A new public-private trial in Singapore is taking place to test the use of autonomous robots in providing on-demand deliveries in a residential area in Punggol. The trial will pave the way for wider use of autonomous robot couriers in making on-demand deliveries to consumers.
The one-year trial is a multi-agency collaboration led by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), in partnership with Housing & Development Board (HDB), Land Transport Authority (LTA), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), logistics service provider CM Logistics, supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice and technology provider OTSAW.
Robot Trial to Explore Deliveries in Live Environment
“With the growth of e-commerce, consumers have grown accustomed to expecting food, products and groceries to be delivered to their home in increasingly shorter periods of time. Autonomous delivery robots can play an important role in augmenting existing delivery infrastructure to enhance the consumer experience and drive productivity gains. We look forward to working closely with our partners in this trial to test the technology, safety, business model and user experience,” said Mr Kiren Kumar, Deputy Chief Executive, IMDA.
The trial will see two OTSAW robots delivering parcels and groceries to the lift lobbies of seven Waterway Woodcress HDB blocks to assess:
• Technologies such as AI for autonomous navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance
• Infrastructure such as communications systems and road networks (including connectivity and slopes)
• Business models for commercial viability.
Robots Pass Safety Assessment for Use on Public Paths
To ensure public safety, both autonomous robots have passed the LTA’s safety assessment for the supervised use of autonomous vehicles on public paths. The speed for each robot, which weighs 80 kg (unloaded), is further capped at walking speeds (about 5 kmh). Each robot is also accompanied by a safety officer during the trial period.
“Autonomous delivery technology has the potential to increase business efficiency and improve customer convenience. As paths are also used by other users, it is also important to ensure the delivery is carried out in a safe manner. We have worked closely with our partners to put in place safeguards to ensure public safety during this trial and the insights gathered will help improve future similar projects,” said Mr Lam Wee Shann, Chief Innovation and Transport Technology Officer, LTA.
Through a mobile app, consumers will be notified when the robot is on the way to its destination and will receive a confirmation notification that the robot has arrived. The robot will also provide a QR code for recipients to scan at the collection point via their mobile phones, ensuring that only the authorised person will be able to access the assigned compartment and its contents.
“Urban logistics keep the city going by delivering goods to people and businesses efficiently. Employing technology to explore alternate and innovative modes of delivery is one way Singapore builds a world-class urban logistics system that also enhances land and labour productivity. This enables our city to become more liveable, sustainable and connected,” said Mr Chiu Wen Tung, Group Director (Research & Development), URA.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) recently announced that the pilot will include Singapore’s food delivery platforms as well as a leading hawker Food Delivery platform. The pilot will include 400 stalls spread across 14 hawker centres, including ABC Brickworks Market & Food Centre, Adam Food Centre, Amoy Street Food Centre, Golden Mile Food Court, and Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre.
Under the model, the leading hawker Food Delivery platform — the common acquirer for hawkers — will use its existing relationships with hawker stalls to onboard them onto the other food delivery platforms, such as uploading their menus onto the platforms, said the platform’s chief executive officer and co-founder.
The Online Ordering Platform for Hawkers revealed the pilot initiatives. The workgroup was established in June to assist hawkers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in understanding the benefits of going digital and in using online ordering and delivery services. Hawkers have had a “tough period,” according to the Minister of State for Communications and Information as well as National Development. “Our hawkers are not having an easy time. Very tough. And I think these measures are very timely in supporting our hawkers and continue to preserve and support our hawker culture,” he said.
He identified three “pain points”: the high cost of platform commissions, the lack of support, particularly for elderly and less tech-savvy hawkers, to go digital, and the uncertainty of consumer demand, particularly for hawkers selling low-priced items.
Consumers can continue to order through their preferred platforms under this model, however, all orders will be received either through a single device or by on-site hawker captains at each hawker centre to place and coordinate orders.
Furthermore, the leading hawker Food Delivery platform will manage transactions and payments to hawkers, with same-day payments and no hawker commissions.
According to NEA and IMDA, since the June rollout of the latest Online Ordering for Hawkers, 5,500 hawkers across 113 hawker centres managed by NEA and its appointed managing agents have been engrossed by digital ambassadors from the SG Digital Office on how to supplement physical transactions with digital ones.
NEA’S DIGITAL SUPPORT FOR HAWKERS GROUP
By the end of the year, the NEA will have developed a set of best practises that will be compiled into a step-by-step Digital Support Guide for Hawkers.
