The majority of image-recognition systems are trained using large databases that contain millions of photos of everyday objects, from snakes to shakes to shoes. With repeated exposure, AIs learn to tell one type of object from another. Now researchers in Japan have shown that AIs can start learning to recognize everyday objects by being trained on computer-generated fractals instead.
While the idea may seem weird or odd, it has immense potential. Generating training data automatically is an exciting trend in machine learning. And using an endless supply of synthetic images rather than photos scraped from the internet avoids problems with existing hand-crafted data sets.
Pretraining is a phase in which an AI learns some basic skills before being trained on more specialized data. Pretrained models allow more people to use powerful AI. Instead of having to train a model from scratch, they can adapt an existing one to their needs.
For example, a system for diagnosing medical scans might first learn to identify basic visual features, such as shape and outline, by being pretrained on a database of everyday objects – such as ImageNet, which contains more than 14 million photos. Then it will be fine-tuned on a smaller database of medical images until it recognizes subtle signs of disease.
The trouble is, assembling a data set like ImageNet by hand takes a lot of time and effort. The images are typically labelled by low-paid crowd-workers. Data sets might also contain sexist or racist labels that can bias a model in hidden ways, as well as images of people who have been included without their consent. There’s evidence these biases can creep in even in pretraining.
Fractals can be found in everything from trees and flowers to clouds and waves. This made the team at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Tokyo Denki University wonder if these patterns could be used to teach an automated system the basics of image recognition, instead of using photos of real objects.
The researchers created FractalDB, an endless number of computer-generated fractals. Some look like leaves; others look like snowflakes or snail shells. Each group of similar patterns was automatically given a label. They then used FractalDB to pretrain a convolutional neural network, a type of deep-learning model commonly used in image-recognition systems, before completing its training with a set of actual images.
They found that it performed almost as well as models trained on state-of-the-art data sets, including ImageNet and Places, which contains 2.5 million images of outdoor scenes.
Does it work?
Anh Nguyen at Auburn University in Alabama, who wasn’t involved in the study, isn’t convinced that FractalDB is yet a match for the likes of ImageNet. He has studied how abstract patterns can confuse image recognition systems.
“There is a connection between this work and examples that fool machines,” he says. He would like to explore how this new approach works in more detail. But the Japanese researchers think that with tweaks to their approach, computer-generated data sets like FractalDB could replace existing ones.
The researchers also tried training their AI using other abstract images, including ones produced using Perlin noise, which creates speckled patterns, and Bezier curves, a type of curve used in computer graphics. But fractals gave the best results. “Fractal geometry exists in the background knowledge of the world,” says lead author Hirokatsu Kataoka at AIST.
Departing from one of the busiest airports in the world is about to become a remarkably hassle-free experience. Singaporean ministers have just unveiled plans for an automated immigration clearance system that promises to revolutionise travel with no passport required. This groundbreaking development at Singapore’s Changi Airport is set to launch in 2024.
According to Communications Minister Josephine Teo, this ambitious project intends to eliminate the need for tourists to “repeatedly present their travel documents.” Instead, biometric data gathered from fingerprint scans and facial recognition technology will take the central stage.
While Changi Airport already employs biometric technology in its automated immigration lanes, these upcoming enhancements will take convenience to a whole new level. The goal is to make the entire airport experience smoother and more streamlined for passengers.
Singapore’s Communications Minister, Josephine Teo, proudly announced that Singapore is set to be among “the first few countries in the world” to implement such a groundbreaking system. The first phase of this transformative scheme is expected to roll out early next year, featuring QR code scanning points that will pave the way for the biometric revolution.
These innovations are made possible by recent amendments to Singapore’s immigration laws, which facilitate the widespread adoption of biometric clearance at airports and various other checkpoints. The result will be a travel experience where your personal information seamlessly verifies your identity at every stage, from check-in to boarding.
This monumental shift in travel procedures brings with it a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it eliminates the stress and anxiety associated with keeping track of physical documents throughout the journey. No more worrying about losing the passport or having it stolen, hence, the identity is in the hands, quite literally.
