Urban Tech

Powered by :

A three-fold improvement in the efficiency of solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion can facilitate solar energy harvesting technology, according to environmental scientists at City University of Hong Kong (CityU).

This research outcome could contribute to tackling the global energy shortage and provide new insights into the development of solar-to-fuel materials for photocatalytic applications in the emerging field of hydrogen technology.

The research team led by Dr Sam Hsu Hsien-yi, Assistant Professor in the School of Energy and Environment (SEE) at CityU, has developed novel lead-free bismuth-based hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites (HOIPs) with a semiconductor heterojunction structure.

The heterojunction structure could serve as a driving force to enhance the charge carrier transportation which is beneficial for hydrogen production under visible-light irradiation without the addition of co-catalysts such as platinum or ruthenium.

The research is featured as the cover of the prestigious international journal Advanced Functional Materials under the title “In-situ formation of bismuth-based perovskite heterostructures for high-performance co-catalyst-free photocatalytic hydrogen evolution”.

In the past few years, HOIPs have been widely used in solar energy conversion because of their remarkable photoelectric effects and extraordinary photovoltaic performance.

However, their application in the field of photocatalysis is limited. Besides, most comprehensively developed HOIPs comprise toxic metal lead, raising concerns about environmental health threats.

“As a result, we would like to construct a lead-free HOIP material that can drive the photocatalytic hydrogen production without a noble-metal co-catalyst,” said Dr. Hsu.

In the process of exploring and developing their application for the production of photocatalytic hydrogen, Dr. Hsu’s team discovered a straightforward method for constructing a junction structure, which led to improved photocatalytic activity.

They employed time-resolved photoluminescence spectra (TRPL) to characterise the materials. From the TRPL result, the charge transfer of the HOIP material with heterostructure exhibited a longer lifetime than the material without the heterostructure. The longer lifetime indicates a reduction of nonradiative recombination in the heterostructure.

Therefore, the in-situ formation of the heterostructure benefits photocatalytic performance. The result shows improved efficiency by three-fold and a more stabilized solar-induced hydrogen evolution for the perovskite heterojunctions, even without the addition of any noble metal co-catalyst under visible light irradiation.

Their next step is to improve hydrogen production performance. Dr. Hsu believed that in the long run, hydrogen would become one of the major energy sources. He hoped that this research would help to harvest solar energy in response to the global challenge of the energy crisis.

According to a recent article, Hong Kong and China-listed solar-energy stocks rose sharply on 23 December 2020, extending the sector’s momentum as investors bet on strong demand and favourable policies.

The upbeat trend came after Chinese authorities last week issued a draft regulation that would allow solar glass manufacturers to increase capacity free of restrictions.

Globally, an increasing number of countries have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in the next few decades amid the falling costs of solar equipment and growing pressure to cut emissions.

It is expected that the trend to support global demand growth of more than 28% for solar power in 2021. And Chinese companies, which account for more than 70% of many key solar-energy equipment’s supply capacities globally, are poised to benefit from such a demand boom.

SINGAPORE, 5 November 2020 – The Business Innovations Generator (BIG) Incubation Programme offered by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) at the Singapore Management University (SMU) has unveiled 27 new start-ups accepted into its third and final cohort for 2020. (More information about the start-ups can be found in Annex A).

The latest intake is BIG’s largest since its inception in 2009, surpassing the 19 start-ups it had accepted for incubation in May.

The applications were assessed based on the viability of their business models, validated market needs and potential, as well as the attributes of the founding team. The applicants went through a rigorous screening process, having to clear three stages in the application journey before they pitch to an intake panel made up of industry experts and IIE’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

48% of the 27 incubated start-ups were related to Smart Nation and Digital Economy. Digital, Transformation is among one of the few strategic focuses for SMU and SMU IIE is well placed to guide and value add to these start-ups through its masterclasses and mentorship by practitioners. The companies in the new cohort span across services in the sectors such as Digital Health, Education, and Community & Lifestyle. Most of them are in the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and Prototype stage.

