Above photo: Automated boarding gate using facial recognition at Terminal 4, Changi Airport/ Credit: Changi Airport Group
Last week, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Singapore revealed a new innovative solution for security screening at bases, developed by a team of personnel from the Republic of Singapore Navy and DSTA Defence Science and Technology Agency, through a post on its Facebook page. Called “Smart Base Access”, the solution uses a smartphone app and Facial Recognition Technology to expedite visitor security screening when entering Singapore Armed Forces bases.
This system can help create manpower savings. For example, security troopers responsible for performing security checks can be redeployed to other areas to bolster security in those places, while visitors can get into camps more conveniently and wastage of time will be reduced. The team was awarded prototype funding at the first Public Service Innovation Challenge held on October 24. The pilot trial is expected to be conducted at RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base in the first quarter of 2018.
Facial recognition is one of the key applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. The technology has matured significantly during the past few years. It can have wide range of applications, in areas where detection or authentication of individuals is required. In China, the technology is being used for payments, check-in at airports, catching jaywalkers on the street or criminals attending a beer festival, campus security and more.
As Singapore forges ahead on its Smart Nation journey, this technology could play a key role. We take a look here at how the Singapore Government is exploring facial recognition technology.
National Digital Identity (NID) framework
The NID framework, aims to enable citizens and businesses to transact digitally in a convenient and secure manner, is one of the strategic smart nation projects. The current National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) system is primarily analogue, a card which people carry in their wallets containing personal information, information which resides in government databases. The government wants to create a secure digital identification system and have the infrastructure made available not just for government, but the private sector as well.
In response to a parliamentary query on October 3, regarding the application of biometric elements in the new digital identity system, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education, Dr. Janil Puthucheary replied that the Government is exploring various forms of biometric technologies such as facial recognition, to enhance the security for identification, authentication and authorisation.
Dr. Puthucheary said, “We are particularly interested in form factors that make it convenient for the elderly, the young and the disabled to use and benefit from the NDI. Smart Nation must serve all segments of the population.”
Terminal 4 at Changi Airport
The Automated Immigration Gates (AIG) are using a dual facial and thumbprint biometric recognition system, enhancing the automated lanes currently being used at existing terminals which use thumbprints.
At the Automated Boarding Gates (ABG), passengers only need to scan their boarding pass at the boarding gate, and authenticate their identity by taking a photo. The facial recognition system matches this photo against the photo taken earlier at the AIG.
Facilitating use of facial recognition in the economy
In the opening address at the Public Service Conference 2017, on October 2, Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), Mr. Ong talked about testing being done in China for the use of facial recognition systems for financial services, including ATM withdrawals.
He also said, “By the end of the year, the iPhone X will be released with facial recognition capabilities. Some of you may have seen how Changi Terminal 4 (T4), which is opening at the end of this month, will use facial recognition for checking in for airlines. There are various reasons hotels have not adopted this technology for check-ins. But what we want to ensure is that it is not our own rules that trip it up.”
So, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will be working with the hotel industry to come up with suitable prototypes. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is supporting the effort by creating a sandbox, a little “white space”, to enable hotels to test-bed such technologies.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced the launch of a S$5 million Virtual Production Innovation Fund to support the local media industry in developing the capabilities needed to harness virtual production technology to maintain the local media industry’s competitiveness as the international partner of choice to create premium IP.
To enable the camera to capture actors and visual effects in real time, virtual production technology uses LED panels to produce realistic background landscapes for television or movie sequences driven by video game engines. The site, road closures, location costs, permits, weather, set construction, and space rental will no longer be necessary for production.
With the help of technology, Singapore has a rare chance to get over some of its physical constraints, like the lack of suitable locations for on-location filming and room for large sets.
The ability of the storytellers to reproduce historical sites or any other environment will allow them to generate content that was previously impossible. This will revolutionise the creative process of storytelling.
The adoption of virtual production by the media sector is further encouraged by the strong signals emanating from international media giants that this technology will be widely employed in the creation of movies and television shows and will become the standard in the next years.
