Research on how to develop devices that can gather data, talk to each other and perform their functions autonomously will now be done in a new laboratory at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
NTU launched a joint corporate laboratory with Taiwanese electronics firm Delta Electronics yesterday which will work on developing cyber-physical systems - where all kinds of physical objects are connected to and controlled through the Internet, and which is also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
The $45 million Delta-NTU Corporate Laboratory for Cyber-Physical Systems will focus on four areas: manufacturing, learning, living and product commercialisation.
One project researcher's work at the laboratory will revolve around indoor positioning systems, which use Wi-Fi signals and sensors indoors to provide users with an accurate location of where they are inside a building.
This can eventually be applied in smart factories, for instance. With such a system in place, factories may be able to make use of autonomous drones or driverless forklifts to ferry materials or goods from one part of the building to another.
The laboratory is funded equally between NTU, Delta Electronics and the National Research Foundation (NRF). It is the eighth laboratory under the NRF's Corporate Laboratory@University scheme, which aims to further collaboration between universities and private companies with a focus on applied research.
Speaking at the laboratory's launch at the NTU campus yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the university's proximity to the upcoming Jurong Innovation District will help researchers and entrepreneurs share and spread knowledge faster and easier.
"There are many advantages that come from interactions between researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs," said Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies. "When you put such people together in close proximity, things happen."
The laboratory will also be looking into further advances in smart homes, which can be outfitted with sensors that can keep track of the elderly or have medical conditions.
These can notify doctors or caregivers should anything happen to the home's inhabitants.
The laboratory will be poised to take advantage of the growth in IoT, said Delta Electronics chairman Yancey Hai.
"There are limitless applications in IoT that will transform current products and services, which (will lead) to explosive commercial growth in diverse sectors."
The Delta-NTU Corporate Laboratory will be NTU's fourth such partnership. The university's other corporate laboratory partners comprise engineering firms Rolls Royce and ST Engineering, as well as transport operator SMRT.
The laboratory will comprise university academics, students and Delta employees, which will lead to greater collaboration and research opportunities, said NTU president Bertil Andersson.
"When the Delta-NTU Corporate Lab is running at full capacity, it will have over 80 researchers and staff, of whom 30 will be NTU PhD students," said Professor Andersson.
"Not only do our students gain valuable exposure to their chosen fields, but they also get a head start in networking with the best in the industry," he added.
- Additional reporting by Wang Tianjie