“While deep-tech innovations and smart solutions that disrupt businesses can be a gamechanger, the success of a start-up is not just about its technology or know-how. It also has to be on the fundamentals of adopting the right mindsets. That is why at Business Innovations Generator, we look deeper into founders’ mindsets – on their coachability, integrity, grit and community-orientation,” said Shirley Wong, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at SMU IIE.

Shirley added: “We believe that these attributes lay the foundation of what it takes to be a changemaker and successful entrepreneur.”

With a strong founder-centric focus, the BIG incubation programme is highly curated and is designed to provide the start-up founders with the support they need to focus on their product development and to reach their development milestones. (Please refer to Annex B for the list of support provided to the start-ups)

One of the core programmes organised for incubatees include a series of BIG Masterclasses, which equip the founders with knowledge on topics such as sales strategy, digital marketing, fundraising, understanding term sheets, and legal advisory.

“We found BIG Masterclasses relevant and very insightful. The most recent one we attended was on the topic of market readiness. It was an essential springboard for us to learn strategies on marketing a standard product to different target groups – especially the challenging unassuming customers we have to convince. The expert knowledge that was imparted was unmatched compared to what we get from just reading – the real value comes from field experts who went ahead of us and cared enough to teach what they knew,” shared Jessie Imakoji, co-founder of Girlsourced Tech, an incubatee from the January 2020 cohort who attended the masterclass conducted by IIE’s Chief Marketing Officer-in-Residence, Christina Lim.

Started in 2009, BIG programme is an intensive four-month founder centric, equity-free programme that offers early-stage start-ups and student founders the opportunity to validate their business plans, gain access to industry experts as advisors and grant opportunities.

The incubator accepts three cohorts of pre-seed and seed stage start-ups a year (in January, May and September), they can be SMU affiliated or non-SMU affiliated.

A number of incubated start-ups by SMU alumni have gained significant achievements. One example is TurtleTree Labs co-founded by SMU alumna Lin Fengru, the first biotech company in the world to create lab-grown milk. The start-up emerged as the winner of Entrepreneur World Cup in October 2020 and received US$500,000 in cash prize. Another start-up BondEvalue, founded by SMU alumnus Rahul Banerjee, was approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore to operate the world’s first blockchain bond exchange in the same month.

The incubation programme is agnostic and welcomes start-ups from a wide range of industries; however, there has been a more deliberate focus on digital, sustainable urban technologies in the recent years. This is in line with IIE’s objective of nurturing future leaders in making meaningful impact on society.

Start-ups interested to join the incubator in the upcoming January 2021 cohort can fill up the interest form at: https://iie.smu.edu.sg/apply-for-incubation. They will be notified when applications open.

The Singapore Government have announced a $49 million Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative at the Singapore International Energy Week 2020. It will support research, development and demonstration projects in low-carbon energy technologies such as hydrogen; and carbon capture, utilisation and storage over the next five years.

These efforts aim to accelerate the technical and economic viability of such emerging technologies to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions, particularly for emissions-intensive areas like the power and industrial sectors.

Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing said, “Hydrogen, and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, are promising technologies that have the potential to transform Singapore’s energy landscape and help us achieve our long-term emissions reduction goals. This new funding initiative strengthens our current efforts, and will accelerate our transition towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

Research projects could include technologies that enable the effective capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from low-concentration emission sources in the industrial and power sectors, and to convert the CO2 into useful products such as building materials, reclamation sand and synthetic fuels.

Test-beds for emerging technologies, such as the blending of low-carbon hydrogen with natural gas in combined cycle gas turbines, will reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation. These test-beds could yield insights in applying low carbon technologies in Singapore’s context, and facilitate future deployment.

Multi Government Agency Initiative

This funding initiative is a multi-agency involving the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Energy Market Authority (EMA), the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). It will be co-driven by EDB and EMA to ensure projects are relevant to the industrial and power sectors, with A*STAR as the implementing agency on behalf of the Government.