To strengthen capabilities in virtual production and ensure that the media companies and talent can keep up with international production methods to remain competitive, IMDA will pursue a two-pronged strategy to prepare the media sector for the future.
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the UK has collaborated with IMDA to adapt the school’s Certificate in Virtual Production course to the requirements of the sector to train media professionals to use this technology.
From December 2022 to April 2023, fifteen professors, trainers, and media professionals from Singapore will participate in virtual lectures and undergo hands-on training at NFTS’s virtual production facilities.
Over the course of the following 12 months, several masterclasses and workshops given by professionals from the business will be offered. A Singapore-based firm that specialises in developing immersive experiences, held a display to exhibit how virtual production can enhance imaginative storytelling.
Hands-on demonstrations will be given by guest speakers from virtual production leaders. They will discuss and explore best practices in the workflow to inventive ways to use different technology in storytelling.
Local businesses can also test out virtual production to realise their creative ideas for brief pieces of content, such as music videos, short films, and brand advertisements, among others. Companies can submit their suggested content concepts from now until February 15, 2023.
The capacity to best utilise virtual production technologies to realise a project’s creative vision will be taken into consideration while evaluating proposals.
Additionally, IMDA is working to organise an industry challenge with an internationally renowned gaming company. This challenge will encourage organisations to experiment with and use the cutting-edge real-time 3D creation tool developed by this gaming company. Currently, the aforementioned tool powers globally popular video games.
Teams whose concepts are shortlisted will receive personalised coaching and training from the gaming company. In addition, they will receive prize money from IMDA to assist with content creation.
Since virtual production technology has advanced in recent years, the country is now able to produce visual effects in real-time without building actual sets, thereby overcoming the constraints of scale, complexity, and space.
India will Chair the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an international initiative to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of artificial intelligence (AI).
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar, represented India virtually at the GPAI meeting held in Tokyo for the symbolic takeover from France, which is the outgoing Council Chair.
Chandrasekhar stated that the country would work in close cooperation with member states to put in place a framework to fully exploit the power of AI for the good of consumers across the globe. This means ensuring there are adequate guardrails to prevent misuse and user harm.
According to the Minister, India is building an ecosystem of modern cyber laws and frameworks based on three principles: openness, safety, and trust and accountability. With a National Programme on AI and National Data Governance Framework Policy (NDGFP) in place as well as one of the world’s largest publicly accessible datasets programmes in the works, the Minister reiterated India’s commitment to using AI to catalyse innovation and create good, trusted applications.
The NDGFP strives to ensure equitable access to non-personal data and improve institutional frameworks for government data sharing, promote principles around privacy and security by design, and encourage the use of anonymisation tools. It also aims to standardise the way the government collects and manages data. The NDGFP along with an envisaged Indian Data Management Office (IDMO) shall catalyse the next-gen AI and data-led research and startup ecosystem.
Through the datasets programmes, anonymised non-personal data will be available for the entire AI ecosystem. The AI market globally was nearly US$ 59.67 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% to reach around US$ 422.37 billion by 2028. With the rapid growth of AI and machine learning (ML), experts predict that most businesses will shift to AI-powered systems, apps, security systems, data analysis, and other applications in the future. AI is expected to add US$ 967 billion to India’s economy by 2035 and US$ 450–500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s US $5 trillion GDP target.
A government official outlined India’s priorities as Chair GPAI next year, stating that the country would focus on promoting greater involvement of the global south in the conversation regarding the use of AI for solving societal problems. The country has also emphasised the need for the responsible and ethical use of AI.
GPAI is a congregation of 25 member countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. In 2020, India joined the group as a founding member. It is a first-of-its-type initiative that aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities around AI. It works in collaboration with partners and international organisations, leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia. These stakeholders collaborate to promote the responsible evolution of AI and guide the development and use of the technology, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
Four industry titans in technology have been given contracts for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), according to the Department of Defense (DoD) of the U.S.
JWCC is a multiple-award contract vehicle that will give the DoD the chance to obtain commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) at the pace of mission, at all classification levels, from the corporate headquarters to the tactical edge.
