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Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration spoke at the opening of the International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2020 on how digitalisation can help as the built environment sector remain vigilant and continue to ensure compliance with work restart requirements.

This weeks theme at IBEW 2020 “Emerging Stronger through Innovation”, shows how the Built Environment sector aspires to emerge stronger from COVID-19, with the aim to build greater resilience, and a smarter and more sustainable built environment sector, through innovation and digitalisation.

The Minister announced a new $20 million Advanced Digital Solutions (ADS) scheme to fund integrated advanced digital solutions to keep worksites and workers safe.

He also announced the development of the Intelligent National Productivity and Quality Specifications (iNPQS) platform, a cloud-based system containing standard templates of project specifications co-created with industry partners for the industry.

Advanced Digital Solutions Scheme to ensure worker safety

The $20 million Advanced Digital Solutions (ADS) scheme funds integrated advanced digital solutions for the construction sector to help firms ensure the safety of their workers.

The ADS solutions scheme for the construction sector, supported by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Infocomm Media Digital Authority (IMDA), will help firms cover up to 80% of the costs of digital equipment such as thermal scanners, facial recognition systems, AI cameras and Bluetooth enabled wearables and their integration with site management solutions to assist in COVID-Safe worksite management, up to a cap of $20,000 per project.

These digital solutions when deployed at construction sites will be able to link up with BCA’s newly developed digital platform called the BuildSG-COVIDSafe platform (CSP).

This platform will facilitate the exchange of data from on-site management platforms and equipment with other government databases to help firms ensure compliance of safe measurement measures. The CSP will also highlight irregularities for early intervention. BCA has completed the pilot testing of the CSP, and is now ready to roll it out for widespread adoption by the industry.

An industry-led intelligent project specification platform to enhance productivity

To help improve work processes in order to remain viable in a COVID-19 world, the Singapore Institute of Architects, the Institution of Engineers Singapore and the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore have also co-created the iNPQS platform.

iNPQS is a cloud-based digital platform that contains standard specifications that can be adapted and customised by firms for their building projects, and have the ability to integrate with Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology.

iNPQS has support from Government Procuring Entities (GPEs) and various built environment TACs to enrich the base specifications. iNPQS will be ready by November 2020, and will benefit building professionals across the entire built environment value chain.

Driving digitalisation and innovation through the Smart Facilities Management Challenge

As part of efforts to transform the Facilities Management (FM) industry through digitalisation and adoption of technology, BCA is launching the Smart FM Challenge to enhance productivity and improve service delivery in the FM industry.

The Challenge aims to bring together developers and building owner with Facility Management companies and technology providers to adopt smart FM solutions in the next three years.


Researchers from the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong (UOW) are developing software that will allow existing closed-circuit television cameras to automatically identify and report suspicious or violent incidents.

The project was one of four winners of Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark innovation challenge. Research into women’s safety revealed that girls and women do not always feel safe participating in our city at night, the brief stated.

While many factors contribute to this, transportation was identified as an area where improvement could be made. A team led by Dr Johan Barthelemy will develop artificial intelligence (AI) software that will automatically analyse real-time camera feeds and alert an operator when it detects a suspicious incident or an unsafe environment. The AI will be trained to detect incidents such as people fighting, a group of agitated persons, people following someone else, and arguments or other abnormal behaviour. It can also identify an unsafe environment, such as where there is a lack of lighting.

The system will then alert a human operator who can quickly react if there is an issue. The data and reports automatically generated by the software can then be used to help prevent the abuse and violence committed towards women after dark in public transportation. Helping him on the project will be a PhD student whose thesis looks at using computer vision across multiple cameras to understand traffic and pedestrian flow. The team is using open-source code that tries to estimate the poses of a human being and predict if there’s a fight.

The incident will then be reviewed by a human controller who will accept or reject the suggestion made by artificial intelligence. In this way, the program will become smarter, learning in a similar way to a human being. As far as the team knows, nothing like this has been attempted globally. The researchers are pushing the limits of technology.

