Home Team launches high-tech research facility

A Home Team officer investigating a simulated crime scene at the Human Performance Centre. Launched yesterday, the place is a scientific research facility that deploys cutting-edge technology to advance the Home Team's operative capabilities.
A Home Team officer investigating a simulated crime scene at the Human Performance Centre. Launched yesterday, the place is a scientific research facility that deploys cutting-edge technology to advance the Home Team's operative capabilities. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Science, technology and data analytics will be used to look at how the work of Home Team officers can be made easier and more efficient at a new centre that was launched yesterday.

Called the Human Performance Centre, it will look at virtual reality (VR) training and smarter surveillance systems.

The centre will also study the physical and mental needs of Home Team officers relative to their working environment, such as managing fatigue among officers, and also look at how different features of officers' work can be better adapted to their roles.

The Home Team includes the police, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Singapore Prisons Service and the Central Narcotics Bureau.

Housed at the Home Team Academy in Old Choa Chu Kang Road, the centre is split into two areas, each about the size of a four-room flat.

Using VR, the centre will look at how officers can be trained using simulations, with their eye movements and responses to their situation tracked.

Officers may also undergo training to control unmanned equipment virtually.

Dr Naresh Kumar, director of human factors at the Home Affairs Ministry's Office of the Chief Science and Technology Officer, said that training for unmanned aerial vehicles could be done through VR simulations, allowing an officer to learn how to "dextrously control" the drone's interface.

On the surveillance front, one system being developed can track suspicious people and objects.

For instance, if an unattended bag is reported, the system can find out - through pooling footage from security cameras - where the bag is, when it was placed at its location and who put it there.

When it comes to the working considerations of officers, the centre will develop ways to ensure that their equipment and gear allow them to work in the most effective way possible.

This will cover even the smallest detail, such as whether the uniforms allow for the evaporation of perspiration.

Such technology becomes vital in the face of declining manpower and increasing demands, said Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam, who launched the centre.

"The equipment has got to work for us, and the training in a virtual reality environment is being upgraded," he said, adding that the centre will contribute to improving the abilities of the officers.

The launch of the centre comes on the back of two others this year: one to improve ICA's capabilities to detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials that may be used in terror attacks; and the other at the Criminal Investigation Department, which Mr Shanmugam said allows for a very high degree of scientific analytical and investigative abilities.

These developments come as the Home Team seeks to become more data-driven by 2025, in response to challenges like the increasing threat of terrorism and an evolving drug environment that will increase the demands on officers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Home Team launches high-tech research facility'. Print Edition | Subscribe