SINGAPORE - The inaugural four-day TechX Summit, which started on Tuesday (April 5), seeks to bring together global thought leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges and technology trends that are transforming homeland security.
Organised by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) at the agency’s headquarters in Buona Vista, it also showcases technologies being studied, developed and tested by the agency.
The innovations aim to help Home Team officers in solving crimes, saving lives, improving public safety and security, securing borders, and safeguarding data and systems.
Here is a look at some of the technologies.
1. Scanners that identify suspicious travellers
Looking out for suspicious people at checkpoints can be a tedious process. To help lighten Home Team officers' work, HTX is developing an in-house system that could, in the future, quickly screen and identify travellers who display signs of nervousness possibly linked to malicious intent.
This is done using visual sensors that do not come into physical contact with travellers, such as thermal sensors and high resolution cameras. They detect unusual tell-tale behaviours among travellers such as fidgeting and darting eyes, as well as their involuntary physiological reactions, like their heart rates.
Video footage of actual crooks was analysed and used to help develop the system.
But it does not mean that a person who fidgets or blinks a lot is necessarily a criminal or planning to commit an offence - the system performs only an initial screening to flag people with such behaviour. Follow-up security checks are expected to be done by checkpoint officers on these identified travellers.
2. Contactless lie detector
A polygraph test can take two to three hours to check if a suspect is lying. But a new lie detector system that HTX will put to operational trials could take just 10 to 15 minutes.
This commercial product does not use probes like in a polygraph test, and instead analyses visual information of suspects being interrogated.
Using high resolution cameras, the system can detect stress levels by measuring flushing in a person's face due to changes in his blood flow and heart rate.
Based on differences in how the face flushes, Home Team officers can figure out if the person being questioned might be thinking very hard to concoct a lie, or is undergoing emotional stress such as being very anxious, fearful or angry.
HTX said the system has an accuracy rate of close to 90 per cent compared with using physically attached sensors. But the visual stress analysis is not meant to replace such tests but rather to help do an initial quick test to narrow down suspects from a large pool, who might require further checks using polygraph tests.
To use the new contactless lie detector system, an officer needs only a few days of training. Training for polygraph tests, on the other hand, spans a few months.
3. Self-service drug testing toilet
The Singapore Prison Service's Community Corrections Command does about 5,000 urine tests a month on supervisees who are drug offenders serving the tail end of their sentence in the community.
The labour intensive process requires prison officers to manually register the supervisees at the prison service's Selarang Park Community Supervision Centre, supervise them on how to collect their urine samples and test the samples for drugs.
To free up prison officers from such work so they can do more value-added tasks, HTX developed in-house a self-service drug testing toilet dubbed the Prison Automated Screening System.
The system does not require the supervision of a prison officer. Instead, on entering the mobile toilet, a supervisee's iris is scanned to confirm his identity and he is guided by voice-overs and video clips on collecting his urine sample from the toilet's urinal (about 95 per cent of drug offenders are male).
There are no cameras that record videos of the supervisee's movements in the mobile toilet but non-visual sensors will detect any attempts at foul play.
The urine sample collected is then tested right away and the results recorded and saved automatically without requiring a prison officer. The entire process takes about 10 minutes.
The urinal is automatically flushed to prevent contamination of the urine sample for the next user.
A trial of the mobile toilet is expected to start in September in Selarang Park Community Supervision Centre. If successful, it could be deployed islandwide to provide greater convenience to supervisees rehabilitating in the community.
4. Motorised stretcher
To help officers transfer patients to and from an ambulance more easily on stretchers, HTX first developed a motorised version for Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) Emergency Medical Services.
The motorised stretcher’s height can be adjusted with a button push, so that SCDF officers can transfer patients from various heights onto the stretcher without potentially hurting their backs.
The motorised stretcher requires just one SCDF officer to load and unload a patient from the ambulance. This contrasts with the current manual stretcher which requires three people to load and unload.
HTX improved on its initial iteration, and has developed a new version that is 30kg lighter and weighs about 65kg, which makes it easier to push the wheeled stretcher. HTX said the stretcher's structural integrity was maintained despite using lighter materials for the new stretcher.
Both motorised and manual stretchers can switch between stretcher and wheelchair modes. But with the latest version of the motorised stretcher, its guard rails can be folded down, which can be useful when shifting and moving a patient from a bed across to stretcher without the rails getting in the way.
The wheels have also been improved so that they can swivel more easily to allow the stretcher to be moved from side to side more readily when navigating tight spaces and corridors.