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A future-ready Singapore requires IoT combined with AI

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Let’s think about the world we live in today – There is a physical world, where we interact with lots of physical products on a daily basis, and there is also a virtual world that has an astonishing breadth of digital content and solutions that we’ve come to rely on every day, in our personal and professional lives.

It may not be immediately noticeable, but the convergence of the physical and digital world is quietly underway in Singapore today through the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) – which is the ability to digitally communicate with physical things in order to make sense of the information surrounding us, and to create new experiences and insights from the data they provide.  This is enabled by the transmission of data among sensors or chips (“the things”), and between humans and the things.

The rise of IoT has created some outstanding opportunities for businesses and government agencies to re-invent existing products, and to introduce new public service solutions with this new form factor. The Smart Nation Sensor Platform, for instance, is one of the Singapore Government’s anchor initiatives designed to enable Smart Nation-associated applications for smart utility management and public security enhancement.

While an immense quantity of useful data is being collected and sent by thousands of sensors deployed around our island nation, the focus is very much on how humans will interact with that data and use it in the most effective and efficient way to improve our lives. In fact, it is the scale of cloud computing that provides a simple way to access databases and a broad set of application services that can be leveraged for using these data over the Internet. A cloud services platform connects and manages the network-connected hardware required for these application services, while users can provision and use what they need via a simple web or mobile application.

Today, many organisations run analytics on transactional dataset in the cloud, looking at areas such as customer purchases or location-based information. For instance, Grab, one of Southeast Asia’s most popular taxi-hailing applications, can maximise their driver resources to best manage as many as 1.5 million booking requests per day by using real-time data computation and data streams powered by the cloud.

Some companies and governments have started looking beyond real-time data analytics to deeper level of insights for their users and citizens. Leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT combined, they are taking one step further to predict behaviour trends and forecast citizens demand during a certain time period. This capability opens an entirely new set of IoT-based service and solution offerings, and we have already seen it implemented in Singapore’s public healthcare system.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital, one of the nation’s largest multi-disciplinary hospitals, has implemented an “artificial brain” to conduct and predict bed assignments for its patients through analysing historic data on demands. The hospital is also piloting a remote monitoring system, which allows healthcare professionals to track vital signs of elderly patients and auto-detects when any abnormal data appears. The power of AI and IoT can be combined in life-saving scenarios.

In the future, we envision that hospitals and organisations will use an AI engine to automate information processing and connect different sources of data to contextualise what a person is asking for, through collecting real-time data from IoT devices. From this understanding, the machine can then provide a personalised response or experience directly to the end user, or route the response back into the cloud or database to automate another process.

So what does that mean?

In a hospital situation, a processing engine and an image-detection tool could be built into an application that uses AI and cloud-based big data, all connected with IoT, to help physicians better diagnose their patients with auto-generated medical history and instant image analysis.

Beyond healthcare purposes, the collaborative artificial intelligence (“cobot”) application model can also revolutionise many aspects of our everyday life. Take shopping as an example: when you walk into a supermarket, the image-detection tool at the door will start analysing your facial features instantly and then combine these information with your purchase transaction history. The cobot could then calculate and prompt a list of suitable groceries items for you while directing sales associates to offer customised help if necessary, which can really boost your shopping experience.

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