Firms test ideas to keep Singapore safe

Govt-industry collaboration 'could help minimise impact of threats'

A mobile app that keeps track of security forces in real time could help the authorities improve their communications in incidents such as last year's Little India riot.

The app was one of several ideas developed here by consultancy firm Accenture as part of a recently concluded government-industry collaboration to find and test solutions to security and safety issues.

It uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to pinpoint forces deployed outdoors.

Officers and commanders can exchange images and messages to improve their understanding as incidents unfold.

This would help commanders respond to incidents more precisely, said a spokesman for the Safety and Security Industry Programme Office (SSIPO), an alliance between the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Accenture also studied using real-time facial recognition technology to identify people recorded live on video.

Security solutions firm AGT International, Airbus Defence and Space, and IT companies NCS and NEC Asia Pacific were involved in the collaboration, called the Safe City Test Bed, which began a year ago.

Their work will be presented on Sunday at the World Cities Summit at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

Various public agencies also participated, including the Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, National Environment Agency, Public Utilities Board and the Land Transport Authority.

The companies used analytics software to study government data from sensors such as CCTV cameras, finding ways to track and respond to security and safety threats. Accenture developed a way to detect overcrowding in indoor public spaces, while AGT International helped detect simulated "acts of aggression".

NEC Asia Pacific, meanwhile, successfully used various video feeds to track a person's movements over time.

Methods like these could help planners "minimise the impact of threats", said MHA director of capability development and international partnerships Anselm Lopez.

And by tapping on the private sector for this, Singapore could benefit economically, added SSIPO co-director Gian Yi-Hsen of the EDB.

"EDB hopes to encourage companies to innovate new safe city solutions in Singapore," he said.

The SSIPO expects such data analytics solutions to be ready for use after two to three years.

Asked if these methods raised privacy concerns, NUS law dean Simon Chesterman said many people would accept them being used to track dangerous behaviour.

"If a computer can determine that someone is breaking into a building... this would be a good use of that technology," he said.

But "a high threshold" should be set before a person is tracked, such as "probable cause that that person has committed a crime", said Prof Chesterman, who has written a book on state surveillance and privacy.

He added: "Safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that those with access to this technology do not abuse it."

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