Additionally, using biometric data enhances security measures, making it even more challenging for unauthorised individuals to access restricted areas. It’s a win-win situation for both passengers and airport authorities.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is on the cusp of transforming the way of travelling. The introduction of an automated immigration clearance system powered by biometric data promises a future where passports and boarding passes become relics of the past.
Instead, a simple fingerprint scan or facial recognition will grant access to a seamless, stress-free journey. Singapore is leading the charge into this new era of travel, and the world will be watching closely as the innovation unfolds.
The New Clearance Concept (NCC) and Services Centre Next Generation (SCNG) are two initiatives that the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) implemented to enhance border clearance and registration services, as well as automated immigration clearance and digitalisation.
The Automated Clearance Initiative (ACI), which takes effect in May 2022, allows passport holders from 51 countries to use designated automated immigration lanes without prior enrolment. Over four million international visitors have been enrolled through ACI to date. The electronic visit pass (ePass) contains information on eligible foreign visitors’ enrolment.
During the pandemic-induced slowdown, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), in collaboration with Changi Airport Group and ground handling partners, has accelerated trials of autonomous vehicles (AVs) at Changi Airport’s airside. This time period was used to direct resources and capabilities towards technological and innovative developments.
Advanced robotic systems and adaptive platforms are also being developed to resist varied weather conditions and work well outside. These developments are intended to make aircraft turnaround operations and baggage handling easier, especially in inclement weather. CAAS is committed to strengthening its capabilities in order to manage the anticipated increase in air traffic, with a focus on both safety and efficiency in its operational approach.
A leading U.S.-based global player in the realm of advanced technology and innovation is embarking on a significant expansion venture into Malaysia. The CEO of the enterprise unveiled an ambitious strategy during a meeting with Malaysia’s Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry in New York City, aiming to invest a substantial sum exceeding RM2 billion over the span of seven years.
The construction of a cutting-edge manufacturing facility is already underway, which will serve a dual purpose as a global research and development hub, focusing on pioneering technology platforms. By the year 2024, this organisation foresees a pivotal role in augmenting production capacity and accommodating the ever-evolving demands of its expansive worldwide clientele.
The Minister offered a warm reception to the global expansion, accentuating the organisation’s initial investment commitment of RM500 million. This commitment dovetails seamlessly with Malaysia’s New Industrial Master Plan 2030, underlining the importance of nurturing an investment-friendly environment and swiftly assimilating technology into the manufacturing sector.
It solidifies Malaysia’s stature as a global epicentre for technology and innovation, fostering collaboration between the organization and local industry stakeholders, all while promising a surge in quality employment opportunities for Malaysians.
The CEO of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority conveyed his excitement regarding this significant commitment, recognizing its potential to catalyse mutually beneficial partnerships with domestic industry players, particularly in high-value, high-growth sectors. The organization’s long-term presence in Malaysia is poised to make a substantial contribution to the nation’s economic growth and development, with MIDA pledging unwavering support.
The President and CEO of the company expressed a sense of pride in expanding its global footprint and elevating its operations in Malaysia through the establishment of a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in Johor Bahru. This facility is slated to become the linchpin for catering to global customers across diverse sectors and holds the promise of swift market entry. The suite of incentives offered by various government entities, spanning federal, state, and local levels, coupled with robust infrastructure support, make this expansion a judicious and strategic investment.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the substantial investments pouring into Malaysia during the first half of 2023, totalling RM132.6 billion (US$28.4 billion) and expected to generate over 51,853 job opportunities, are a clear testament to the nation’s attractiveness to global investors. These investments align perfectly with Malaysia’s vision of becoming a prominent hub for technology, innovation, and economic growth.
The Minister of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) expressed his satisfaction with Malaysia’s performance, emphasising the nation’s consistent efforts to attract high-quality investments and drive economic growth. Importantly, Malaysia managed to secure an impressive 60.3% of its annual investment target within the first half of the year, reflecting its ability to execute on its investment plans effectively.
