Smart defence ideas on show at Digital Innovation Day

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How trying out a smart maintenance system using augmented reality with the help of Military Expert 5-1 Aw Chee Giap (right) yesterday.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How trying out a smart maintenance system using augmented reality with the help of Military Expert 5-1 Aw Chee Giap (right) yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Digital technology playing bigger role as military faces dwindling pool of recruits: Heng Chee How

A visitor may be able to gain access to a military camp in future by just having his face and mobile phone scanned.

When he enters the camp, his movement will be tracked and suggested routes to his intended destination sent to his mobile phone.

These functions are possible with the development of the Smart Base Access project, which employs video analytics technology that uses facial recognition and also cameras at various locations for monitoring.

This was one of the 22 projects being showcased at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef)-Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) inaugural Digital Innovation Day, held at RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base on Monday and yesterday.

Mr Heng Chee How, Senior Minister of State for Defence, who was at the exhibition yesterday, said the base has been designated a test bed for smart digital innovations for Mindef and SAF.

Since October last year, 10 projects have been tested in areas from training to finance and green buildings, he added.

  • Game, glasses and an analytics tool

  • The army's Battlefield Instrumentation Data Analytics Tool analyses training data more efficiently compared to conventional analysis, which requires an analyst to sit behind a screen and sift through extensive amounts of data captured in a typical training exercise.

    An automated system can interpret all actions and events within a training exercise and organise vast amounts of information - soldiers' actions, manoeuvres and movement directions - during a simulated engagement with opposing forces.

    The Warriors of the Seas gaming application allows players to understand the big picture of naval warfare. It is a one-on-one game in which players try to outwit each other. Each player controls a frigate, a missile corvette and a naval helicopter.

    The game lets players conduct naval warfare tactical actions such as detection, classification and engagement. The project team aims to develop it into a multiplayer game.

    The Augmented Reality Glasses have software incorporated into them that gives the users visual information. While carrying out maintenance or repair, engineers can put on the glasses and receive detailed instructions on the procedures.

    This allows for easy access to training content. Experts can also advise the user and visually guide him to do the necessary technical procedures.

    The glasses are also paired with a mobile application, which engineers can use to troubleshoot by keying in problems faced by the system.

In his speech, Mr Heng also said digital technology gives Mindef and the SAF an opportunity to transform their operations, as well as the way they train and engage people.

He noted that the SAF will have less manpower in future - by 2030, the pool of full-time national servicemen will have fallen by a third.

Mr Heng said that it is thus imperative to make full use of digital technologies, in order to become more effective in operations.

The Smart Base Access project, for instance, will bring about manpower savings.

Based on data from trials, implementation of the project across camps can lead to a 60 per cent to 80 per cent reduction in the manpower needed for surveillance - from 25 men now to five, said Military Expert 6 Joses Yau.

This frees up manpower for higher-value operational tasks, he added.

Another innovation being developed is the Battlefield Instrumentation Data Analytics Tool, a project which Mindef started in late 2013 that lets commanders track and replay the events of a training exercise.

Major David Choi said this tool allows commanders to conduct more comprehensive reviews during and after the exercise, as well as enhance a unit's learning.

Also showcased at the exhibition is the Warriors of the Seas gaming application, developed in collaboration with Lionfish Studios.

Captain Lee Guo Ping, the project team leader, said app users can learn the principles of navy warfare while waging a virtual battle.

He added that this gaming app has realistic features and allows soldiers, who usually belong to a specialised cluster on a ship, to understand the roles of other ship personnel.

Capt Lee also hopes this application will better engage millennials, who are used to playing games on their mobile phones, and help them to develop operational intelligence.

It is a joy, he said, when "people are able to learn things that we intended them to learn without us telling them".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Smart defence ideas on show at Digital Innovation Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe