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Digital Frontiers in Border Security: Safeguarding Singapore

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Singapore faces an array of threats ranging from terrorism to potential attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) substances. To counter these risks, HTX’s CBRNE scientists and engineers are at the forefront, employing digital tools and advanced technologies to safeguard the nation’s borders and prevent such threats from entering.

At the recent CBRNe Convergence Asia 2024 conference, May Ong, the Director of HTX’s CBRNE Centre of Expertise (CoE), shed light on her team’s efforts in bolstering Singapore’s defence against CBRNE threats. One pivotal aspect of their strategy involves the establishment of a network of CBRNE laboratories at Singapore’s border checkpoints.

A CBRNE CoE border checkpoint laboratory. Image credits: HTX

Equipped with state-of-the-art analytical instruments and accredited to IEC/ISO 17025 standards, these laboratories enable border authorities to swiftly detect and intercept attempts to smuggle illicit substances or hazardous materials into the country.

Innovative technologies play a crucial role in enhancing Singapore’s border detection capabilities. The CBRNE CoE is exploring the use of muons, naturally occurring particles in cosmic rays, to scan cargo containers. With their non-ionizing nature and superior penetrating power, muons offer a promising solution for detecting security-sensitive substances concealed within dense materials, complementing existing scanning methods.

Moreover, leveraging robotics and drone technologies, the CBRNE CoE is developing mobile scanners capable of detecting CBRNE threats in scenarios where standard scanners are impractical. These agile solutions enable border authorities to swiftly respond to suspicious cargo, ensuring comprehensive security measures.

In addition to hardware advancements, the CBRNE CoE is harnessing the power of digital tools to streamline data analysis and threat detection. From employing AI algorithms to enhance X-ray scanners to developing computational chemistry tools for predictive analysis, digital innovation plays a pivotal role in bolstering Singapore’s defence against evolving CBRNE threats.

Looking ahead, the CBRNE CoE is committed to leveraging AI and computational chemistry tools to predict emerging CBRNE threats and assess the impact of changing weather patterns on the distribution of hazardous materials.

With the same goal of preparedness, earlier this year, crime scene specialists, bomb technical and investigation specialists, and forensic scientists from HTX’s Forensics Centre of Expertise (CoE) teamed up with counterparts from various security agencies for a post-blast investigation (PBI) exercise at the former Khalsa Crescent Prison (Exercise KCP) at Admiralty Road West.

In the face of looming terrorist threats, the race against time becomes critical for Singapore’s authorities to apprehend culprits and prevent follow-up attacks after a bomb detonation. Recognising the urgency, efforts are underway to continually enhance investigation capabilities for bomb blast incidents through technological advancements and collaborative exercises.

This joint exercise served as a crucial platform for security agencies to enhance their PBI competencies, operational readiness, and multi-agency response and coordination in the event of a bomb blast incident. The collaboration involved developing a range of blast scenarios to simulate real-world scenarios, facilitating hands-on training and testing of new technologies.

At Exercise KCP, HTX’s bomb technical and investigation specialists, along with crime scene specialists, meticulously planned and executed the blast, while the forensic scientists from Forensics CoE showcased new capabilities for early access to the scene, on-site screening and detection of post-blast explosive residues, and rapid DNA analysis.

Lim Chin Chin, the Director of Forensics CoE, lauded the exercise as an invaluable opportunity to trial new technologies and demonstrate innovative capabilities. She emphasized the importance of collaboration with SPF, SCDF, SAF, and DSO in refining processes for recovering and processing forensic evidence from post-blast scenes, especially in scenarios involving dispersed chemical agents.

By staying at the forefront of technological innovation and digitalisation, Singapore remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding its borders and ensuring the safety and security of its citizens.


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