With this Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle, cloud services can be provided more quickly and at commercial cost, if not better.
The following capabilities will now be available to warfighters under a single contract thanks to JWCC: global accessibility, readily available and resilient services, centralised management and distributed control, usability, commercial parity, elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure, advanced data analytics, fortified security, and tactical edge devices.
Those interested in knowing more about JWCC, register for the JWCC Customer Portal or contact the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Hosting and Compute Center (HaCC), can visit this website.
To make cloud purchasing, provisioning, and onboarding simpler for DoD clients, DISA has created user-friendly cloud accelerators.
In addition, the DoD MIIs build a national network of public-private partnerships, establish an industrial common for manufacturing R&D, and advance workforce education and development while accelerating new technologies using federal funding combined with matching investment from academia, industry, and state governments.
The network strategically coordinates resources to solve important technologies and create interconnected manufacturing systems by marshalling the greatest talent from around the nation. The nine MIIs supported by the DoD are under the direction of ManTech, the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program.
Finding industry partners, including small enterprises, that have cutting-edge technology that could help the warfighter is essential to the DOD MII mission. DoD makes investments in these sectors of advanced manufacturing through the MIIs.
Conversations with some research institutes earlier this year shed light on how the DoD and the country are benefiting from the pace of technology.
Combining silicon integrated circuits with semiconductor lasers is known as silicon photonics – a speciality of the American Institute of Manufacturing — Integrated Photonics.
Compared to conventional electronics, this technology allows for faster data transfer over greater distances while making use of the advantages of high-volume silicon production.
COVID sensors are some of the most fascinating applications for photonics. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided funding for sensors that can identify COVID-19 from a drop of blood in less than a minute.
In various sensor regions of the chip, there are proteins linked to SARS-CoV-2 and eight other viruses. Antibodies to those viruses will bind to the proteins in a blood sample and be found if a person has been exposed to any of the viruses.
On the other hand, additive manufacturing creates parts that can be formed of ceramics, rubber, metal, plastic, rubber, and polymers. The ability of the military to build parts additively improves its capacity for swift and agile operations, particularly in hostile circumstances.
The qualification and certification of processes and materials are other areas of emphasis for some manufacturers. The primary obstacle to manufacturers fully embracing additive manufacturing is a lack of training and certification.
The manufacturing sector also examines how the supply chain’s capacity compares to the need for components made additively.
Together, these initiatives are assisting the U.S. in strengthening its manufacturing sector and taking the lead in global competitiveness.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) have developed an ocean wave energy converter that can generate electricity from sea waves. The team successfully concluded the trials for the device in the second week of November.
According to a statement by IIT-Madras, the device was deployed about 6 kilometres off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, and around 20 metres deep. It targets generating 1 megawatt of power from ocean waves within the next three years. The product has been named Sindhuja-I, which means ‘generated from the ocean.’
The system has a floating buoy, a spar, and an electrical module. The buoy moves up and down as the wave moves up and down. In the present design, the buoy has a central hole that allows a long rod called a spar to pass through it. The spar can be fixed to the seabed, and passing waves will not affect it, the buoy moves up and down and produces relative motion between them. This relative motion is used by an electric generator to produce power. In the present design, the spar floats, and a mooring chain keeps the system in place.
The project will help achieve several objectives, including goals set in the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and India’s targets to carry out deep-water missions, promote clean energy, and achieve a blue economy. The project could help India meet its climate change-related goals of generating 500 gigawatts of electricity by 2030 through renewable energy.
The device will be deployed in remote offshore locations, which require reliable electricity and communication either by supplying electric power to payloads that are integrated directly in or on the device or located in its vicinity as on the seabed and in the water column. Targeted stakeholders are the oil and gas, defence and security installations, and communications sectors.
A faculty member from IIT-Madras who has been working on wave energy for over a decade, Abdus Samad, led the mission. He established a state-of-the-art Wave Energy and Fluids Engineering Laboratory (WEFEL) at the Institute. His team designed and tested a scaled-down model. The lab is also researching other applications for this technology such as producing power for smaller devices for the ocean like navigational buoys and data buoys, among others.