The SMART Infrastructure Facility 

One of the largest research institutions in the world dedicated to helping governments and businesses better plan for the future, SMART brings together experts from fields such as rail, infrastructure systems, transport, water, energy, economics and modelling and simulation, providing 30 state-of-the-art laboratories to facilitate this important research. When the $62 million SMART building opened in 2011 as Australia’s first multi-disciplinary applied infrastructure research and training facility, it represented a commitment by the Australian and NSW Governments to apply a more scientific approach to infrastructure planning.

Since opening, SMART has built an international profile working with government agencies in Australia and around the world and has developed a strong network of global collaborators. SMART brings together experts from fields such as rail, infrastructure systems, transport, water, energy, economics and modelling and simulation and provides 30 state-of-the-art laboratories to facilitate this important research.

SMART in collaboration with UOW is leading the digital revolution in the Illawarra with the creation of the Digital Living Lab, a smart city initiative using IoT technology. SMART and UOW have deployed a radio communication network across the region using LoRaWAN technology in a bid to improve the quality of life for people in the community.

NSW’s Safety After Dark challenge

Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark initiative is focused on making women feel and be safer when travelling in the city. Research into women’s safety revealed that girls and women do not always feel safe participating in the city at night. While many factors contribute to this, transportation was identified as an area where improvements could be made.

Transport for NSW is collaborating with other government agencies, local councils and industry to work on solutions to make the city safer for women.

Last August 24, DICT announced that PHAR website,, was born to provide government transparency through monitoring and tracking local and foreign humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. It is a joint initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), and the DICT.

The OCD has been true to its mission in administering a comprehensive civil defense and disaster risk reduction and management program towards a safer and resilient community. It envisions being a fully capacitated agency that leads the implementation of an integrated civil defense and disaster risk reduction and management program by 2022. It is one of the arms of the Philippine government that provides leadership in the continuous development of strategic and systematic approaches as well as measures to reduce the vulnerabilities and risks to hazards and an organization that manages the consequences of disasters in the country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is the executive department of the Philippine government tasked to contribute to the enhancement of national security and the protection of the territorial integrity and national sovereignty, to participate in the national endeavor of sustaining development and enhancing the Philippines’ competitive edge, to protect the rights and promote the welfare of Filipinos overseas and to mobilize them as partners in national development, to project a positive image of the Philippines, and to increase international understanding of Philippine culture for mutually-beneficial relations with other countries.

Both OCD and DFA have extended the frontier of their capabilities in assisting the Philippines during the pandemic. It is also noteworthy to mention the efforts of DFA in facilitating in the cooperation on vaccine trials and manufacturing in the country.

PHAR website duties include collecting pertinent data on humanitarian assistance received by the Philippines. It also systematically classifies the types of donations and stores information of donation beneficiaries.

Powered by a reputable cybersecurity system, it guarantees that the database holds confidential within the premises of the government bodies holding responsible for the receiving and allocating of the said budget. It also guarantees the confidentiality of information on benefactors.

In a graph posted on-site, a number of domestic donations reached up to 6,801 (222 of which are financial). The number of international donations is now at 475 (2 of which are financial) and China has the greatest number of aids.

For philanthropists, PHAR website gives pertinent instructions to guests on what and how you can donate. The Philippines is still in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), essentials such as disinfectants, food, hygiene kits and more. Medical equipment such as infrared thermometers, mechanical ventilators, real-time polymerase chain reaction machines and test kits are also needed.

Preferred brands and manufacturers for medical equipment are meticulously specified on the page. DFA’s response to the health crisis in the country encompasses the procurement of availability and access to information on all local and international aids including in-kind and financial donations and deployment of humanitarian workforce through PHAR according to DICT Assistant Secretary for Digital Philippines Emmanuel Rey Caintic.