This initiative seeks to build a more sustainable energy future by harnessing the four switches of energy supply, one of which is the use of low-carbon alternatives. It supports Singapore’s vision for a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.

The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute Company Limited (ASTRI) and a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Hong Kong-based telecom, have introduced a jointly developed Augmented Reality (AR) solution designed to transform field engineers’ operations and maintenance processes.

Called DataHOUSE AR Remote Hand Service (AR Remote Hand), the solution leverages wearable Augmented Reality (AR) technology and brings the telecom subsidiary’s field engineers and its customers to a new era, enabling them to slash the time and cost of troubleshooting and maintenance for achieving better results.

The AR Remote Hand Service employs AR glasses to stream real-time intelligence, troubleshooting logs, graphics and encrypted data from back-end systems to on-site engineers and maintenance staff, boosting field productivity by up to 50%.

By wearing the glasses, field engineers do not have to stop their work to communicate with back-end support teams via a laptop or phone, nor to refer to a paper manual. The AR Remote Hand provides field engineers with a heads-up display for remote visualisation in real-time as they install, maintain or troubleshoot equipment, thus speeding up the whole process.

The solution enables field engineers across multiple locations to overcome the challenges of multiple languages and skillsets in multi-technology environments; as well as to manage installation and maintenance issues more efficiently and cost-effectively, resulting in improved customer satisfaction. This ability to work effectively from remote locations is also helping the telecom’s customers and staff stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

To ensure safe operations and maintain service infrastructure availability by the global remote service support teams, the subsidiary is using DataHOUSE AR Remote Hand Service in its China Data Center operations to assure regional customers’ business operations continuity.

The CEO of ASTRI stated that the strategic collaboration has demonstrated the success in leveraging next-generation technology in real-life applications that benefit Hong Kong’s people and society, in this case, smart industrial applications and field service management solutions for Hong Kong enterprises.

The CEO of the telecom’s subsidiary stated that DataHOUSE AR Remote Hand is an innovative remote maintenance service adopted in data centre scenarios, which leverages AR intelligent operations and maintenance technologies. Going forward, the parties, through further collaboration and more innovative thinking, expect to enhance the service to cope with more scenarios and bring more value and better customer experience to enterprises.

In their collaboration, ASTRI focused on developing the software platform and customisation, while the subsidiary provided related information and opinions based on its experience with business cases in various scenarios and applications. This ensured the solution could effectively address enterprise customers’ needs across a range of industries. The result is a solution that offers a wide array of benefits in service provisioning and remote location visualisation and communication capabilities:

  • Intuitive AR-Guided Installation, Troubleshooting and Maintenance: With AR Remote Hand, field engineers recognise any device with a designated QR code and access real-time intelligence, graphics, and encrypted data from back-end systems streamed on-site. Field staff can access virtual step-by-step guides or even 3D manuals via AR glasses, without the need to interrupt work to check information on a laptop or in a manual.
  • Historical Records Analysis: Using a pre-set routine (e.g. gestures), on-site engineers can review a device’s historical record (e.g. customers’ network traffic or cloud CPU history), speed up data analysis and troubleshooting, while cutting downtime and cost.
  • Seamless Communication and Collaboration with Back-end Support: Field engineers previously communicated with back-end support via email or phone, making it difficult to describe a troubleshooting situation. Removing distance and language barriers, back-end engineers now view real-time images streamed via AR glasses through an AR operations console, improving operational speed and quality. Its powerful video conferencing feature also offers engineers instant support and fosters off-site collaboration between global operations and maintenance teams. Also, back-end engineers can give field engineers clear instructions via 3D AR labelling.