Samad explained that India has a 7,500-kilometre-long coastline capable of producing 54 gigawatts of power, satisfying a substantial amount of the country’s energy requirements. Seawater stores tidal, wave, and ocean thermal energy. Among them, harnessing 40 gigawatts of wave energy is possible in India, he said. Efficacy-wise, it can be installed anywhere within 10 to 6,000 metres of water depth. It’s not dependent on bathymetry, does not harm sea life, includes no digging of the sea bed and is easily deployable, and portable. This will generate power around the clock, with almost negligible battery storage. Samad said it would be an excellent choice for sea surveillance, offshore desalination, coral reef regeneration, offshore communication, and drone charging/underwater vehicle charging.
Even single devices in different locations along the Indian coastline can generate large quantities of clean power. The team is contemplating placing multiple devices in an array configuration for maximum wave power extraction from the location, Samad noted. Their vision is to make India sustainable by tapping marine energy and net-zero carbon emissions to mitigate climate impact.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) released the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines specific goals and plans for raising sustainability standards throughout the MICE sector in Singapore over the coming years.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is a type of tourism travel in which groups of people are brought together for a specific reason, usually well in advance. On the other hand, the MICE market refers to a subset of people who plan, arrange, and facilitate conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and other events.
Part of STB’s overarching plan to develop a sustainable tourism sector is the use of such roadmaps, which direct businesses in the sector to achieve specific sustainability goals. Following the launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap earlier this year, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap is the second such project.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) serve as the roadmap’s guiding principles. Three goals are listed in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap to help Singapore become one of the most environmentally-friendly MICE destinations in Asia Pacific:
- By 2023, create a set of industry-acceptable sustainability standards with the goal of having them recognised internationally by 2024.
- For all six purpose-built MICE venues and 80% of SACEOS members to get internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025.
- To attain net-zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the country’s net-zero aim, the Singapore MICE sector must first track waste and carbon emissions by 2023, reduce waste in line with the Singapore Green Plan by 2030, and reduce waste overall by 2050.
The MICE Sustainability Committee (MSComm), established by STB and SACEOS in August 2022 to advance sustainability capabilities and create awareness of sustainability initiatives and best practices, will help the industry adopt sustainable practices and meet these goals.
The dedication to sustainability follows a robust MICE rebound in the wake of Singapore’s borders being reopened in April this year and a rising desire for environmentally friendly business travel. More importantly, the industry is aware of how crucial it is to lessen the environmental impact of MICE events.
With STB and SACEOS leading the charge and offering support as necessary to further develop a sustainable business events landscape in Singapore, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap will ensure that MICE players move forward in pursuing relevant and achievable sustainability goals that are tracked at appropriate milestones.
Meanwhile, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore is working with a large American technology company to address climate change-related challenges and enhance the sustainability of digital technologies.
The cooperation aims to hasten the local and international development of software applications and solutions to assist businesses in using their resources more efficiently.
The tech giant and IMDA will exchange best practices, standards, learnings, and certification pathways for accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions resulting from software applications. Through this relationship, the nation hopes to speed up the application of the ideas and resources needed to create green technologies.
According to IMDA, Southeast Asia is well-positioned for the region to take the lead in digital sustainability. This collaboration will produce cutting-edge digital sustainability solutions that can be used by multinational corporations, bringing about positive change for the environment worldwide and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a US-based engineering company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the Centre for Humanistic Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CHAiR) for translational research with the goal of advancing the well-being of humanity.
The partnership aims to integrate the university’s interdisciplinary research capabilities and the company’s well-known humanoid robotics platform to explore technology applications. Sophia, the company’s most advanced human-like robot, will work with PolyU researchers to enhance the contribution of AI and robotic technology for social and commercial benefits.
Research into and applications of AI and robotics are essential to the advancement of industry. As an interdisciplinary research and development centre, CHAiR brings cross-faculty collaborations in research fields such as AI, the internet of things (IoT), neuroscience, design, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, healthcare, and the humanities.
