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East Asia and Oceania Region special section: Big trends

AI Singapore: Empowering a Smart Nation


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AI Singapore (AISG) was launched in June 2017 as an integrated, impact-driven, research and innovation program in artificial intelligence (AI) for the entire country. As a national initiative, AISG brings together the strength of Singaporean research bodies in Singapore's Autonomous Universities (AUs) and research institutes, together with the vibrant ecosystem of AI start-ups and companies developing AI products, to perform use-inspired research, create innovative AI solution, and develop the talent to power Singapore's AI efforts.

To achieve Singapore's national mission, AISG's activities are anchored around four key pillars:

    

  • AI research is geared toward building deep AI research capabilities in Singapore through fundamental research. This pillar invests in research for next-generation AI techniques/algorithms beyond deep learning, and aims to strengthen Singapore's scientific leadership as a key player in the global AI race.
  • AI technology is focused on creating significant economic and social impacts by tackling national or global challenges using AI. Under this pillar, the first AI in Health Grand Challenge was launched in June 2018, where the challenge statement was "How can AI help primary care teams stop or slow disease progression and complication development in three "Highs" (or 3H)—Hyperglycaemia (diabetes), Hyperlipidaemia (high cholesterol), and Hypertension (high blood pressure)—patients by 20% in five years?" This AI challenge is a novel approach to multidisciplinary collaboration and translation from research to practice. It has enabled local and international collaborators to come together to address Singapore's national health challenge.
  • AI industry innovation accelerates the adoption of AI technology in the industry through proof-of-concept projects and talent development. Under the 100Experiments program, AISG has undertaken 50 AI projects for our local industry and has deployed more than 10 projects into production.a Our award-winning AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP),b which is a full-time, nine-month program to train and groom local Singaporean AI talent, has seen about 60 engineers graduate from the program as of October 2019. The plan is to train up to 500 Singaporean AI apprentices over the next five years.
  • AI Makerspace is a first for Singapore. Leveraging on the intellectual properties (IPs) and experiences from the other three pillars, AI Makerspace hosts an AI knowledge base (that is, open source AI libraries, API, and datasets) and will be the first national platform for accessing cutting-edge AI tools and solutions for research and commerce. Targeted at small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, AI Makerspace will help industries jump-start their AI journey by providing access to resources for experimentation, such as curated datasets from industry and government, cutting-edge AI tools, and supercomputing resources specialized for AI workloads.

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100Experiments

100Experiments (100E) is AISG's flagship program to solve industry business problems through the design and development of AI solutions, translate AI IPs from academia to industry, and help companies build their own AI teams. An organization can propose a problem statement where no commercial-off-the-shelf AI solution exists, but can potentially be solved through AISG's ecosystem of researchers and research IPs within nine to 18 months. AISG will assemble a team of AI researchers and engineers from Singapore's research and development ecosystem to work on an organization's problem statement. Through a collaborative process, a company's existing technical manpower will work alongside a team of AI researchers and engineering assembled by AISG to develop AI solutions while helping the company build up its internal AI capabilities.


100Experiments is AISG's flagship program to solve industry business problems through the design and development of AI solutions, translate AI IPs from academia to industry, and help companies build their own AI teams.


Two examples of successful 100E projects include:

  • Automatic assessment of chronic wounds in diabetic and elderly patients. The current practice of assessing wounds is time-consuming as it takes an average of about 30 minutes per wound. The quality of information gathered is also very subjective and relies on the experience of the attending nurse(s). Only about 2% of the nurse population in Singapore are qualified wound nurses, thus it is not possible to offer adequate care to chronic wound patients with existing practices.

AI Singapore worked together with a local start-up, KroniKare, to develop a Wound Scanner that uses computer vision, image processing, and semantic segmentation on an AI-driven handheld device that mimics the wound analysis by specialists. The KroniKare Wound Scanner is the first AI-based diagnostic tool to be registered in Singapore under the Health Sciences Authority (HAS) Class B medical device. The scanner uses multi-spectral images to automatically analyze and report chronic wound conditions, and therefore allow healthcare institutions to better document wound conditions, triage patients, and allocate resources for wound management. This capability has resulted in improved patient outcomes in terms of early detection and faster interventions for major wound complications and abnormalities. The digitized documentation also produced more accurate records and wound assessment time has been reduced to only 30 seconds, thus significantly reducing nurses' workloads. The tool also helped train and enhance the skills of junior nurses.

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Figure 1. Spread of AI technologies across 100E projects.

  • AI solution to transform the online search experience for Asian travelers. With English as the dominant language being used online by 25% of all Internet users, today's search engines are extremely efficient in understanding travel search queries and providing query resolutions in the English language. However, when dealing with travel search queries conducted in Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese, the performance of the search engines decline significantly and the accuracy of query resolution dips.

The Expedia Group and AI Singapore's project team are working to leverage natural language processing and machine learning to develop an AI-based model to enhance search query understanding and resolution in Japanese before extending the model to other Asian languages to enhance online search efficiency. When completed, the AI solution will enable Expedia Group to deepen its understanding of travel search query patterns and nuances in Asian languages, and equip the travel platform with the ability to better serve the needs of Asian travelers by improving the accuracy and efficiency of search query resolution.


AI Makerspace will help industries jump-start their AI journey by providing access to resources for experimentation, such as curated datasets from industry and government, cutting-edge AI tools, and supercomputing resources specialized for AI workloads.


The AI technologies typically used in the 100E projects are deep learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. The accompanying figure summarizes the spread of AI technology across 100E projects in the various economic sectors.

Over the next few years, AISG will focus on encouraging national and international research collaborations, accelerate the adoption of AI, and grow the AI talent pipeline for Singapore.

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Authors

Sintia Teddy-Ang is director of Planning and Operations at AI Singapore.

Abigail Toh is head of Marketing and Communications at AI Singapore.

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Footnotes

a. As of Dec 2019.

b. AISG's AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP) was awarded the 2019 IDC Singapore Digital Transformation Award for Talent Accelerator in Oct 2019.


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Article Contents:
  • Introduction
  • 100Experiments
  • Authors
  • Footnotes