In exceptional circumstances, such as the current pandemic, it is difficult for enterprises’ IT staff to travel to data centres and manage their equipment. Equipped with the latest AR glasses development, the DataHOUSE AR Remote Hand serves as customers’ remote hands. It not only shows the status of on-site equipment as customers watch in real-time from offices or other locations but also lets customers provide live instructions to the subsidiary’s on-site engineers as they troubleshoot equipment issues without physically being in the data centre.

The team has plans to extend the AR Remote Hand service for further customer use and will enlarge the list of equipment support. Adding AI applications for the AR glasses will be the next milestone as we work to deliver even more intelligent diagnoses.

For example, when a field engineer sees the status of the target-fixing equipment through the AR glasses, they will be shown several possible causes for the problem, with each cause ranked with a percentage according to how likely it is to be the source of the problem.

An incubatee at the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab has announced the launch of a new solution. It is now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.

Solution description

The solution, called the NB-IoT/LoRa Dual-detection parking occupancy sensing system, can accurately sense the occupancy status of parking space or spaces through its fully integrated dual-detection from Radar/mmWave and magnetometer sensing.

Equipped with leading NB-IoT and LoRa WAN technologies, the end-to-end system is easy to use and can be rapidly deployed. The solution also provides cross-system integration for various payment methods including self-help automatic payment, membership payment, and on-site payment. Data is displayed on the parking operation platform including parking space status, vehicle status, turnover rate, illegal parking behaviour and much more.

Application Areas

The solution was designed to enhance areas including City Management as well as Transport.

Technologies Used

The innovation is equipped with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Use case

The solution has the following benefits:

  • Privacy: the system does not use the camera data to identify license plates or individuals’ faces, thereby eliminating privacy concerns;
  • Low-cost: the parking timer sensor installation and maintenance costs are much lower camera installation costs;
  • Mobile app: an interconnected app has been developed to help drivers navigate the parking areas;
  • Special Parking Management:
    1. Detects and alerts users of no parking zones and U-turn area.
    2. Can Interlink with a speaker those with disabilities and for enhanced night safety parking.
    3. Charges different commercials accordingly (the system can be set to charge vehicles by number, hour, and time – for example, taxis, vehicles in temporary parking, and those in loading zone parking can all receive different rates).
    4. Detects scooter and heavy motorcycle parking spaces.
    5. Detects and manages shared parking.
    6. Can confirm whether a VIP or special user has parked in the appointed space.

The smart parking market

The global smart parking market is expected to rise from its initial estimated value of US3.38 billion in 2018 to an estimated value of US12.60 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 17.85% in the forecast period of 2019-2026. This rise in market value can be attributed to the increasing concerns of parking amid growth in the number of vehicles. The high cost of implementing and subsequent increase in the cost of the vehicles is expected to act as a restraint to the market growth.

Known as the “super project“, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Zhuhai Port has the most complex technology and the most difficult implementation in the history of Chinese bridge construction. It has 18 lanes and about 2500 parking spaces so far.

Additionally, a smart parking management system has been developed for the port. The all-in-one smart transportation solution for the car park of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Zhuhai Port includes a license plate recognition/card system, a video parking guidance system, and more to achieve unattended parking. It also has a license plate scan to go system, parking guidance and voice IP intercom. Car owners can experience rich multimedia functions, such as pictures, videos, animations, and instructional information.

Thus, as the number of vehicles continues to rise, so will the need for bigger, better, smarter parking and Hong Kong is at the epicentre of innovations in the field.

About the Smart Government Innovation Lab

In 2018, the Government established the Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.

The Lab is always on the lookout for innovation and technology (I&T) solutions that are conducive to enhancing public services or their operational effectiveness. I&T suppliers are encouraged to regularly visit the Lab’s website to check on the current business and operational needs in public service delivery and propose innovative solutions or product suggestions to address them.

The inaugural DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize Finals at LKYGBPC will be held virtually on the 9 October 2020.

The DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) will be awarded to the most innovative business plans, start-ups or early-stage ventures that address pertinent urban challenges faced by cities of today.

