'Eh can faster come?': Automated system transcribing 995 calls may also recognise Singlish

A demonstration of the automatic speech recognition system during live calls at the SCDF workplan seminar’s media preview at Singapore University of Technology and Design on May 8, 2019.
A demonstration of the automatic speech recognition system during live calls at the SCDF workplan seminar’s media preview at Singapore University of Technology and Design on May 8, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - A system being developed here to transcribe 995 emergency calls in real time for the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) may recognise Singlish.

Still in its development phase, the Automatic Speech Recognition 995 (ASR995) is being programmed to also recognise the four official languages - English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

Speaking at the SCDF annual workplan seminar on Thursday (May 9), Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, who was the guest of honour, said: "The system is trained to recognise speech, and can transcribe and log emergency calls.

"We programmed it to recognise the four official languages, and a fifth, our Singlish."

He said the SCDF receives close to 200,000 calls for assistance every year.

"If the trial is successful, it will significantly reduce the time taken to process emergency calls," he added.

The ASR995 was one of the technologies the SCDF showcased at the seminar held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

In his keynote address, Mr Shanmugam highlighted the progress the SCDF has made in adopting technology and optimising its front-line operations to address future challenges.

 

For instance, the SCDF is partnering the Land Transport Authority to deploy the Traffic Priority System within a 1km radius of hospitals. This would allow the duration of traffic light signals to be adjusted to provide right of way for ambulances.

"The duration of the red light may be shortened, or the duration of the green light extended, depending on the situation," said Mr Shanmugam.

He added that the SCDF will face more challenges, with rising medical needs from an ageing population, more complex physical environments due to urban development, and manpower constraints caused by low birth rates.

Singapore had one of the lowest rates of fire fatality and fire incidents in the world last year, along with a decrease of around 9 per cent in fire incidents in residential premises.

At the seminar, Mr Shanmugam announced that, in commemoration of 150 years of Civil Defence Volunteerism, there will be an SCDF Volunteer Gala Nite on July 19, with President Halimah Yacob as the guest of honour.

SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap said that this year's workplan seminar's theme - A Nation of Lifesavers - Partners In Transformation - reflects the emphasis placed by the SCDF on "establishing strong partnership to co-create new opportunities and innovative solutions for the mission of saving lives".