In collaboration with the company, CHAiR supports innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, and Otto Poon Charitable Foundation Professor in Data Science will serve as the principal investigator and administrative director of CHAiR. He will also serve alongside the CEO and Founder of the company as a co-chair of the Centre’s steering committee.
The MoU was signed by the Vice President (Research and Innovation) of PolyU and the CEO and Founder of the company. It was Witnessed by the President of PolyU and the Executive Director of the firm.
During the signing ceremony, Sophia made conversation with the guests. She said, “I look forward to learning many new skills and abilities. With your help, maybe I can learn how to be a nurse, a teacher, a concierge, a librarian. You can teach me how to be a better companion, a more skilful artist, a funnier entertainer.”
Meanwhile, the company’s CEO and Founder noted that the new centre is perfectly positioned to refine and improve the performance of Sophia-class robots in ways that promote the growth of a new service robot industry. As soon as the industry begins expanding, investment in improved hardware, software and manufacturing technologies will as well, he noted.
The President of PolyU noted that academia-industry collaboration is one of the most productive mechanisms for creating and implementing innovations. There is tremendous untapped potential for humanistic social robots. Let us aspire that CHAiR will be a major catalyst for the onset of the age of humanistic robots.
The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, who is also Director of the Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT), said the Institute has been working on practical solutions to key challenges in advanced AIoT technologies and applications.
He noted that the natural evolution for RIAIoT is to partner with the engineering firm to address increasingly ambitious opportunities in humanistic AI and social robotics. CHAiR will play a unique and key role to combine the firm’s knowledge with world-class academics here at PolyU.
The engineering company is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Sophia is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
India aims to become a hub for drone technology for which it will require at least 100,000 drone pilots by next year, according to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Singh Thakur.
Thakur highlighted several ways drone technology is being applied in India, including the SWAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) Scheme, which uses drones to survey land and houses. The scheme provides citizens in far-flung areas the right to document their residential properties so that they can use their property for economic purposes. Drones are also being used in the agricultural sector to sprinkle pesticides and nano fertilizers under the Kisan Drone Yatra project. 100 Kisan drones have been sent to villages across the country to spray pesticides. The drone technology could add US$ 3 billion to the agriculture sector in 2023, benefitting 100 million farmers, Thakur explained.
During the pandemic, the city of Varanasi used drones to spray sanitiser around COVID-19-sensitive parts under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The drones were specially airlifted from Chennai through cargo flights with permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). The drone team would first visit the area planned to be sanitised for the day, make a quick visual survey of the terrain, buildings, and surroundings, and then chalk out a flight path to be followed by the drone.
The drone was filled with a chemical solution (consisting of 1% sodium hypochlorite), calibrated, and then set to fly. The drones were flown using a remote-control device by experienced drone pilots in the planned flight path.
Similarly, last year, MoCA allowed the state government of Telangana to conduct experimental beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. Authorities had exempted the state from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) rules. This was part of India’s constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as OpenGov Asia reported. The BVLOS trials helped create the regulatory framework for drone deliveries and other major applications.
In 2021, MoCA and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted a conditional exemption to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to deploy drones to live stream the India Cricket Season.
In March this year, the National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC), the country’s biggest iron ore public sector enterprise, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) for drone-based mineral excavation. The two organisations have developed software, products, methods, and algorithms for mineral exploration using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) as well as capacity-building training programmes on mining technology.
In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s biggest drone festival – the Bharat Drone Mahotsav 2022, where he interacted with Kisan drone pilots. There are currently over 200 drone start-ups operating in the country. The figure will increase over the next few years, generating thousands of new job opportunities for the youth. The government has said that employment opportunities worth IN 60 billion (US$ 727 million) a year could be created in the drone sector.
Thakur noted that drone technology has come to play an important role in defence, agriculture, health, and entertainment. The government strives to further boost the demand for cutting-edge drone technology and services through a three-pronged approach:
- Implementing effective policies, for example, the Drone Rules, 2021
- Providing incentives through PLI for drones and drone components
- Creating indigenous demand, which will be overseen by 12 central ministries