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Data-smart agencies aim to make Singapore a safer city


SINGAPORE — Advanced analytics and some world-first technologies were applied on data collected on everyday events in some parts of Singapore recently, as part of the Republic’s efforts to develop urban management solutions, but which could also give the authorities a boost in tackling accidents and crime.

In Little India, for instance, the monitoring of tweets and camera footage enabled the detection of a construction site fire on March 26 within six minutes, said a spokesman for the Airbus Defence and Space-NCS consortium, which conducted one of the four test-bed projects.

Meanwhile, a consortium led by AGT International, using analytics, can detect abnormal crowd and traffic conditions, flag movements suggesting aggressive behaviour and read licence plates. Its system also has facial recognition and social media monitoring capabilities, among other things.

It did so by fusing data from 78 sensors in Geylang, including closed-circuit television sets, acoustic sensors and mobile phone sensors, to look at correlation of multiple events, said Mr Danny Beh, vice-president of sales and business development and head of Singapore at AGT International.

These and other projects that were showcased at the World Cities Summit are part of a collaboration between government agencies here and the private sector announced last year, called the Safe City Test Bed.

In another project, video-content analysis software developed by Airbus Defence and Space features a “visual signature” capability, allowing a vehicle’s trajectory to be traced. Such technology is useful in cases such as a checkpoint breach where a suspicious vehicle needs to be traced, a consortium spokesman said.

It was the first time the visual signature was deployed in a real-time operational context, said Mr Johan Pelissier, managing director of Airbus Defence and Space in Singapore.

The consortium used 70 cameras in its project, including a pair of “master and slave” cameras developed by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research. The “slave” camera zeroes in on a person’s face, resulting in more accurate facial recognition.

Accenture conducted a project in the Marina Bay area while the consortium led by NEC Asia Pacific conducted its work on Orchard Road. Besides analytics, the latter incorporated technology to detect data and devices that had been altered or replaced.

The Safe City Test Bed fused existing data from different government sensors and applied analytics to provide an improved and combined operating picture, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Economic Development Board (EDB) — which jointly established the Safety and Security Industry Programme Office — last week. Solutions that emerge can improve planning and preparedness against future threats, they said.

The participating agencies, which include the National Environment Agency and Land Transport Authority, are assessing how the technologies enhance operational capabilities.

Other cities that have already embarked on similar Safe City initiatives include Mexico City, Madrid and Stockholm, said the MHA and EDB. There is growth potential for this industry in the region, with a recent Frost and Sullivan research commissioned by the EDB estimating a US$152.5 billion market for safe city solutions in South-east Asia by 2020.

Acknowledging potential tension between data collection and citizens’ rights, Senior Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Khoo Boon Hui said at the Safe and Liveable Cities Forum on Sunday that public trust and support are needed.

“Agencies in charge of data collection are sometimes ‘one scandal or rogue officer’ away from unravelling public trust or incurring public backlash,” he said, welcoming the sharing of experiences and perspectives on governance issues in this area.

“These are issues which cannot be easily resolved but we know that there has been a push for more public surveillance especially with many recent security incidents being resolved through video surveillance.”

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