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Exclusive: NCS Support for Singapore’s Transport Ecosystem

Singapore Transport Ecosystem

Singapore’s Transport sector has transformed tremendously over the years. The nation is often looked up to for its implementation of policies and technologies to manage traffic flow and for creating more citizen-centric transport services.

Without taking away from the mammoth efforts undertaken so far, the journey cannot stop here. Singapore is continuously looking for suitable technologies to adopt to improve transportation and better serve its citizens.

Autonomous vehicles and drones are some areas of technology which the nation is pushing forward for innovations and experimentations. NCS Singapore is one such organisation which is driving these efforts.

Over the past 38 years, NCS has been the principal IT solutions provider for the government. It has successfully implemented more than 3,000 large-scale, mission-critical, and multi-platform projects for Singapore’s government ministries and agencies, and commercials enterprises.

Howie Sim
Howie Sim, Head of the Healthcare and Transport Client Service, NCS

OpenGov had the opportunity to interview Howie Sim, Head of the Healthcare and Transport Client Service Unit at NCS to gain insights into how Singapore’s transport scene is changing.

Transportation Digitalisation Landscape

Autonomous vehicles

Howie established that autonomous vehicles are still in the trial stage. For vehicles to go fully autonomous, disruptive technologies must be progressively incorporated in a manner such that the vehicle can safely operate in a high-living density area as well as at a higher speed limit.

Singapore’s city landscape poses a challenge for autonomous vehicles to operate, with the existence of buildings and multiple roads within proximity. He added that the technology has yet to develop the capability and understanding of navigating around close spaces.

Howie shared that Singapore focuses on autonomous vehicles due to it being one of the highest emitters of carbon emission per capita. He said that this is surprisingly a result of diesel-fuelled vehicles (buses, taxis and delivery trucks) being the biggest contributors.

Autonomous vehicles are for now best to be used for point-to-point transportation such as fixed-route bus services and as well as for fixed-route delivery trucks.

Drones

Being autonomous isn’t restricted to land transport.  We are increasingly seeing the use of drones for surveillance, maintenance operations and last-mile delivery. That said, Howie pointed out that the current air regulation is still immature to allow drones to reach its full potential use.

Edge Intelligence

Edge intelligence is about artificial intelligence (AI) and the movement of AI and analytics to the edge. The conventional method involves a device or sensor architecture which streams data back to the servers to be analysed.

The current trend is moving towards edge intelligence and a decentralised architecture where data streams are analysed inside the devices or sensors themselves.

The inputs from sensors, combined with AI and machine learning capabilities, thus provide insights for informed decision-making and timely, automated responses.

This technology can be used to improve traffic and enforcement management, develop smart parking solutions, enhance crowd detection and enable predictive maintenance.

Cybersecurity

In the past, the emphasis of cybersecurity was placed more on IT systems and less on OT (Operations Technology) systems. OT systems include power plants, factory production systems, and port equipment.

With the increased use of devices, sensors, and autonomous digital assets, there is increasing overlap in the domains of IT and operational technology (OT).  This brings implications to the safety and security of IT and OT systems.

Howie explained that due to the rise of connectivity, the pervasive use of IOTs, and transferring of data from IT systems to OT systems, OT systems are now exposed to greater cybersecurity risks.

With autonomous digital assets being viewed more as an endpoint, they must be embedded with a security-by-design to protect from potential cyber threats.

Similarly, the use of AI-led automation technologies in cybersecurity will enable the transport sector to proactively manage the threats.  Security Operations Centres, empowered by advanced threat intelligence, cybersecurity analytics and machine learning capabilities, could be established to detect and defend against threats to both IT and OT systems.

They can carry out effective triaging and threat detection, user behavioural analysis, threat anticipation, incident analysis /investigation and proactive incident response.

“It is about the rate of knowing enough about the threats to anticipate them, and proactively neutralise them,” he said.

Singapore’s Transport Scene in the Next 10 Years

It will take some time before autonomous vehicles/air-taxis will be seen cruising on Singapore’s roads and hovering around. While there are many factors to consider before the technologies can be rolled out, these standards of transportation are not impossible to achieve.

To make this possible, NCS is working towards strengthening its innovation efforts which are pioneered towards finding the best solutions for overcoming any challenges along the way.

Howie believes that with this ongoing pace and drive for transformation, Singapore is set to see a very different field at play in its transformation journey of the transport industry.

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