New CCTV technology reduces labour costs and water pollution from worksites

SINGAPORE - A new technology introduced in February may reduce the amount of silt and sediment that make its way from construction sites into Singapore's water systems, while saving construction companies time and labour costs.

Currently, to monitor silt runoff into public drains, contractors assign workers to manually watch closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of drains - a labour-intensive and haphazard way of carrying out the task.

The new automated system, called the Silt Imagery Detection System (Sids), uses image recognition technology to analyse CCTV images. If muddied or silty water is detected, contractors will recieve an immediate alert.

The system, developed by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and run by the Public Utilities Board (PUB), would also free up construction workers for other tasks.

Silt in waterways and reservoirs can damage aquatic life and affect the steady flow of water through drains.

From Feb 1, new construction sites at 0.2 hectares or larger are required to connect their existing drainage monitoring systems to Sids, with 178 worksites already using it.

The new system comes at a time when there is greater focus on raising worker productivity through technology and training, such as the recently announced SkillsFuture.

Ho Lee Construction, which has linked five of its worksites to Sids since last 2015, estimates that it can save 500 man-hours a year due to the upgrade.

At a visit to one of the sites on Wednesday in Bukit Batok, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Minister of State for National Development, and Trade and Industry, said: " Our companies need to harness technology to improve productivity, become leaner and more efficient."

"What we have seen today is that construction companies like Ho Lee adopting technology that actually saves them manpower by using Sids." Dr Koh added. "Even without extra foreign worker levies, they can actually redeploy existing workers using technology to better utilise limited manpower."

By the end of 2017, PUB expects 800 construction sites islandwide to adopt the Sids technology, to save construction contractors an estimated 100,000 man-hours per year.

The environmental impact of Sids remains crucial.

Said PUB's catchment and waterways principal engineer Mr Quah Hock Lai: "With two-thirds of Singapore being water catchment, it is important that all of us play a part to ensure that our waterways and reservoirs are not polluted."