their journeys on social media with friends and family.

2nd Runner Up: Team CTwalks

Team CTwalks’ app, “Today Tomorrow @ Chinatown”, allows visitors to engage with the Chinatown Community. Visitors can use the app to schedule meetings with local volunteers and community guides at different locations in Chinatown. After the meeting, visitors can express their appreciation for the volunteer using the app by either leaving a thank-you note on their profile or by sending them an online cash donation. Check out their presentation here!

Best Tech Prototype: Team Maxus

Team Maxus’ mobile app, “The Looking Glass”, has two main goals: visual storytelling that leads visitors to points of interest and community engagement between visitors and locals by sharing stories on social media. The app uses iBeacon and Augmented Reality to create heritage trails and tell stories about Chinatown. Additional features include audio storytelling, social media functions and incentives like limited edition souvenirs and information about shopping deals in the area. Check out their presentation here!

Best Data Innovation: Team Visitr

Team Visitr analysed the data from the Overseas Visitors Survey provided by STB and created a contextualized recommendation engine. Team Visitr’s app uses this engine to recommend places to visit, food to eat etc to visitors based on if they are backpackers, business visitors or group travellers. Check out their presentation here!

Best Design : Team HeritageCraft

Team Heritage Craft demonstrated an innovative way to let children discover the stories and history of Chinatown: use popular mobile game, Minecraft, as ‘building blocks’ to recreate Chinatown. The result is a fun, engaging and interactive experience. Check out their presentation here!

Heritage Markers Challenge : Team 2D3S

Team 2D3S proposed an idea of a screen on a kiosk or Heritage Marker, which uses Microsoft’s Kinect technology to allow people to interact with a storyteller character. After the first interaction, the user can print a personalised QR code that other Heritage Marker-screens can detect and customise other content for this user. Check out their presentation here!

Team Huat!

This team’s app, Chinatown Story Caravan, is an on-site storytelling app that provides authentic and personal stories collated from the Chinatown community. Users can also use the app to access guided tours, indulge in an immersive experience through a real-time camera mode, listen to street noises from the past and rate and bookmark interesting stories. Check out their presentation here!

Team Laohan

This team’s app, Trailla, serves as a personal trail designer. Chinatown explorers can design and share their heritage trails using technologies such as Trail Design, Map Navigation and Gamified Social Interactions. Check out their presentation here!

Team Llamas

This team has created a mini game app using heritage markers that allows visitors to experience what happens at a particular heritage site that site such as a Chinese medicine shop. Check out their presentation here!

Team Melonwave

This team’s mobile app allows a Chinatown visitor to create self-guided tours, share their stories on social media and access indoor navigation within the heritage sites. The app uses push wifi setup and location information, and provides an interactive gaming and interactive experience. The app can work offline as well. Check out their presentation here!

Team Chopes

Chopes follows a community-led model for enhancing the Chinatown visitors' experience. It involves the “tissue paper aunties”, who sell CHOPES tissues that contain links to online stories that enable the creation of customized stories and tours. The Chinatown community takes the lead in the collecting and sharing of stories, and even guiding these stories. Proceeds from the community tours will then be used to fund more tissue packs or other community efforts. Check out their presentation here!

Team Check It Out!

The visitors can use this app to tell their stories using QR codes or Snap2Tell and learn about Chinatown’s history. The app also uses analytics to provide recommendations for more heritage and tourist sites in Singapore. Check out their presentation here!


An app complimented by urban street system to increase the legibility of Chinatown and enhance the experience. Check out their presentation here!

Team PixKit

This is an image recognition app that uses augmented reality technology directory to identify what the visitor is looking at. It also provides a map directory to find new locations to visit. Visitors can also use the app to share personal experiences which are can be accessed by future visitors. Check out their presentation here!

Team My Chinatown Adventure

This app provides individual, gamified tour guides for a variety of people. It aims to draw in more visitors that otherwise have low/medium interest in the Chinatown area. This generates more engagement and exposure for Chinatown with content that are easily shared on social media. The technologies used in this app include Intel XDK, Cordova, MySQL, Google Maps, iBeacon and augmented reality. Check out their presentation here!

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