Chinatown coLAB 2014

The Chinatown 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.

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.

Our Partners

Organising Partner

Community Partners

Supported by

Venue Sponsor


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?

Special Challenge: Chinatown Heritage Markers Challenge

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

Special Challenge: Data Challenge

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?

About Chinatown

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 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.

Further Reading

Other online resources recommended 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 Facebook page “Singapore Chinatown” Facebook page, about the area that is known as “Tua Po” to many older Singaporeans. “Diaspora of Amoy Street” Facebook page “Chinatownology” website, dedicated to the “history, heritage and culture of Singapore Chinatown and Chinatowns around the world”. “Chinese Temples” blog Facebook page Singapore Chinese Taoist Temples Facebook page  

YourSingapore resources for tourists:

Chinatown Culture & Heritage Chinatown Heritage Centre Chinatown Trail Chinatown Food Street Chinatown Street Market Chinatown Shopping


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.


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.


  • Jeya Ayadurai, 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)
  • Chua Ai Lin, President of the Singapore Heritage Society
  • Kelvin Ang, Director of Conservation Management at the Urban Redevelopment Authority
  • Victor Yue, Blogger, bullockcartwater
  • Dr Andrea Nanetti, Associate Professor at Singapore Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media
  • Dr Cheong Siew Ann, Assistant Professor in Physics and Applied Physics, Nanyang Technological University
  • Duan Tingliang, co-founder and design chef, MelonSail
  • Tang Pak Kay, Institute for Infocomm Research
  • Bilal Sethi, Marketing Manager, HERE


Check out the winning presentations below!

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” […]

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, […]

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 […]


Second Runner-up

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 […]


Best Tech Winner

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.


Best Data Innovation Winner

Team Heritage Craft used the elements of the popular mobile game, Minecraft, as ‘building blocks’ to recreate Chinatown. The result is a fun, engaging and interactive experience.

Heritage Craft

Best Design Winner - Chinatown coLAB 2014

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.


Heritage Markers Challenge Winner



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