In addition to the evaluation criteria for the LKYGBPC, qualifying applications for the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize are also assessed on:

  • Clear identification of the social or environmental problem
  • Creativity in addressing the identified challenge statement and stakeholders involved
  • Ability to measure the social or environmental impact created
  • Scalability and sustainability of solution and impact

The award worth SGD 150,000 includes prize money of up to SGD 100,000 and post-competition support, such as access to DBS Foundation’s capacity building programmes, brand awareness and marketing features on DBS Foundation’s website, brand campaigns, media stories etc, the use of DBS premises when in Singapore for launch or community events and network and connection to DBS Foundation’s social enterprise alumni community and partners.

The Four Finalists are:

Bluepha — China
Fighting Plastic Pollution with the Power of Microbes

Bluepha is a microorganism company based in Beijing that has developed a bio-based and biodegradable plastic PHA to replace conventional plastics. Their innovative and patented biotech ensures low-cost industrial-scale production of PHA that degrades in natural environments, including in the ocean. The PHA developed by Bluepha can be widely applied across industries, such as packaging, textile, and toys, to replace conventional plastics.

Polybee — Singapore
Enhancing Food Security by Automating Pollination

Polybee is on a mission to increase productivity in agriculture by taking the natural process of pollination into its own hands. Since wind, insects and birds cannot operate indoors, there is no scalable solution for pollination in many urban cities. By operating autonomous mini drones using in aerial robotics and computer vision, Polybee executes precise pollination at indoor vertical farms, where there is no alternative to manual pollination. Polybee has partnered with Singapore Food Agency to initiate a commercial pilot.

Sampangan — Indonesia
Enriching Food Nutrition from Landfill Waste

Sampangan is a waste-to-carbon technology service company that aims to help local governments, agriculture areas, industrial areas, and waste transporters process waste in both solid and liquid forms safely and sustainably. Using their carbonized technology (“Magic Box”), they can convert organic and non-organic waste into active carbon or biochar. Heat radiation is used instead of full incineration making this process environmentally friendly. The biochar material can help fix farm soil and increase harvest yields in an organic and sustainable manner.

StratifiCare — Singapore
World’s First Severe Dengue Prediction Test

StratifiCare has discovered a panel of biomarkers that can determine the progress of Dengue Fever. Patients who are predicted not to progress to severe Dengue can be managed at outpatient settings, instead of bearing expenses being hospitalised. Their innovation will help reduce the over-hospitalization issue faced by medical providers and relieve healthcare burden especially in poorer Dengue-endemic developing countries.

Watch the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize Finals

Due to the uncertainties of international travel and health considerations amid COVID-19, the inaugural DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize Finals at LKYGBPC will be held virtually.

Date: 9 October 2020

Time: 11:45AM – 2:00PM (Singapore time, GMT +8)

Join our panel of distinguished judges for the live pitching, and don’t miss a special conversation segment with DBS Group CEO, Piyush Gupta!

Tan Su Shan, Group Head of Institutional Banking, DBS
Nick Nash, Managing Partner & Co-Founder, Asia Partners
Quek Siu Rui, Group CEO & Co-Founder, Carousell

Click here to register and watch the Finals LIVE!

Stratificare are shortlisted as one of the top 4 teams that have reached the finals of the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition.

The DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) will be awarded to the most innovative business plans, start-ups or early-stage ventures that address pertinent urban challenges faced by cities of today.

In addition to the evaluation criteria for the LKYGBPC, qualifying applications for the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize are also assessed on clear identification of the social or environmental problem, creativity in addressing the identified challenge statement and stakeholders involved, ability to measure the social or environmental impact created and the scalability and sustainability of solution and impact

The award worth SGD 150,000 includes prize money of up to SGD 100,000 and post-competition support, such as:
• Access to DBS Foundation’s capacity building programmes
• Brand awareness and marketing features on DBS Foundation’s website, brand campaigns, media stories etc.
• Use of DBS premises when in Singapore for launch or community events
• Network and connection to DBS Foundation’s social enterprise alumni community and partners

Empowering personalised medicine for tomorrow through innovative diagnostic solutions

OpenGov had the opportunity to speak with Anthony Chua – CEO, Keith Chong -COO and Tiffany Lin -CRO before they has progressed to the finals to hear about their innovative solution to a problem that affects Singaporeans on a daily basis.

