Drowning detection at pools, personal alert buttons among new Smart Nation projects

Drowning detection at pools, personal alert buttons among new Smart Nation projects

Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan reiterates that amid different upcoming projects, the Government “definitely has to up its game in terms of security”.

Using technology to prevent drownings in swimming pools or sending help to the elderly in emergencies are just some of the latest projects being trialled as part of Singapore's Smart Nation push, said Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Oct 9).

SINGAPORE: Using technology to prevent drownings in swimming pools or sending help to the elderly in emergencies are just some of the latest projects being trialled as part of Singapore's Smart Nation push, said Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Oct 9).

Giving an update on the five strategic national projects underpinning the Smart Nation initiative, Dr Balakrishnan said under the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, trials are being conducted by Sport Singapore on the use of computer vision to help in the detection of people drowning in pools. 

The technology will also be used for continuous surveillance and help alert lifeguards should the need arises, he added.

Sport Singapore told Channel NewsAsia separately in an email that it commissioned the year-long trial of the computer vision drowning detection system at Hougang Swimming Complex, which started last December.

"We will share more details when the report is ready after the end of the trial," the agency added.

Another pilot is a personal alert button targetted at the elderly. Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister, said the alert button is meant to equip them with a lightweight, cost-effective and easily deployable tool to call for help when the need arises, such as when they fall down.


The minister also spoke at length on upcoming developments for Singapore’s National Digital Identity (NDI) system, including the launch of SingPass Mobile later this month. 

SingPass Mobile, he said, would bring another layer of security as users would be able to use their mobile phones’ biometric authentication such as facial recognition or fingerprint to log into Government services via the SingPass service. 

Another key project under the NDI system is MyInfo, which is a digital vault where users can store their personal details and use it to pre-fill forms. 

Dr Balakrishnan said as of today there are 110 Government services and 90 private sector services using the digital tool, with companies like UOB, DBS Bank, OCBC, M1 and StreetSine among those on board. 

From November this year, the Government is opening MyInfo up to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) to start their business online instantly, he pointed out. 

Private companies can tap on the NDI Developer and Partner Portal to access Web development application programming interface (APIs) to integrate to their online platforms, he added. 

StreetSine, for example, took just two months to integrate MyInfo to its services and accelerate the process of assessing the eligibility of home loans, Dr Balakrishnan said. 

StreetSine’s chief data officer Davin Wang said of MyInfo on the website: “The standardisation of the data collection and open access on MyInfo are game-changing benefits. Our partners understand that the information can be trusted and the business transaction is legally valid.”

Other updates on strategic national projects include:


Dr Balakrishnan said the whole intent behind the Government’s push for electronic payments is to “reduce transaction costs”.

As such, initiatives like the common SGQR code and promoting PayNow to both Government and private sector via PayNow Corporate are steps in this direction. Account-based ticketing, which is the use of contactless debit and credit cards to pay for train or bus fares next year is another, the minister said. 

With account-based ticketing, “queuing up to top up cards should be made redundant”, Dr Balakrishnan said. 

The effect of these initiatives is already being felt. The minister said that in the first six months of this year, the value of ATM cash withdrawals was 33 per cent that of FAST interbank transfers and card transactions, and the country is “on track” to achieve the target of bringing it down to 20 per cent by 2020. 

Smart urban mobility

The minister pointed to past announcements regarding the expansion of public trials for autonomous shuttles on Sentosa island and the six-month trial of on-demand public buses starting from this December as examples of the Government’s efforts in this area.

Another initiative that is coming up is the trial of hands-free ticketing technology for payments on public buses. 

This announcement, he said, is expected in the fourth quarter of this year and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will give more information then. 

LTA and ST Engineering had in June this year announced a six-month trial of the hands-free ticketing technology at four MRT stations.

It removes the need for commuters to tap their EZ-Link card at the fare gates through the use of a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) card or a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone with a dedicated application.

Moments of Life

As for the Moments of Life (MOL) project, Dr Balakrishnan said there have been more than 10,000 downloads of the Moments of Life (Families) app since its release at the end of June this year. 

Of these, more than 500 parents have used the app’s online birth registration feature, he added. 

Citizen-centric engagement with the app underpinned the app’s development, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) said then, and the minister said this continued to play out after the release. 

For instance, one new feature added from parents’ feedback was to have the function to search for institutions that accept the use of the Child Development Account (CDA) funds. 

The minister said there are plans to provide similar apps for different life stages and needs, such as for people’s deaths, but there are no details to be shared now. 


Amid the different updates and developments, Dr Balakrishnan was also asked how the Government intends to secure these Government services, particularly following the SingHealth cyberattack in June this year. 

The SingHealth incident was considered the country’s most serious breach of personal data, after 1.5 million of the healthcare service provider’s patients’ records were accessed and copied and 160,000 of those had their outpatient dispensed medicines’ records taken illegally. 

READ: SingHealth cyberattack the work of sophisticated, usually state-linked attackers: Iswaran

To this, the minister acknowledged that security is a “clear and present concern and it’s evolving”. 

He added that Singapore as a country is also subject to “sophisticated, advanced persistent threats”, which is why there is a need to take this issue “very, very seriously”. 

He pointed to how security has to be “baked into the roll-out of digital services” as a mindset that the public sector has to adopt, while user education and monitoring will need to continue. 

“We definitely have to up our game in terms of security,” the minister said, and added: “But we can’t go back to paper and pencil.”

This was also pointed out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech at the inaugural GovTech Stack Developer conference earlier this month.

Mr Lee said then that the SingHealth incident revealed internal weaknesses and lapses in IT systems and organisations, and the country has to improve and put them right. 

“We have to train up our people, institute robust processes, inculcate the right mindsets, and enforce accountability,” he said. 

“We must continually strike the right balance between security and usability but there are many things we can do to tighten processes and fix weaknesses without affecting the user experience.”

Source: CNA/aa