The website also gives a brief yet detailed graph on the casualties of the CoVID-19 as powered and monitored by the Department Of Health (DOH). It also shows the number of facilities available to assist patients. Just in the National Capital Region (NCR), 180 facilities are available, and there are 4,318 occupied beds while 1,924 are still unoccupied.

The development of the PHAR website is in response to President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s directive to ensure transparency and accountability in managing and allocating resources in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The DFA presented this to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) during its meeting on 17 August 2020.

The Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry announced plans to roll out free WiFi services for urban communities, starting with 10 communities from 1 October 2020.

CAT Telecom, the state-owned company that runs Thailand’s international telecommunications infrastructure, will be responsible for arranging the services, which will initially target five communities in Bangkok and five in provinces.

The scheme will provide a broadband internet speed at 300 megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 100mbps for upload. The programme is aimed at enabling people in dense communities to use WiFi for their daily life, particularly in the post-pandemic period.

The Minister of the DES stated that the ministry aims to give people free internet services to allow them to cope with difficulties doing business and in daily life in the digital era. CAT and the DES Ministry looked at 20 communities for the project, settling on 10 for the first batch. The project does not require much money to install routers, related equipment and platforms linked with CAT’s backbone infrastructure.

The National Digital Economy and Society Committee (NDESC), on 30 August 2020, launched the “smart sign-on” programme where people can carry out a one-time registration of the government’s existing free WiFi services through a web portal or the website.

In the past, people were required to register repeatedly for access to different WiFi service providers participating in the free public WiFi scheme. After being registered, users will receive their usernames and passwords.

The Secretary-General of the NDESC said the approach helps people gain access to free broadband internet services offered by different providers with one set of credentials only. The campaign is a cooperation between CAT, Advanced Info Service, True Corporation and the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. Users can type “@TH Wi-Fi by … (internet provider)” and use the same username and password to log in.

The system will check the qualifications of the registrants for free WiFi services with the Department Of Provincial Administrative’s database. The first phase of the free public WiFi service was launched in 2017. Approximately 900,000 people have registered under the scheme, consisting of 340,000 people aged up to 21; 390,000 people aged 22-39; 130,000 people aged 40-54 as well as 40,000 people aged 55-99.

The aim is to avoid the hassles of using free WiFi that requires multiple registrations through different providers. Users can be assured of internet security when accessing free WiFi services thanks to CAT Telecom guidelines. People can access free public WiFi hotspots in community locations, such as educational institutes, government service facilities and bus stations as well as tourist attractions across the country.

According to an earlier article, The Nong Prue tambon, to the east of Pattaya City, will be the home of 10 new 5G WiFi “Smart Poles”.  The installation began in August 2020. The announcements were made by the Nong Prue Mayor and the team from the company that is installing the new towers and technology.

The Smart Pole setups will be installed near Soi Phon Prapa Nimit, Suthawart Temple Intersection, the Chalerm Phrakiet Intersection, Soi Nern Plubwarn, Soi Marb Yailearb 18/5, the town centre, Boon Sampan Market, Rattanakorn Market, Khao Talo Plaza and adjacent to The Chill. The Mayor stated that the areas have been chosen due to the population concentrations in the local community and providing the high-speed technology advantages of 5G to the broadest cross-section of the people living and working there.

The main advantages of 5G are greater data speed, lower or almost zero latency (lag) and greater capacity of remote execution of services, a greater number of connected devices and the possibility of implementing virtual networks (network slicing). Robust digital infrastructure is a must if Thailand, like all nations across the globe, is to emerge from its battle with the COVID-19 pandemic victorious.

Researchers from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have developed a COVID-19 alert system that will send a message to users through a mobile app if they and an infected person have visited the same place within a period that gives rise to risks of exposure.

The system will not collect users’ personal information and location data, thereby protecting individuals’ privacy while alerting them on disease transmission risks associated with confirmed infection cases.

HKBU plans to launch a trial run of the system on campus in the new semester to enhance COVID-19 risks alert capability inside campus venues and during teaching and learning activities. Staff and students can join the trial voluntarily.

