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Singtel ties up with academia in AI and IoT research

Agreements with Singapore’s national research agency and a local university will expand Singtel’s product range and grow the country’s capabilities in emerging technologies

Singtel has inked a five-year pact with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to bolster Singapore’s capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), the internet-of-things (IoT), data analytics and robotics.

As part of the deal, a S$42.4m (US$31.5m) lab to be funded by NTU and Singapore’s National Research Foundation will be set up to build applications and conduct research in areas such as public safety, transportation, healthcare and manufacturing.

The research output is expected to help city-planners better maintain public infrastructure through the use of sensors and AI to reduce maintenance cost, among other goals.

Singtel, Southeast Asia’s largest telco, said it expects to expand its product range and that of its IT services subsidiary NCS through the NTU partnership, which will bring together some 100 researchers from Singtel and NTU. Another 200 research engineers, graduate and undergraduate students will also be trained in the corporate lab.

Meanwhile, Singtel will also work with Singapore’s national research agency, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), to develop building automation systems as well as robotics and IoT applications to improve industrial efficiency.

In the biochemical industry, for example, robots can be deployed to handle biohazardous waste, so employees can take on higher-end work such as research and development (R&D). These and other technologies are expected to be tested on Singtel’s narrowBand-IoT and 5G networks in a new testing facility to be set up in 2018.

Singtel’s group CEO Chua Sock Koong said the R&D work that the telco is spearheading comes at a time when multiple devices in homes and offices become increasingly connected.

“Industry research expects rapid growth for IoT in the next three years, with connected devices climbing to 21 billion globally by 2020 from about 6.4 billion this year,” she said at a media event on 4 December 2017.

Read more about IoT and AI in APAC

  • A Boston-based supplier of artificial intelligence tools is investing around $11m in a regional office and research outfit in Singapore.
  • Over a quarter of Aussies are now ready to use an internet-connected device, such as a virtual assistant or connected fridge, to make payments on their behalf.
  • Malaysia is exploring the use of IoT for agriculture in ASEAN, driven by collaboration between government and the private sector.
  • Nearly half of Asia-Pacific manufacturers will have fully connected factories by 2022.

“While this presents significant opportunities for the telecommunications and technology industries, this also means we need to fast-track our innovation initiatives so that we can deploy more applications to power these devices,” she added.

“To achieve this, we are also constantly building our talent pool so that we have sufficient manpower to work on these new growth areas. We are recruiting fresh graduates and retraining our existing employees in our Cyber Security Institute and the 5G Centre of Excellence that we recently set up with Ericsson.”

Over the past year, businesses across the Asia-Pacific region have started to dip their toes into AI and IoT to improve operations and stay competitive, from Singapore’s Goodwine Group with its use of stock-taking mobile devices, to Japan’s Keifuku Bus which is using sensor-laden shirts to identify bus drivers with signs of fatigue.

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