One suggestion is to form a Digital Support for Hawkers group at each hawker centre. This group will offer assistance to less digitally savvy hawkers who want to improve their online presence.
This includes creating a social media page for each hawker centre, facilitating community group purchases through the social media page, and coordinating with organisations to place bulk meal orders. According to NEA and IMDA, the group will be made up of “passionate individuals from the community or hawkers.”
All whilst, a digital “hawker champion” in the group should be willing to lead the group in assisting hawkers in developing and maintaining a digital presence on social media, subscribing to online ordering services, and adopting e-payment tools.
To coordinate and launch the initiative, a Singapore Digital Office digital ambassador will be assigned to each hawker centre.
The proportion of NEA-managed hawker stalls on online ordering platforms has also increased from 34% at the start of the campaign in June to 47% today. This includes 660 hawker stalls that have signed up for the first time, according to the statement.
In Singapore, approximately 3.3 million people shop in the e-commerce market, with projected revenue of USD $2,793 million in 2021. Between 2021 and 2025, revenue is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.9%. Such expansion should result in a market volume of USD $4,079 million by 2025.
In the future, socially interactive robots could help seniors age in place or assist residents of long-term care facilities with their activities of daily living. However, people may not actually accept advice or instructions from a robot. A new study from the University of Toronto Engineering suggests that the answer hinges on how that robot behaves.
“When robots present themselves as human-like social agents, we tend to play along with that sense of humanity and treat them much like we would a person.”
– Lead Author
Simple tasks of persuasion, like asking someone to take their medication, have a lot of social depth to them. When putting robots in those situations, the researchers need to better understand the psychology of robot-human interactions. Even in the human world, persuasion is complex and has multiple variables. But one key concept is authority, which can be further divided into two types: formal authority and real authority.
Formal authority comes from roles, such as teachers, parents and bosses have a certain amount of formal authority. The real authority has to do with the control of decisions, often for entities such as financial rewards or punishments.
To simulate the concepts, the researchers set up an experiment where a humanoid robot was used to help 32 volunteer test subjects complete a series of simple tasks, such as memorising and recalling items in a sequence.
For some participants, the robot was presented as a formal authority figure: it was the experimenter and the only ‘person’ the subjects interacted with. For others, the lead researcher was presented as the experimenter, and the robot was introduced to help the subjects complete the tasks.
Each participant ran through a set of three tasks twice: once where the robot offered financial rewards for correct answers to simulate positive real authority, another time, offering financial penalties for incorrect answers, simulating negative real authority.
Generally, the robot was less persuasive when it was presented as an authority figure than when it was presented as a peer helper. This result might stem from a question of legitimacy. Social robots are not commonplace today, people lack both relationships and a sense of shared identity with robots. It might be hard for people to see robots as a legitimate authority.
Another possibility is that people might disobey an authoritative robot because they feel threatened by it. The aversion to being persuaded by a robot acting authoritatively seemed to be particularly strong among male participants, who have been shown in previous studies to be more defiant to authority figures than females, and who may perceive an authoritative robot as a threat to their status or autonomy.
A robot’s social behaviours are critical to acceptance, use and trust in this type of distributive technology, by society as a whole. This ground-breaking research provides an understanding of how persuasive robots should be developed and deployed in everyday life, and how they should behave to help different demographics, including our vulnerable populations such as older adults.
The big takeaway for designers of social robots is to position them as collaborative and peer-oriented, rather than dominant and authoritative. The research suggests that robots face additional barriers to successful persuasion than the ones that humans face. If robots are to take on these new roles in society, their designers will have to be mindful of that and find ways to create positive experiences through their behaviour.
U.S. researchers have been developing robots to help humans in various fields, including creating modern robotic white cane for the visually impaired community. As reported by OpenGov Asia, equipped with a colour 3D camera, an inertial measurement sensor, and its own onboard computer, a newly improved robotic cane could offer blind and visually impaired users a new way to navigate indoors.
As a first-class comprehensive research university in Asia, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is committed to propelling innovation and technology, transforming innovative inventions into industries and benefiting mankind.
To promote the development of an innovation ecosystem on campus, CUHK launched the first CUHK Innovation Day, with the slogan “Innovation, Patents and Beyond”, showcasing the research efforts of the University in recent years, including the new CUHK satellite project, robotics, and other features.
In addition, CUHK has established the InnoPort to provide CUHK members with a platform to showcase scientific inventions and connect industry resources, so as to realise knowledge transfer. On 23 September 2021, CUHK held the Opening Ceremony of the CUHK Innovation Day and the InnoPort.
The Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the HKSAR Government noted that this term of Government is committed to promoting the development of I&T to inject new impetus into the economy, improve people’s quality of life, and creating quality jobs for young people.
It is hoped that the University and academia can embrace the opportunities brought about by the National 14th Five-Year Plan and the Greater Bay Area development to help develop Hong Kong into an international I&T hub, he added.
The Vice-Chancellor and President, CUHK said that the University seeks to integrate research, innovation and enterprise into a dynamic and productive continuum, namely, to generate impact based on existing and strategically identified directions of research and innovation, and to capitalise on the opportunities available from both private sectors and the government via Public-Private-Partnership.
The University is poised to leverage the opportunities and resources offered by the Government and the Greater Bay Area, under the ‘National 14th Five-Year Plan’ announced in March that supports Hong Kong’s development into an international I&T hub, the cross-boundary flow of innovative elements, and integration into national development.
In addition to exhibiting 20 innovation studies led by CUHK professors at the InnoPort and Yasumoto International Academic Park, the CUHK Innovation Day also held six thematic sessions and a panel discussion on topics covering satellite and mobile sensing technology and its applications in public health, green energy and advanced material research, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine development, the future demand of technologies in the electrical industry, laser-based gas sensing technology, and strategies to enhance early language development.
To actively promote the development of the innovation ecosystem, the Office of Research and Knowledge Transfer Services (ORKTS) has been set up to provide comprehensive support, assisting professors in locating suitable resources for their research, offering support for their funding applications and facilitating collaborations with external parties including commercial partners.
ORKTS is also responsible for formulating and implementing research-related strategies to support the development of research led by the University, improving the level of university research, and encouraging teaching staff and students to utilise their research insights and expertise to create different types of societal impact.
From research to innovation to entrepreneurship, a complete innovation ecosystem is formed. ORKTS has implemented a series of incubation initiatives including the Pre-Incubation (PI) Centre, training competitions, and different funding schemes such as the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU), Sustainable Knowledge Transfer Project Fund (S-KPF) to provide students and professors with financial support, and business consultancy support to realise their entrepreneurial endeavours.
Following the CUHK Innovation Day, CUHK will host the CUHK Entrepreneurship Day from 24 to 25 September. It will include the final CUHK Entrepreneurship Competition, a product display area, and more than 100 online booths of CUHK related start-ups, demonstrating the vigorous development of the University’s innovation and entrepreneurship activities.
The term “technology” has a broad definition that includes virtually any expression of human ingenuity adhered to solving practical problems and thriving as a species. As threats to species’ survival increase, technologies for identifying individual animals, tracking their movements, identifying, and locating animal and plant species, and assessing the status of their habitats have improved, become faster, and less expensive.
New technologies do not save species on their own, and new data creates new problems. Improving technologies alone, for example, will not prevent poaching: solutions must include providing appropriate tools to the right people. Another driver is habitat loss; the challenge here is to link existing sophisticated remote sensing with species occurrence data to predict where species will remain. Other challenges include bringing together a larger public to crowdsource data, managing massive amounts of data generated, and developing solutions to rapidly emerging threats. Ecologists and conservation biologists are important contributors to the advancement of the latter type of technological innovation.
To address this, plant conservationists in the Philippines have joined forces with companies that promote the use of technological innovations to encourage more people to protect the country’s endemic plants.
As more individuals and communities become enchanted by our native flora, we want to show Filipinos that anyone can participate in plant conservation. So, you don’t have to be a botanist to contribute to the body of knowledge that we’re trying to grow. Anyone can be a citizen scientist.
– Vice President of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society
In an online briefing, the vice president of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc. (PNPCSI) stated that the collaboration aims to provide additional online sources for the public to access, among other things, to inform them about diversity in the country and help them become citizen scientists. Apart from the planned citizen scientist mobile app, which will connect people to conservation bids, the partnership also plans to tokenize native trees and carbon sinks, as well as develop video tours on rainforests.
“Our country’s greatest treasures, our competitive advantage, the asset that we have that no one else has also happened to be our best-kept secret. We have so much incredible diversity endemic to our forests, totally unique to us that it exists but a lot of people aren’t aware that it exists, and it doesn’t come to mind at all during the everyday experience,” he said.
According to him, the plan is, to begin with, one or two pilot sites for nature walks. The vice president stated that the goal of these video tours is to eventually replicate the PNPCSI’s tree-walk experience by taking Filipinos into our forests and protecting (them) so that we can see these amazing and vibrant living beings up close and personal.