StratifiCare™ was founded in 2015 with the vision of empowering personalized medicine for tomorrow through innovative diagnostic solutions. They have been shortlisted for the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize for their work on the world’s first severe Dengue prediction test.

Keith Chong, COO of Stratificare said that one of the drivers behind this solution was that Dengue was something that affected their personal lives and family. And added that he believed that being able to diagnose whether it was a severe case helped reassure patients that their diagnosis was accurate, and helped with decision-making on what the next clinical steps should be.

StratifiCare has discovered a panel of biomarkers that can determine the progress of Dengue Fever. Patients who are predicted not to progress to severe Dengue can be managed at outpatient settings, instead of bearing expenses being hospitalised.

The challenge in the clinical management of Dengue is how to accurately predict which patients will go on to develop Severe Dengue in the early phase of the disease. Their innovation will help reduce the over-hospitalisation issue faced by medical providers and relieve healthcare burden, especially in poorer Dengue-endemic developing countries.

CEO Anthony Chua said that the challenge was not to solve the problem just in Singapore, but was also a solution for neighbouring countries too. When asked about go-to-market strategy their CRO Tiffany Lin said that Singapore is their main focus at the minute, with plans to distribute into Malaysia and India in the near future.

Stratificare has reached the finals of the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize which takes place on Friday 9th October.

To register for the awards ceremony please click here

OpenGov had the opportunity to speak with the founders- Johae Song and Vanessa Cunha of a company called Able on their product Lulu which has been shortlisted for the DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) will be awarded to the most innovative business plans, start-ups or early-stage ventures that address pertinent urban challenges faced by cities of today.

The passion behind the innovation

From the beginning of the conversation it is obvious that the business is passion driven. One of the founders Johae told OpenGov of two personal experiences that has spurred her on to bring the product to market. She once met with a young boy in Chile who could not speak, and when asking his parent what things he liked, the parent responded that they did not know. They could not communicate with him. So on hearing this, it made Johae even more determined to make a product that would give young people with communication challenges the chance to communicate with their family, to enable all people with communication challenges to communicate more easily, more naturally, with the aid of this AI powered solution.

Many people are isolated from their environments due to a lack of upper body motion and speaking impairment. This leads to daily challenges with communication, independence, and a social connection. Before Lulu, the product they are currently developing, there was no user-friendly assistive technology to help these people communicate more efficiently.

Tech for Good Solution

Lulu is a smart personalized assistant giving people with communication challenges the freedom to connect with the world, a new product that is focused on a hands-free smart communication system that you can download and try on your smart device.

  • Lulu is a smart companion robot for wheelchair users. Lulu is a plug-and-play robotic system, controlled by a user-friendly mobile application for people with physical and/or communication challenges.
  • Around 70 million people require wheelchairs worldwide and nearly 50 million require assistive technology to communicate effectively. The lack of suitable assistive technologies to help them to connect with the world inspired us to create a product that breaks down both mobility and communication barriers.
  • Lulu is designed to provide users with safe navigation, social interaction and smart home connectivity. Controlled hands-free through eye-tracking, Lulu’s current features include a smart camera to help users gain a broader field of vision, speech-to-text and text-to-speech to enhance communication, and smart-home connectivity allowing users to turn on and off lights with the blink of an eye.

LuLu is the first leveraging artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, and AI-services to work for the disabled.


For more information on the Smart App visit – https://www.hi-lulu.com/

Change Makers of Tomorrow - Bioo

Meet the Change Makers of Tomorrow and listen to his story about producing electricity from plants.