Developed by a research team led by the Associate Head and Professor of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU, the system has two anonymous modes of operation: venue-to-person tracing and person-to-person tracing. The system is easy to operate and users can simply use it by downloading the mobile application.

By taking a decentralised design approach, the system, which has been developed in four months, will not collect any personal information and location data. It is a safe and reliable system that uses the latest cryptographic technology to protect users’ privacy. It also includes a mechanism that prevents users from falsely claiming that they are one of the contacts of a confirmed case.

Under the venue-to-person tracing mode, when users scan the QR code before entering the venue, the venue information and the time of visit will be saved onto their mobiles. If a user tests positive for the virus, he will receive a password to log on to the system, which will then broadcast the information, including the venues he has visited and the visiting times in the past 14 days, to all users’ mobiles.

The system will send an alert to the users through their mobile phones if they and the infected user have visited the same place in the same period in the past two weeks. This will enable users to take appropriate action, including virus tests.

The person-to-person tracing mode is supported by Bluetooth Low Energy, a wireless communication technology. If two users stay within two meters of each other for a certain period, their mobile phones will exchange an anonymous code via Bluetooth and then save it in the respective phone’s database. The anonymous code associated with each user’s mobile phone will change regularly.

If a user tests positive for the virus, the other users’ mobile phones will receive the codes broadcast by the infected user’s mobile phone over the past two weeks. By comparing the codes in the database of the mobile phone, the system can assess the risk for each user that came into contact with the infected person, and set off the alarm if necessary.

Users’ privacy is well protected because all the information is stored on an individual’s mobile phone. HKBU plans to launch a trial run of the venue-to-person tracing mode of the alert system on campus. The experience of launching the system, including the lessons learned throughout the technological development process and in terms of encouraging members of the University and visitors to use the system, will help the Government and relevant organisations combat the pandemic.

The Vice-President (Research and Development) of HKBU stated since the early stages of the pandemic, HKBU has been boosting various research projects related to the virus research projects and the development of this alert system is one of the results.

The system can effectively warn people who have been in contact with a confirmed case, but it does not collect personal information. It strikes a balance between disease prevention and privacy protection.

As the global pandemic is not yet at its end, the team will make efforts to collaborate with the Government and the relevant departments to help society by transferring the University’s research and contributing to the fight against the pandemic in Hong Kong.

CEM tech is a must

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the urgent need for better crisis management technologies. According to Everbridge, an effective Critical Event Management program and strategy is an integrated, end-to-end process that enables organisations to significantly speed up responses to critical events and improve outcomes by mitigating or eliminating the impact of a threat.

This CEM system would mean that business continuity, disaster recovery, active assailant, emergency response, natural disaster, IT incident risk management, and mass notification would all be rolled up into an easy-to-execute, strategic plan with long-term benefits.

In May 2020, Everbridge hosted Coronavirus: the Road to Recovery on May 20th and 21st – a virtual symposium that brought together business, healthcare, and government leaders to discuss best practices of return to work. It was designed to help organisations around the world chart a path forward.

The event gathered nearly 20 executive speakers from major multinational organisations. Speakers addressed the needs of executive-level decision-makers in areas related to security, operations, risk, human resources, clinical operations, emergency management, and supply chain.

Critical event management has come to the fore with the pandemic. Forecasting, planning and management of such events help organisations prevent disruption of life and damage to property.

Everbridge Critical Event Management solutions can make a significant difference in mitigating harm caused by such critical events. They provide richer intelligence and correlating threats with locations of assets and people ensuring more rapid and comprehensive incident assessment and remediation.

The New Zealand police have been setting up a NZ$9 million facial detection software that would identify people using a live feed from CCTV. Run by a non-police contractor, the system will collect over 15,000 images a year. Some of the information is held in an Official Information Act (OIA) response.