He went on to say that they plan to work with companies and local governments to compare these videos to actual settings in order to encourage the public to become involved in biodiversity care and conservation.
To that end, the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) was created. It is a strategic tool whose vision is that by 2028, biodiversity will be restored and rehabilitated, valued, effectively managed, and secured, while preserving ecosystem services to sustain healthy, resilient Filipino communities and delivering benefits to all. The PBSAP integrates and mainstreams the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) into the national development and sectoral planning framework, which includes measurable targets for CBD commitments.
Technology advancements enable conservationists, scientists, and the general public to gain a better understanding of the animals, their habitats, and the threats they may face. In this chapter, I will go over the advantages of using technology in animal ecology and conservation.
There are two major approaches to conserving threatened and endangered wildlife species. The first entails protecting the species within their natural habitat, while the second entails breeding and caring for individual species. The use of technological applications in captivity, such as satellite imaging and assisted breeding technologies, is intended to improve animal welfare and raise awareness of conservation-related behaviour among zoo visitors.
Chinese researchers have made a crucial breakthrough in quantum communication technology, boosting the future development of secure satellite-based long-distance and global quantum communication networks. The research team constructed a 15-user Quantum Secure Direct Communication (QSDC) network. The network enabled the direct transmission of confidential information among the users connected by the network for the first time.
Quantum communication is a cutting-edge information technology that promises ultra-secure transmission of data. Scientists have developed many models for such transmission, including quantum key distribution, quantum teleportation and QSDC.
Based on QKD technology, many different types of quantum communication networks have been proposed. However, such communication networks only transmit the key but do not directly transmit information.
In contrast, QSDC sends secret information directly over a secure quantum channel. Any attack of QSDC results in only a random number, and cannot obtain any useful information from it. Therefore, QSDC has simple communication steps and reduces potential security loopholes, and offers higher security guarantees.
In recent years, the experimental QSDC has been developed significantly. However, the inability to simultaneously distinguish the four sets of encoded orthogonal entangled states in entanglement-based QSDC protocols limits its practical application. Experimental demonstration of QSDC is required. To achieve wide applications of QSDC, they constructed the fully connected entanglement-based QSDC network, including five subnets, with 15 users. The result demonstrates the feasibility of a proposed QSDC network.
China included quantum technology as one of the new high techs in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025). China’s five-year plan (FYP) is one of the most important policy blueprints that set medium-term goals for the country’s economic and social development. Developing self-reliant technologies is expected to be one of the top priorities in its 14th FYP.
The President of China has stressed the importance and urgency of advancing the development of quantum science and technology. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory that has been used successfully in explaining microscopic phenomena in all branches of physics. Experts believe the whole world is on the brink of a quantum revolution.
China has made breakthroughs in some of the key areas, but still faces multiple challenges. He stressed the need to develop self-reliant technology in order to secure a stable supply chain. More support should be given to the industry in areas including development policy, talent recruiting, academic environment and so on.
Just as 5G promises to revolutionise digital communications and by doing so, spark the creation of breakthrough products and services such as driverless cars and telemedicine, quantum computing offers advances of a similar magnitude.
By integrating information technology with quantum mechanics, quantum computers deliver many thousands of times the computing power of conventional or classical computers. They do this by harnessing the three principles of quantum mechanics: superposition, entanglement and interference.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China developed a miniaturised quantum satellite ground station. The ground station is light and portable and can be installed within 12 hours, allowing users in remote areas to use quantum communication conveniently. The piece of quantum key distribution equipment is about the same size as a laptop, which can greatly reduce the cost of quantum network building and maintenance.
In recent years, China has achieved a series of breakthroughs in quantum technology, including the world’s first quantum satellite, a 2,000-km quantum communication line between Beijing and Shanghai, and the world’s first optical quantum computing machine prototype.
A global quantum network can be realised by connecting more national quantum networks from different countries via ground connections or ground-to-satellite links. In the future, quantum communication will be applied in the fields of finance, political affairs and national defence. A whole industry chain and eventually a truly secure quantum internet will be possible.
The Vietnamese National Museum of History has introduced several new virtual shows to attract visitors, maintaining social distancing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the museum’s director, it has applied digital technology in preserving and promoting cultural heritage for many years. It had intended to build a digital database for Vietnamese cultural heritage (E-Heritage) and has obtained positive results.
As per a news report, one of the latest shows is a 3D virtual interactive display of national treasures, which the museum developed in collaboration with a private tech player. Additionally, the National Museum of History Volunteer Club has researched and built an online tour of the museum to meet the needs of visitors during the new normal. The online tour, held on 12 September, was a combination of narration with various digital technologies that helped bring new perspectives and experiences. It attracted nearly 100 participants.