A significant portion of these investments, 52.2%, came from Domestic Direct Investment (DDI), totalling RM69.3 billion (US$14.8 billion). DDI’s remarkable growth, a 58.2% increase compared to the previous year, was driven by investments in services and the primary sector, notably real estate. This surge in domestic investment showcases the confidence of Malaysian businesses in the nation’s economic prospects.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) also played a pivotal role, contributing 47.8% of total approved investments, equivalent to RM63.3 billion (US$13.6 billion). Notably, Singapore emerged as the leading source of FDI with RM13.7 billion (US$2.9 billion), followed closely by countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, China, and the British Virgin Islands. This international investment inflow underscores Malaysia’s global appeal and its ability to attract funds from diverse sources.
Malaysia’s ability to attract significant investments, coupled with its supportive policies, strategic positioning, role as a supply chain hub, and growing innovation capabilities, reflects the nation’s commitment to becoming a global technology and innovation hub while fostering economic growth and job creation.
A representative of the country’s think tank, the National Institute of Transforming India (NITI Aayog), Ramesh Chand, formally introduced the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg Portal). This marks a significant step in tackling the complex governance issues in India’s agricultural sector. It is designed to optimise and elevate data management within the agricultural sphere. It will contribute to a more efficient and responsive agricultural policy framework.
The portal standardises data related to prices, production, area, yield, and trade, consolidating it in a single location. This eliminates the necessity to compile data from multiple sources. The portal can also conduct advanced analytics, providing insights into production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns.
Furthermore, the portal will produce granular production estimates with increased frequency, improving the government’s capacity to respond swiftly to agricultural crises. Commodity profile reports will be generated using algorithms, reducing subjectivity and providing users with comprehensive insights. Users also have the flexibility to use the portal’s data for crafting their own reports, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.
The portal was developed by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (DA&FW). During his speech, Chand hailed the platform as an investment and a monumental leap forward in the field of agricultural data management. He encouraged the audience to embrace a shift in mindset within agriculture, aimed at bringing about transformative changes. Research suggests that US$ 1 invested in data generated a US$ 32 impact, he said.
The portal empowers stakeholders with real-time, reliable, and standardised information, laying the foundation for more effective agricultural policies. He also asserted that when data is more objective, the room for subjective judgment in policy-making diminishes, resulting in more stable, transparent, and well-informed decisions. He advised that the portal should prioritise data credibility to maximise its effectiveness.
Secretary of the DA&FW, Manoj Ahuja, underscored the various ongoing initiatives by the department, such as the Krishi Decision Support System, the farmer registry, and crop surveys. He articulated that the UPAg Portal is envisioned as a public good, aiming to provide users with reduced search costs, minimised obstacles, and access to trustworthy, detailed, and impartial data. According to a press release, the UPAg portal tackles the following challenges:
Lack of Standardised Data: At present, agricultural data is scattered across multiple sources, often presented in diverse formats and units. The UPAg Portal’s objective is to centralise this data into a standardised format, making it easily accessible and understandable for users.
Lack of Verified Data: Reliable data is crucial for accurate policy decisions. UPAg Portal ensures that data from sources like Agmarknet is vetted and updated regularly, ensuring policymakers receive accurate information on agricultural prices.
Fragmented Data Sources: To construct a comprehensive understanding of any crop, it is necessary to consider multiple variables such as production, trade, and prices. The portal consolidates data from various sources, enabling a holistic assessment of agricultural commodities.
Inconsistent Frequency Variables: Data updates at different times, causing delays and inefficiencies. The portal offers real-time connectivity with data sources, reducing the time and effort required for monitoring and analysis.
The UPAg Portal is expected to play a pivotal role within the Digital Public Infrastructure for Agriculture, focusing on harnessing the diversity of the agriculture sector and leveraging data as a catalyst for growth.