Inquiries show that the Internal Affairs Department has also been setting up a $20m passport processing system. Both the department and the police are using some of the world’s most powerful facial recognition software developed by a Japanese company with NZ$44 billion in revenue a year.

Reports show that, since 2014, the police have spent over NZ$9 million on an AIBS- Automated Biometric Information System. Earlier in the year, police trialled facial recognition tech without clearance. The police conducted a trial of controversial facial recognition software without consulting their own superiors or the Privacy Commissioner.

The Privacy Commissioner has stated that “any organisation or business using facial recognition technology needs to undertake a high level of scrutiny over how accurate it is and how thoroughly it has been tested for use in New Zealand.”

However, initially, the focus will be to use the system to match static images from the polices’ database such as passport pictures and driver license photos. Any change to the use of the system, by NeoFace would require direct approval of the police. Originally, the request for the use of driver license photos was denied.

The tender also said the system must be able to “import CCTV feed” to identify people. The system will have to import the live CCTB feed to identify people as it is not designed to live-stream CCTV footage continuously. The new police system will be able to handle up to 70 people online at any given moment.

Police have promised the Privacy Commissioner better engagement with him and the public over facial recognition technology. Furthermore, the system will be upgraded receiving 50,000 images a year including images of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos. As per the Privacy Commissioner’s guidelines, the police must be direct and transparent when collecting biometrics; “You shouldn’t collect a biometric from somebody without them knowing.”

“With more and more aspects of our lives taking place online it’s critical the New Zealand government takes a lead to ensure New Zealanders have control of how and who uses their identity information,” said New Zealand government Digital Services Minister.

Regarding the CCTV networks, the police have had main access since 2013 through some of their districts. Auckland has brought forward more than 3000 Auckland Transport cameras and have expressed interest in implementing the facial recognition software in them. “There is no biometric or facial recognition on any AT cameras,” said the agency.

However, their new line-up of advanced AT cameras will be equipped with the technology. AT plans to add 500 of these cameras in the coming year to handle help manage traffic and safety at their facilities.

The subject of a recent research grant was increased police activity to privately operated CCTV networks, such as those belonging to business as a control measure. That grant went to Safer Cities, a consultancy that is advising Auckland Council on how to add and upgrade cameras at 11 public sites.

Know Your Customer (KYC) refers to customer identity verification, which is a requirement set by providers that offer sensitive services such as banking, finance, and telecommunications to prevent users from using services for illegal purposes such as money laundering and cheating. Electronic KYC (eKYC) uses new technologies such as face and writing identification, Big Data, and AI to automate the verification process.

According to a press release, verification through KYC is implemented through a very strict process to ensure that the users are real customers with real information. The process takes time because it involves many kinds of procedures and documents. However, the problem now can be solved thanks to the electronic identification service, or eKYC.

Of the products available in the market, the solution of automatically digitising documents with BeeOCR developed by VVN AI proves to be optimal, with millions of users. The solution won second prize at the VietChallenge completion in the US after gaining victory at Viettel Advanced Solutions Track 2019.

According to Nguyen Hoang Tung, CEO of VVN AI, he discovered the opportunity when offering consultancy to a German company. Tung and his co-workers decided to create an eID solution to lead the market and be competitive with foreign rivals. The engineers of VVN AI believe that the system will be useful for nearly all fields, from finance and banking to insurance and public administration. The organisation aims to support the public administration system.

Building solutions and algorithms for eKYC is not a difficult job for VVN AI, which has a lot of experience, the release explained. The biggest challenge is that Vietnam still does not have good original data systems. For instance, the fonts used by ID cards are different. The organisation found three or four kinds of fonts, but Vietnam’s ID cards can be easily counterfeited. In Germany, ID cards have 30 vein layers for security, which makes it easier to build an eKYC system.

The company must scan 3.3 million documents a month, or 10 million scans. VVN AI’s identification tool has the processing speed of 1.2 seconds for one scan, or 16-25 times higher than the solutions of the firms which once provided services to Viettel. To enter data manually, Viettel had to pay VND 2,000 (US$ 0.086) for every ID card. But with VVN AI’s solution, the cost has dropped to VND 500 (US$ 0.022), which saves VND 40 billion (US$ 1.7 million) a year.

