Singlish also can, for this AI call system

SCDF unveils new technologies as it gears up for challenges

The Automatic Speech Recognition 995 system on show at the Singapore Civil Defence Force's annual workplan seminar yesterday.
The Automatic Speech Recognition 995 system on show at the Singapore Civil Defence Force's annual workplan seminar yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

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

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 yesterday, 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 to 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 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".

On the sidelines of the workplan seminar, the SCDF also signed a memorandum of intent with non-governmental organisation Mercy Relief (MR) and the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) to provide humanitarian volunteering opportunities for Civil Defence (CD) Lionhearters.

CD Lionhearters comprise young people interested in emergency preparedness work and humanitarian aid missions.

Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health, who witnessed the signing, said: "By tapping MR's and SRC's expertise and networks, CD Lionhearters will be able to gain more exposure and acquire new experiences that harness both their hard skills and soft skills."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2019, with the headline Singlish also can, for this AI call system. Subscribe