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Minister Shanmugam highlights the role of science & technology in keeping Singapore safe

Speaking at the opening of the Home Team Science & Technology (S&T) Exhibition & Conference for Homeland Security (SciTECHS), Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, spoke about how the Home Team (HT[1]) is leveraging S&T to keep Singapore safe and deal with threats effectively. S&T can help create a more effective and efficient HT, providing better detection and situational awareness, improved analytical ability and stronger operational capabilities.

Automated Biometric and Behavioural Screening Suite

For instance, an Automated Biometric and Behavioural Screening Suite (ABBSS) has been deployed at Woodlands Checkpoint, a land border crossing between Singapore and Malaysia. ABBSS encompasses a state-of-the-art video analytics system, which can perform real-time facial recognition, cross-referencing that against a large database. It can search recorded footages based on multiple parameters such as colour, size, shape, number plate, speed and direction of a moving object. (Facial recognition technology is integrated into the Fast and Seamless Travel options at the to be opened Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 4.)

Minister Shanmugam said that ABBSS is an customised, in-house Ministry capability. He explained, “If you visit any S&T security conference, you will find these sorts of things available commercially off-the-shelf. But then we found that the commercial systems don't work in the way we want them to. So we had to take some of it and customise it.”

The system has allowed the identification of many blacklisted travellers and boosted the efficiency and effectiveness of border security operations.​  

ABBSS and the Laboratory Network mentioned below were winners of the HT S&T Excellence Awards.

Home Team Laboratory Network

This is a network of labs across Singapore’s checkpoints which play a critical role in dealing with drugs and terrorism. These labs provide the capability to quickly and accurately detect an entire spectrum of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) threats, and conduct speedy accurate investigations based on advanced forensic methods. The labs also allow the detection and analysis of a wide range of narcotics, including New Psychotropic Substances (NPS).

Collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology (US DHS S&T)

Minister Shanmugam highlighted 10 years of close international partnership with US DHS S&T.

One example of the outcomes is the Sentinel Puffer Portal, a walk-through screening system. It releases gentle puffs of air, dislodges particles on clothing and human bodies and detects trace amounts of explosives and narcotics. It reduces manpower requirement, is less intrusive to travellers than physical pat-downs and effective in detecting even very small quantities of the materials. It is deployed effectively at all land and sea checkpoints in Singapore.

Passenger being screened for explosives and narcotic substances with the use of Puffer Portal. Photo: Christopher Chen, from Home Team News website

Last year, the HT collaborated with DHS on the Radiological Multisensor Analysis Platform system. It is essentially a prototype vehicle with advanced radiological sensors integrated with 3D-mapping technology. As the vehicle moves, it allows radioactive threats in the environment to be detected and shown on a "real-time street view". The vehicle has been testeds at sea and land checkpoints and it was able to screen passenger vehicles and cargo containers, and conduct searches for threats in urban areas. Minister Shanmugam said that it could become a valuable tool to counter nuclear smuggling and terrorism.

Read the transcript of the speech here.

[1]The seven Departments and two Statutory Boards under the Ministry of Home Affairs are collectively called the Home Team.

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