The University of Michigan has developed machine-learning algorithms technology. This new technology can identify problematic areas in antibodies, making them less susceptible to binding non-target molecules. This innovative development, led by Peter Tessier, the Albert Mattocks Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at U-M and the study’s corresponding author in Nature Biomedical Engineering, presents a ground-breaking solution to enhance the effectiveness of antibodies in fighting diseases.
“Antibodies play a crucial role in our immune system’s defence mechanism by binding to specific molecules known as antigens on disease-causing agents, such as the spike protein on the COVID-19 virus,” Tessier expressed, “Once bound, antibodies either directly neutralise harmful viruses or cells or signal the body’s immune cells to take action.”
However, there’s a challenge associated with antibodies designed to bind strongly and rapidly to their specific antigens. These antibodies may also bind to non-antigen molecules, leading to their premature removal from the body. Moreover, they can interact with other antibodies of the same type, forming dense solutions that do not easily flow through the needles used for delivering antibody drugs.
Tessier highlighted the importance of antibodies that can simultaneously perform three critical tasks: tightly binding to their intended target, repelling each other, and disregarding other substances within the body. Antibodies failing to meet all three criteria are unlikely to be successful drugs. Unfortunately, a significant number of clinical-stage antibodies fall short in this regard.
In their recent study, Tessier’s team assessed the activity of 80 clinical-stage antibodies in the laboratory. It made a startling discovery – 75% of these antibodies interacted with the wrong molecules, with each other, or both. To address this issue, the team turned to machine learning.
By making subtle changes to the amino acids that make up an antibody, they can alter the antibody’s three-dimensional structure. This modification helps prevent antibodies from behaving improperly, as an antibody’s structure determines the substances it can bind to. However, making changes without careful consideration can introduce more problems than they solve, and the typical antibody contains hundreds of amino acid positions that could be altered.
Fortunately, machine learning offers a streamlined solution. Tessier’s team created models that are trained using experimental data collected from clinical-stage antibodies. These models can precisely identify how to modify antibodies to ensure they meet all three criteria mentioned earlier, with an impressive accuracy rate of 78% to 88%. This approach significantly reduces the number of antibody modifications that chemical and biomedical engineers need to produce and test in the lab.
Tiexin Wang, a doctoral student in chemical engineering and a co-author of the study, emphasised the pivotal role of machine learning in accelerating drug development. This advanced technology is already attracting attention from biotech companies, which recognise its potential for optimising the development of next-generation therapeutic antibodies.
Tessier concluded by mentioning that some companies have developed antibodies with desirable biological activity but are aware of potential challenges when using these antibodies as drugs. In such cases, Tessier’s team steps in to identify specific areas within the antibodies that require modification, offering valuable assistance to these companies.
The National University of Singapore (NUS), Temasek, and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to begin a collaborative S$75 million pilot programme that intends to hasten the development of profitable deep tech start-ups from NUS and NTU research pipelines.
Additionally, a shared Intellectual Property (IP) licencing framework between NTU Singapore and NUS would speed up the licencing and translation of university innovations for spin-off businesses. In contrast to the typical process, which can take up to five months, the outcome will be a shorter one-month process.
“The collaboration sees us synergising our expertise and resources to create opportunities for applications of emerging technologies and empower start-ups and companies to create positive societal impact and economic growth through innovation,” said Professor Tan Eng Chye, President of NUS.
He added that NUS is excited to leverage its rich expertise and experience in entrepreneurship and innovation to help mature its deep tech ecosystem and facilitate and accelerate IP commercialisation through the framework.
NTU and NUS will each contribute S$5 million to the deep tech start-ups, with Temasek contributing S$65 million. In order to start and develop globally competitive businesses with tremendous potential to address significant global market opportunities in areas including the energy transition, biotechnology, and the future of computation and cognition, Temasek and a deep-tech company will work with NTU and NUS.
To build and refine their go-to-market plans, the deep tech founders will work with the university technical and intellectual property teams. The start-ups will also have access to the networks of firms and mentors offered by Temasek, NTU, and NUS. Every year, at least two start-ups will be introduced, and to help them position themselves for long-term success on a global scale, they will get investment, support, and entrepreneurial mentoring.
Temasek makes investments in cutting-edge innovation to pinpoint and develop skills that are future-focused. By investing in and developing future deep tech champions, its Emerging Technologies division helps to scale Singapore’s deep tech ecosystem and finds disruptive technology investment possibilities that address market nuances.
To give prospective licensors a one-stop shop where they may find and choose IPs from both universities that meet their business needs, NTU and NUS will also create a single online portal.
Advanced materials, biotechnology, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence (AI) are among the cutting-edge topics that deep tech businesses frequently concentrate on. By helping these entrepreneurs, Singapore can encourage ground-breaking inventions that could revolutionise whole sectors of the economy and enhance human welfare.
The nation acknowledges that deep tech companies can boost economic growth, add to the GDP of a nation, and generate high-value jobs. These firms frequently draw talent and call for certain talents, which helps to create new sectors and grow ones that already exist.
Numerous deep tech startups are tackling urgent global issues like cybersecurity, healthcare, and climate change. By helping these firms, technology that tackles these important problems may be developed.
Investing in the development of deep tech startups can provide nations and regions with a competitive edge in the global technology market. Through the promotion of creativity and enterprise, they can establish themselves as pioneers in developing technological domains.
The benefits of nurturing deep tech businesses are not limited to the technological and commercial spheres; they also include wider societal advantages. These businesses frequently tread new ground in ways that improve people’s quality of life and promote environmental sustainability.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) participated in the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” symposium organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) on September 19th at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris.
HKSTP, Hong Kong’s largest innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem and incubator, will led a group of leaders in the health and biotech sectors to discuss how Hong Kong can support biotech startups and major pharmaceutical companies in France to expand successfully and tap into the vast potential of Asia’s healthcare markets. In turn, French expertise and talent will contribute to Hong Kong’s aspiration to become a global hub for biotech and innovation technology.
Key figures like France’s Minister for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness, and French Nationals Abroad, and the Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government will join prominent business leaders at the event, including the Chairman of HKTDC, and the CEO of HKSTP to explore collaborative opportunities between the French and Hong Kong I&T ecosystems.
The Asia Pacific region is poised to be the world’s fastest-growing biotech hub, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 16.9% from 2022 to 2030, according to Vision Research. This region is witnessing improvements in healthcare infrastructure, supportive government policies, and the increasing challenge of an aging population. Hong Kong’s strategic location makes it an ideal gateway to both the substantial North Asian markets and the rapidly expanding Southeast Asian economies.
To address these opportunities and challenges, HKSTP is hosting a biotech-focused session and pavilion at the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” symposium. Four prominent executives from thriving Hong Kong-based biotech companies will showcase the city’s capacity to drive innovation on a global scale.
In parallel, French startups, fuelled by record funding in 2022, are seeking expansion opportunities, aligning with the French government’s Healthcare Innovation 2030 plan. This plan, with a substantial budget, aims to position France as a leader in biotech innovation in Europe.
The CEO of HKSTP emphasised that Asia, and Hong Kong in particular, provides diverse opportunities for French biotech companies to scale up and venture into global markets. French expertise will also play a crucial role in Hong Kong’s ambition to become an international innovation hub.
Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s leading biotech funding hub is reinforced by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s biotech-friendly Chapter 18A listing policy. Additionally, it ranks 12th in the World Index of Healthcare Innovation, surpassing countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. The government’s support includes the InnoHK initiative, featuring 14 research clusters dedicated to biomedical and health tech, situated at Hong Kong Science Park.
HKSTP has established a thriving, fully integrated biotech ecosystem that guides ventures through every stage of the startup-to-scale-up journey. It hosts around 250 biotech ventures, benefiting from incubation programs such as the dedicated Incu-Bio program, subsidies, and supportive government policies. Hong Kong boasts world-class talent, with five universities ranked in the top 100 globally, and China’s projected annual output of 77,000 STEM PhDs per year by 2025, surpassing the US.
