Smart tech deployed in SCDF operations

Officer Cadet Shin Won Tae, with a smartwatch that monitors his whereabouts and heart rate at the Endless Ladder station at the Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Training Centre.
Officer Cadet Shin Won Tae, with a smartwatch that monitors his whereabouts and heart rate at the Endless Ladder station at the Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Training Centre.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE -For the past month, Officer Cadet Shin Won Tae's has had a new "buddy" while training in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The "buddy" monitors his whereabouts and heart rate at all times during training, and will send an alert if he has over-exerted himself.

Officer Cadet Shin, 27, and his fellow trainees have been using a custom-made smartwatch since mid July in a trial run of the wearable technology.

The smartwatch is one of several new technology initiatives unveiled by the SCDF last week .

Quantitative data will be collected from the smartwatch trial, and will be used to help the SCDF team analyse and optimise their training performances, said Major Hasan Kuddoos, who is the acting head of the responder performance centre at the Civil Defence Academy.

"Currently, it's more of a qualitative analysis; instructors have visual cues on their training safety and their training performance, but going forward we are trying to leverage on science and technology to enhance this," Major Hasan told the media last week during a showcase of the smartwatch.

For example, instructors will be able to gauge if any cadet is over or under-exerting himself during exercises, by looking at the cadet's heart rate. The smartwatches also have a tracking system so trainers know where their trainees are at all times.

Home Team Science and Technology Agency's (HTX) Ying Meng Fai, who is the acting director of the human factors and simulation centre of expertise, said: "With this smart technology, you take away the human... mental workload: you don't need to keep tracking the person, it's actually all reflected in the system."

If the cadet has over-exerted himself, he can trigger a "man-down" alert on his watch, to let his trainer and his closest compatriot know that he is not well. The watches are also personalised for each cadet, and Officer Cadet Shin said this helps them objectively gauge when to ramp up or tone down their training based on their own vitals.

"Instead of comparing (my performance) with others, it's really just me against me," he said.

The watches will eventually have additional features, like an automatic attendance feature, and will be rolled out to all frontline responders progressively, including those at the Punggol Fire Station, which has been designated as the first Smart Fire Station, said Major Hasan.

The upcoming fire station is expected to be completed next year, and will incorporate the use of more technology in everyday operations. For example, personnel from the station will also use other wearable technology such as "Smart Glasses". Frontliners will be wearing the "glasses" which will allow for the streaming of video feed of casualties to medical professionals in hospitals, who can then advise on steps for immediate treatment.

The station will also make use of other smart technology like an automated duty rostering system.


Aside from the Smart Fire Station, the SCDF is also co-developing a research and development facility, known as Emergency Responders' Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab (Excel), together with HTX.

SCDF's Deputy Commissioner for Future Technology and Public Safety Teong How Hwa said leveraging such smart technologies is a key thrust of the SCDF's transformation, and will drastically reshape the way frontliners are trained.

"(This will enable) us to optimise our personnel's performance and safety, to deliver our mission of protecting and saving lives and property more effectively in this digital age."