Digitalisation drive in Singapore gets $174m research boost

Mr Gan Kim Yong (far left) being shown a presentation titled Artificial Intelligence for Customer Service Automation at the Cisco-NUS lab on Nov 5, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - In the future, how cyclists and motorists react to one another on the road could be analysed with data collected from cameras and sensors to help develop transport policies.

Using secure wireless networks, the movements of Covid-19 patients in hospitals could also be better tracked.

These are some of the projects announced recently under two new research initiatives worth $174 million over five years that could move Singapore's digitalisation drive up another gear.

One effort involves a research laboratory under United States tech firm Cisco and the National University of Singapore (NUS), with an investment of $54 million.

The other initiative links up tech, defence and engineering company ST Engineering with four partners and has a $120 million investment.

Speaking at the launch of the Cisco-NUS lab on Friday (Nov 5), Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said: "Partnerships between companies continue to be an effective way to spur innovation and reimagine new business models."

He also encouraged more firms to follow Cisco's example to work with the Government.

The new Accelerated Digital Economy Corporate Laboratory will boost research into artificial intelligence (AI), healthcare, cyber security, urban infrastructure and workplace productivity.

Supported by the National Research Foundation, it aims to develop 17 tech solutions, as well as 12 products and services.

Mr Gan said these cutting-edge technologies can be accessed by companies looking to digitally transform their businesses and compete more effectively.

This is in line with Singapore's $25 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan, he added.

He said the new lab - based in NUS' Kent Ridge campus - can help strengthen the country's innovation capabilities.

It will create more than 20 research and development jobs, as well as training opportunities for almost 100 researchers, analysts, engineers and students.

The lab is expected to partner at least 100 Singapore-based companies to customise and refine solutions according to their requirements. This would allow local firms to be involved in, and learn from the research and development process.

It also paves the way for them to tap productivity improvements, revenue growth or cost savings through innovation, said Mr Gan.

The AI research that the lab will delve into includes developing algorithms to upgrade the extracting and making sense of data collected in the workplace, such as interactions with Cisco customers to create customer service chatbots.

In healthcare, the lab is working with the Singapore General Hospital to look into collecting and analysing the data of patients over secure wireless networks.

Lab members with their presentation titled An Intelligent Network for Digital Healthcare at the launch of the Cisco-NUS lab on Nov 5, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

This could, for instance, be used to monitor Covid-19 patients in the emergency department by using radio-frequency identification tags. If they enter areas they are not supposed to, healthcare workers can quickly locate them and figure out who they came into close contact with for contact tracing.

For urban infrastructure, the lab aims to simulate and analyse road traffic. Besides making sense of road users' interactions, data processed by network devices installed at lamp posts could also help researchers understand how cyclists and pedestrians behave towards one another on pavements.

On Oct 28, ST Engineering announced it is working with NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and Agency for Science, Technology and Research to speed up the commercialisation of tech research via industry applications.

Dubbed Research Translation @ ST Engineering, the initiative will look into areas such as smart traffic management, 5G mobile, energy tech and cyber security.

Lab members with their presentation titled Network-Enabled Infrastructure and Enterprise at the launch of the Cisco-NUS lab on Nov 5, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

It will also conduct research in robotics and autonomous buses, quantum computing which improves processing speeds, digitalisation and data analytics, as well as neuromorphic computing in which computer elements are modelled after the human brain.

The partnership will involve up to 100 researchers and about 200 ST Engineering scientists and engineers, with 20 to 30 research projects expected to be worked on at any one time.

The outcomes of the research will be adopted by ST Engineering for its commercial and defence businesses in the aerospace, smart city and public security areas.

Mr Gan Kim Yong giving a speech at the launch of the Cisco-NUS lab on Nov 5, 2021. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The company is working with SUTD on cyber security research to develop a "post quantum encryptor" that can provide an extra layer of security to thwart hacking and ensure that information sent is secure. This could be useful in national defence and organisations that deal with classified data.

With NTU, ST Engineering is looking to offer fast-charging solutions for electric vehicles.

The firm is also tying up with NUS to work on smart traffic management systems using AI.

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