In particular, the museum’s History Classroom programme and the History Lover’s Club are being gradually converted to an online form, via the Zoom application. Till now, the museum has organised hundreds of free history classes for more than 5,000 students, including Vietnamese children living abroad. Based on the experience and success of these programmes, the director affirmed that in the coming time, the museum will continue to design more shows using digital technology to meet the growing demand of the public.
Earlier this month, OpenGov Asia reported that Vietnam will need to do more if it wants to become a digital powerhouse as envisioned in the socio-economic development strategy adopted by the Party in February 2021. A biannual update on Vietnam’s economic performance showed that the country needs to ensure the development of a digitally skilled labour force, the emergence of a dynamic and agile local private sector, and good but secure access to information.
Vietnam aims to be among the top 50 countries in the ICT Development Index as early as 2025, and its digital economy is hoped to account for one-third of the country’s GDP by the end of the decade, instead of only 5%. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the country has witnessed a great change in the application of new digitisation tools in both the private and public sectors. It is estimated that in June 2021, about two-thirds of private enterprises in Vietnam had access to technologies related to the digital economy. This is a huge leap from the pre-COVID-19 period.
However, Vietnam still has a lot of work to do. In addition to upgrading infrastructure, the country needs to encourage the application of digital technology and attract investment to create conditions for small businesses to participate in the digital economy. Vietnam also needs to upgrade digital technology infrastructures and equip workers with digital skills to help them become more dynamic in adapting to new technologies. In the short term, Vietnam can take advantage of the presence of many famous technology enterprises to learn and improve digital skills for local labourers working for these corporations. The government must issue a series of initiatives to attract talents from expatriates working in digital technology fields around the world.
ANSTO is participating in a new Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Hub in Intelligent Robotic Systems for Real-time Asset Management, being led by world-authority on robotics and automation Prof Ian Manchester, leader of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics at the University of Sydney.
Industry Engagement Manager Prof Anna Paradowska, who is also affiliated with the University of Sydney, has been designated a Chief Investigator to collaborate on real-world application of sensors and monitors that operate in challenging environments with the potential to be applied in the nuclear precinct and other areas of ANSTO.
Group Executive and Chief Engineer Con Lyras said ANSTO will benefit from participating in the project as the development of new nuclear medicine processing facilities, and other planned assets were expected to have a significant level of automation.
The application of enhanced automation at ANSTO could extend to the research facilities, where there are already some robotic systems in place for positioning samples. This is an opportunity to build on existing experience with large-scale maintenance of assets and to collaborate with the group of industry partners in the hub, who are some of the best, specialised robotics systems in the world, Paradowska said.
Manchester leads a diverse group of academics, research organisations and industry partners that will deliver new robotics technologies in Australia to transform the way that valued assets, such as key infrastructure, are managed. The project is building on the current robotics expertise in mining automation, marine robotics and robotics for agriculture.
Although not a major player in the manufacture of factory robots, Australia has pioneered some of the most important technologies that are used in robotics today, especially in an area called field robotics, which is working outdoors and in challenging conditions.
This has led to the formation of a host of companies making specialised robotic systems for asset management, such as ship hull cleaning robots, manipulator arms, crawling robots, 3D mapping systems, and precise localisation and navigations systems.
The main objective of the five-year grant is to develop and demonstrate never-before-seen capabilities for robotic systems that will enable them to inspect and interact with complex assets in challenging environmental conditions.
There are many potential applications in addressing a significant amount of ageing infrastructures such as bridges, buildings and dams, and assets in difficult-to-reach areas or challenging environments, such as those used in offshore exploration and power generation.
The hub has a shared vision of the future in which teams of mobile robotic systems will perform inspection, monitoring and maintenance tasks with a high degree of autonomy. The approach could safeguard and increase the longevity of assets in a way that is cost-effective, reliable and safe.
A central concept in the project is the use of mobile robots that have a digital twin, which is based on a three-dimensional representation of the asset updated with real-time data. The digital twin can be used to analyse specific components or assess the status of its service life.
A novel aspect of using digital twins is that the robots can potentially be sent out to make the repair or replace a part based on the information it has collected. However, for this to happen, Australia must first overcome deep scientific challenges that need to be resolved relating to improved capabilities in mission planning, navigation and control, perception, manipulation, and mapping.
The large project team will collaborate to advance fundamental science, technological development, and industry impact of intelligent robotic systems for asset management.