Moreover, HKSTP has fostered significant collaborations with global pharmaceutical leaders and healthcare institutions, facilitating expansion into the Greater Bay Area (GBA), China, the Asia Pacific, and global markets.
Hong Kong already boasts a substantial French presence, with 800 French businesses, including subsidiaries and regional headquarters, according to the French Embassy. Interested parties can participate in the HKTSP biotech pavilion and hear from leaders in biotech innovation, as well as other experts in the innovation ecosystem, at the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” symposium.
In Singapore’s healthcare landscape, Prof Kenneth Mak, Director-General of Health at the Ministry of Health, emphasised the significance of the theme “Reimagining Possibilities – The Pharmacist’s DNA” at this year’s congress which underscores the adaptability and crucial role of pharmacists in healthcare.
Prof Kenneth stated that like DNA’s unchanging core, pharmacists must uphold their fundamental values while adapting to challenges like an ageing population and increasing healthcare expenses. Telemedicine emerges as a pivotal avenue through which pharmacists are driving the transformation of patient-centred care.
“As we journey towards Healthier SG and beyond, pharmacists are at the forefront of digital innovation in healthcare,” said Prof Kenneth. They are embracing telemedicine, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and continually evolving to meet the challenges of a changing healthcare landscape. The pharmacist’s DNA remains rooted in patient-centred care, but it also incorporates innovation and adaptability, making pharmacists an essential part of the future of healthcare.
Telemedicine, the remote delivery of healthcare services using digital technology, has gained momentum globally, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has revolutionised the way patients access medical care, allowing them to consult with healthcare providers from the comfort of their homes. The integration of pharmacists into telemedicine initiatives holds immense promise in improving healthcare accessibility, efficiency, and patient outcomes.
One significant step towards this future is the Healthier SG campaign, launched by the Ministry of Health in July 2023. This campaign underscores the importance of preventive care in the communities, emphasising healthier lifestyles and overall well-being.
Pharmacists, deeply embedded in their communities, play a crucial role in educating the public on medication management, health screenings, and vaccinations. They also collaborate with family doctors, supporting patients in their journey towards healthier lives, including smoking cessation and adopting healthier behaviours.
Innovations like Pharmaceutical Care Services (PCS) exemplify how pharmacists are empowering patients. PCS, initiated in senior care centres, equips patients and caregivers with the knowledge and tools to manage medications independently. Feedback indicates increased patient confidence in medication management, aligning with the goals of Healthier SG. Expanding PCS to primary care settings like general practitioner clinics and retail pharmacies will make this service even more accessible.
The collaboration between community pharmacies and telemedicine providers represents another leap in healthcare innovation. Pharmacies partnering with telemedicine providers enable them to triage patients, conduct history-taking, and refer them to teleconsultations with doctors. This seamless integration of services ensures patients receive comprehensive care at their convenience, bridging the gap between pharmacy and telemedicine.
The role of digital technology in telemedicine is pivotal, as it enables the delivery of healthcare services remotely, bridging geographical barriers and improving access to care.
Telemedicine platforms serve as comprehensive digital ecosystems that support various aspects of virtual care. They offer features like appointment scheduling, secure video conferencing, electronic health records (EHR) integration, and billing. These platforms streamline the telemedicine workflow for both patients and healthcare providers.
Additionally, digital technology plays a crucial role in the development and use of specialised telemedicine devices, such as telemedicine carts equipped with cameras and medical instruments. These devices are used for remote examinations and diagnostics.
AI-driven algorithms and machine learning models assist healthcare providers in diagnosing conditions, predicting outcomes, and personalising treatment plans. AI can analyse large datasets to identify patterns and trends that might not be readily apparent to humans.
In partnership with the Ministry of Manpower, the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore (PSS) is contributing to healthcare workforce development. Customised training programmes are being developed to upskill healthcare associates, enabling them to play essential roles in areas like medication management and patient inquiries, particularly in caring for migrant workers.