Robots could be rolled out for security patrols at MRT stations

The robot deployed by LTA during Exercise Station Guard at Hougang MRT station yesterday. Developed by ST Engineering, it is equipped with seven cameras to give it a 360-degree view, and has GPS and other sensors. The robot's control console was loca
The robot deployed by LTA during Exercise Station Guard at Hougang MRT station yesterday. Developed by ST Engineering, it is equipped with seven cameras to give it a 360-degree view, and has GPS and other sensors. The robot's control console was located within a nearby incident response vehicle.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
The robot deployed by LTA during Exercise Station Guard at Hougang MRT station yesterday. Developed by ST Engineering, it is equipped with seven cameras to give it a 360-degree view, and has GPS and other sensors. The robot's control console was loca
Operator Tay Quan Jie, 26, monitoring the situation in the LTA's incident response vehicle, which can transmit live footage from the robot to the LTA headquarters.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

That watchful figure helping to guard your MRT station or bus interchange may soon be a robot.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) confirmed this after deploying one such robot at Hougang MRT station yesterday to test its navigational and surveillance capabilities.

"The use of unmanned robots could potentially complement the deployment of security officers in the future," said the LTA.

Developed by ST Engineering, the 1.6m-tall robot is equipped with seven cameras to allow it to have a 360-degree view of its surroundings. It is equipped with an in-built global positioning system (GPS) as well as sensors such as Lidar, which bounces lasers off objects, allowing it to patrol designated areas.

In future, the robot could even come with video and audio analytics technology, the LTA said.

"Through today's exercise, we will assess its potential to complement on-site surveillance needed for public transport incident management," said the LTA's public transport security deputy director Joseph Goh.

A similar robot was also deployed by the Singapore Police Force to patrol the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre during the 33rd Asean Summit last month.

An autonomous robot kept an eye on Hougang MRT station yesterday as part of Exercise Station Guard, an emergency preparedness exercise by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The 1.6m-tall robot, developed by ST Engineering, was being tested for its n
An autonomous robot kept an eye on Hougang MRT station yesterday as part of Exercise Station Guard, an emergency preparedness exercise by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The 1.6m-tall robot, developed by ST Engineering, was being tested for its navigational and surveillance capabilities. It is equipped with seven cameras that give it a 360-degree view of its environment as it patrols a preset path. Such unmanned robots could complement the deployment of security officers at public transport nodes in the future, said LTA. As part of yesterday's exercise, commuters at the station had to go through additional security screenings such as walking through a metal detector and putting their belongings in an X-ray scanner. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

ALL MUST BE ON GUARD

What is essential is to train not only security personnel, but non-security staff serving MRT stations, to detect suspicious activity. Working with commuters to raise public awareness is paramount.

DR ROHAN GUNARATNA, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The control console for the LTA's robot was located within a nearby incident response vehicle that was equipped with telecommunications equipment and a camera system. This allowed it to transmit live footage to the LTA's Land Transport Operations Centre at its headquarters in Hampshire Road.

Robots are increasingly being used for security purposes.

Last month, a robot equipped with artificial intelligence was tested for five days at the Seibu-Shinjuku train station in Tokyo. It could alert station staff via smartphones if it detected suspicious objects or people.

Yesterday, the LTA robot did its duty during an emergency preparedness exercise dubbed Exercise Station Guard, where commuters had to go through metal detectors and put their belongings through X-ray scanners. It was the third such operation by the LTA this year.

Earlier exercises were conducted at Newton station in February, and Holland Village station in July.

This exercise is separate from a six-month trial of increased checks at selected MRT stations, which began last month, and which also employs X-ray scanners and metal detectors as part of efforts to enhance security on public transport.

 

Transport nodes remain attractive targets for terrorists, said Dr Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

He noted that in 2010, a marked map of Singapore's MRT network was found in the home of a terror suspect killed in Indonesia, with the Orchard station circled.

"What is essential is to train not only security personnel, but non-security staff serving MRT stations, to detect suspicious activity. Working with commuters to raise public awareness is paramount," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline 'Robots could be rolled out for security patrols at MRT stations'. Print Edition | Subscribe