VVN AI has signed contracts to provide the eID solution to several large companies, including MobiFone, Vietnam Post, VP Bank, Lien Viet Bank, and the Post and Telecommunication Joint Stock Insurance Corporation.

Recently, the Vietnam Software and IT Services Association (VINASA) formally launched a program to select pioneering Vietnamese IT firms in 2020. Under the program, the top ten companies will be selected in each of the 15 areas, including software outsourcing, financial technology, e-government services, start-up businesses, digital content, AI, and IoT.

Submissions to the program will have to undergo three rounds of judgment, with the jury panel including technology, finance, human resources, and start-up experts, as well as IT journalists. Except for start-up businesses, companies must be in operation for at least three years and have a minimum annual revenue of US$ 1 million to be eligible for the program.

Each enterprise can take part in more than one of the 15 areas. The selected firms will appear in a special book published in Vietnamese, English, and Japanese, which will then be introduced directly to 2,000 domestic agencies and organisations and 1,000 international partners from around the world. The deadline for submission is 25 September and the chosen firms will be announced in November. Vietnam is aiming to have at least 100,000 IT firms by 2030 in order to develop its digital economy.

The National e-Governance Division (NeGD) under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Common Service Centre (CSC) E-Governance Services India Limited, earlier this week.

CSCs are the access points for the delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education, and agriculture services.

According to a press release, the move will facilitate the delivery of UMANG app services at CSCs, in an assisted mode, making services on the app available to citizens through a network of 375,000 CSCs. UMANG stands for the unified mobile application for new-age governance and is an all-in-one single unified secure multi-channel, platform, and service freeware application.

The CSC operators, village-level entrepreneurs (VLEs), will enable citizens to avail e-government services from 140 departments via the app. This will benefit citizens who, either do not have access to smartphones or are not comfortable accessing app-based e-services on their own, the release stated.

The aim is to not only enhance access to government services significantly but also expand the gamut of services that VLEs offer citizens, increasing their income and viability. The UMANG services are being enabled on CSCs without any additional cost. NeGD is making all services available to CSCs at zero cost.

The synergy between UMANG and CSCs will make over 1,000 services from several departments on the UMANG platform available to CSCs, the release noted.

UMANG is available on Android, iOS, all web browsers platforms, and select 57 services on KaiOS (available on Jio feature phones). UMANG has reached a level of more than 31.2 million downloads, with 20.5 million registered users.

Presently 1,011 services (294 from central, 441 from state departments, and 276 from bill payments), from 70 central departments, and 71 state departments from 26 states are available on UMANG.

UMANG has so far seen about one billion service transactions and about two billion hits. This significant alliance of UMANG and CSCs will empower citizens, especially during these unprecedented times, ensuring ease, convenience, and security.

It is powered by a robust back-endeep28octd platform providing access to high impact services of various organisations, both central and state. It offers pan Indian e-government services like healthcare, finance, education, housing, energy, agriculture, and employment.

In May, MeitY integrated India Meteorological Department (IMD) services on the app. As OpenGov reported earlier, seven services hosted on IMD’s website have been on-boarded on the app. ‘Current weather’ provides the current temperature, humidity, wind speed, and direction for 150 cities. It is updated eight times a day. Also, it offers information on the sunrise, sunset, and moonrise. ‘Nowcast’ provides three hourly warnings of localised weather phenomena and their intensity issued for about 800 stations and districts by State Meteorological Centres of IMD. In case of severe weather, its impact also is included in the warning.

A city forecast provides the past 24 hours and seven-day forecast of weather conditions around 450 cities in India are given. The app also offers information about any district’s rainfall; daily, weekly, monthly, and cumulative series are available. It alerts a user about dangerous weather and has a facility to track cyclonic storms.

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