Agile development to combat COVID-19
By the Smart Nation Platform Solutions (SNPS) team
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Singapore in late January, the Smart Nation Platform Solutions (SNPS) team quickly developed solutions to support the nation’s efforts to combat the virus. These include a smart thermal scanner for mass temperature screening and a dashboard for managing safe distancing operations.
Creating scalable platforms that can be reused and adapted for numerous applications is key to our development philosophy. Two platforms within the Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) technology stack were key to our rapid deployment of COVID applications: Digital Operations Smart Services (DOSS) and Sensesurround.
By building applications upon these two core components of the SNSP stack, we managed to condense the development time significantly.
A quick and reliable thermal scanner
Temperature monitoring for signs of fever is one of the key measures implemented during this period to keep Singapore safe. The temperature screening process needs to be fast and seamless to minimise congestion in venues with high footfall, such as shopping malls, offices and places of worship.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we observed that venue owners had to either deploy more manpower to manually take the temperature of each visitor or purchase costly thermal scanners to speed up the process. Our own experience of having to wait in line for our temperatures to be taken before we can enter any building spurred us to build a low-cost thermal scanner that can help save time and manpower for venue owners.
To do this, we used the Digital Operations Smart Services (DOSS) platform to develop SPOTON, a hybrid Artificial Intelligence (AI) thermal scanner, producing the first prototype within a week.
DOSS, an operations management platform for static and mobile sensor platforms (including robotics), is a core component of the SNSP stack. The platform uses machine learning and deep learning to enable a range of real-time analytic functionalities, including object detection, object tracking and scene understanding. To find out more about DOSS, read our lead engineer Jia Yi’s blog post here.
To develop SPOTON, we sourced low-cost commercial hardware (an RGB-Depth camera and long-wave infrared sensor) and combined them with our own DOSS deep learning-based software. As a small and lightweight device, SPOTON can be easily deployed for both indoors and outdoors with a simple calibration process.
Instead of manually pointing a temperature scanner at each person entering a location, staff can set up SPOTON at an entrance to quickly and easily scan up to 10 people at a time, with a colour-coded temperature indicator for each person detected.
When high temperatures are detected, automated alarms and e-mail alerts are activated, minimising physical contact and time spent on manual temperature checks.
We first trialled SPOTON at NTUC Club’s Eat Box Event in February 2020, which was attended by 32,000 people over two weekends. We have since worked with various government agencies to deploy 50 units of SPOTON at various locations including the Supreme Court, Ministry of Education headquarters, Our Tampines Hub, Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility, HDB branch offices and mosques.
Since September 2020, we have also licensed the SPOTON version 1.0 software to four Singapore-based distributors to meet the urgent demand for thermal scanners in Singapore.
Real-time visualisation for efficient decision-making
Another important effort to control the spread of the virus is to ensure safe distancing measures and crowd control. As a nation-wide effort involving many different agencies, inter-agency coordination is a significant task.
Here, we made use of our Sensesurround platform to build our SenseOps dashboard to provide agencies a holistic overview of the situation on the ground.
SenseOps’ base technology, Sensesurround, is a command and control (C2) platform that translates real-time sensor data into a searchable, actionable 3D digital world. By ingesting and fusing different spatial-temporal datasets, Sensesurround presents a real-time 3D digital environment that reflects the happenings in Singapore at any time and location, enabling decision-makers to gain situational awareness and make data-driven decisions in real time.
The SenseOps dashboard uses this technology to pull in relevant real-time data from different sources, including safe distancing cases and crowd population, and integrate them on a single platform for easy visualisation and sharing across multiple agencies.
The purpose of this dashboard is to streamline complex data into clear visual maps to help with decision-making, especially in situations that require timely and informed decisions to be made. For example, automated reports with built-in charts and graphs provide clarity, reducing time and effort to consolidate information manually.
With SenseOps, key decision-makers can identify hotspots and plan the deployment of officers and ambassadors on the ground. With insights from past trends, they can also calibrate enforcement strategies, so that enforcement is more targeted.
Flexible and scalable solutions
With the flexibility and scalability of the SNSP stack, we were able to respond to the sudden pandemic with remarkable speed. At the same time, the products and services developed for COVID-19 offer a glimpse into the longer-term capabilities that the SNPS team is developing for Smart Nation.
To learn more about the technologies developed by the SNPS team, visit the Developer Portal or contact us at email@example.com