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SLA CE’s Speech at the Global Space & Technology Convention (GSTC) 2022

Good morning,

Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Gan Kim Yong;

Executive Chairman, SSTL Mr Jonathan Hung;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen

1.              I attended this conference for the first time last year and if you may recall, last year, we showed you an image of “The Jetsons”, which was iconic of the vision of a futuristic world – the marriage of space, technology and imagination.

2.              How do we challenge ourselves to build this futuristic world?

3.              It all starts from basic building blocks. I am always fascinated by the infinite possibilities of what kids, and even adults, build with Lego blocks.

4.              Imagine that the Jetsons were building this invention that could zoom through our futuristic cityscape. Which lego bricks do they need to build the Autonomous Vehicle or AV in short?

5.              How does the AV know where it is - using Precise GNSS or Global Navigation Satellite System – the absolute primary positioning lego block.

6.              What happens when the AV goes underground or indoors when there is no line of sight to satellites? The other lego block, LIDAR or Light Detection and Ranging comes into play.

7.              Precise GNSS positioning and High-Resolution 3D Mapping can be the basic “Lego” blocks for location intelligence to build our smart cities of tomorrow.

8.              With these building blocks, arising from SLA’s core competencies as the national geospatial agency of Singapore, we seek to inform, to inspire and to empower creativity and innovation, at all levels.

9.              If we make the building blocks available to our community, what will they build? Will we see gradual improvement of traditional solutions, or do we expect breakthroughs from fresh perspectives?

10.         SLA operates a reliable and resilient Singapore Satellite Positioning Reference NeTwork (SiReNT) infrastructure which streams and logs information from all major constellations to drastically improve GNSS accuracy from tens of metres to centimetres.

 11.         In addition, through our relentless geodata management including aerial mapping and mobile LASER Scanning, we run the national 3D Mapping programme. 3D Mapping brings to life a “mirror” digital twin which is continually kept up to date.

12.         While precise positioning enables us to know exactly where we are, it is the 3D mapping which allows us to see what lies around.

13.         LIDAR with SLA’s 3D mapping as a backdrop enables sustained localisation underground and indoors.

14.         For example, an autonomous vehicle may seamlessly drive from the road above ground into an underground tunnel, without ever losing track of its position, by propagating its position from GNSS absolute positioning to LIDAR positioning using precise point clouds which provide reference.

15.         Avoiding the paralysis of analysis, how do we move quickly from painting visions to solving real-world problems?

 16.         At Gardens by the Bay, where green sustainable technologies are interwoven with mother nature, innovation blossoms. Here, Asia’s first driverless Autonomous Vehicles (AV) which use SLA’s positioning infrastructure have been cruising along since 2015. The “Auto Rider” was developed by ST Engineering and operated by Willers.

17.         We are currently working with research partners, who utilise our infrastructure, to power their next generation of AV and robots. Autonomous buses up to twelve (12) metres long, carrying up to twenty-six (26) seated passengers had undergone trials at Jurong Island.

18.         In the upcoming MOU, SLA will collaborate with ST Engineering in working towards the seamless use of precise GNSS positioning and high-resolution 3D mapping for the ongoing development of autonomous vehicles (AV) to enable resilient localisation.

19.         Putting aside the lofty future, let us travel back to the present where we see immediate benefits.

20.         Which route did I jog today?

              Where is the nearest cab or grab car?

              How do we get to this conference?

              Location technology is taken for granted, working silently in our daily bustle.

21.         If we ever get “lost”, will we be “found” again?

Thanks to the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue Services (COSPAS-SARSAT), rest assured that we will always be “found” again, whether trekking at Bukit Timah Hills or remote Mount Kinabalu, even when there is no mobile cell coverage.

22.         For a personal travelogue of where we have been to, positions accurate to ten metres may be adequate.

23.         However, for mission-critical applications, how do we achieve pinpoint accuracy?

Where is the high-value goods in transit now?

Where are my property boundaries?

24.         SLA’s precise positioning infrastructure is the solution underpinning all of the above-mentioned.

25.         In fact, cadastral boundaries for property conveyancing rely on SiReNT for their absolute positions.

26.         Can piling machines be driven intelligently without first planting pegs?

Can automated monitoring and warning be issued for tower crane systems breaching their height limit?

27.         The solution to all of the above is yes – use SiReNT.

28.         How do we translate research into actionable value creation? How may SLA’s core competences in location intelligence empower companies and SMEs and help them emerge even stronger out of COVID-19?

29.         There are real world problem statements out there. With many working from home, how many times have we seen delivery riders upon reaching the residential estate but spends the last 5 min figuring out exactly where the delivery destination is – which lobby or entrance etc. This is time, cost savings and more effective fleet management.

30.         SLA had inked multiple MOUs with private sector players across the retail, real estate and transport/logistic sectors to catalyse the adoption of geospatial data and services. I am glad that last mile delivery companies such as Ninja Van are tapping on SLA’s expertise to streamline their operations.

31.         How do we entice and engage the younger generation to tinker with geo-technology? How do we get fresh perspectives, to think “from outside in” with a “clean slate”?

32.         SLA mentors interns from educational institutions. We whet their appetites in geospatial technology with gamification such as spotting hedge mazes in aerial photographs.

33.         Organising competitions such as the GNSS Innovation Challenge in partnership with SSTL for tertiary and junior college students, we empower the younger generations to start tinkering with geo-technology.

34.         We are encouraged to receive heart-warming entries from teams seeking to improve the lives of the underprivileged with special needs using positioning technology such as the example in the slide where a team from Victoria Junior College combines precise GNSS and magnetic positioning into a portable “intelligent white cane” device for simple intuitive operation. The “omni-sense” device not only detects obstacles but also verbally guides the visually impaired to navigate around our city independently.

35.         In addition, SLA will collaborate with SSTL on programmes and events beyond GNSS Innovation Challenge, to include workshops and space camps for the young generation in Singapore

36.         As a national critical infrastructure, will our economy be crippled if SLA’s positioning service becomes unavailable?

37.         How do we prevent potential disruption to GNSS positioning, arising from hostile deceptive signals?

38.         SLA is working with researchers in the academia from Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Glasgow University (Singapore) and University of Tokyo to develop capabilities to detect and thwart such attacks.

39.         How will climate change affect the place we work, live and play? Is the sea-level rising or is our land sinking?

40.         The holistic monitoring and understanding of Vertical Land Motion (VLM) and Sea Level Rise (SLR) is essential to enable pre-emptive prevention of disaster, so that we may implement coastal protection measures before it strikes.

41.         Utilising technology from satellites in space - Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (or InSAR in short), and precise GNSS, to detect and monitor Vertical Land Motion (VLM), SLA is working towards an operational climate change adaptation system.

42.         SLA in collaboration with Earth Observatory Singapore (EOS) embarked on a new technique – “GNSS-reflectometry”, to utilise traditionally discarded reflected GNSS signals for determining sea level rise, complementing the use of tide gauges which was the incumbent technique.

43.         High-end positioning technologies such as carrier-phase processing have trickled down to consumer devices, such as Android phones.

44.         What if Augmented Reality (AR) technology used to play the Pokemon game endows us with “X-ray vision”?

What if the excavator driver could “see” the existing services buried underneath during trench digging?

Could expensive mistakes and disruptions have been avoided?

45.         We keep hearing about the term metaverse. Is the metaverse too far-fetched or will there exist a version comprising a digital twin with elements of metaverse?

46.         We believe that 3D mapping which is the foundational enabler, captures reality and digitises our physical world into its digital twin, so that it supports digitalisation of our processes.

47.         We postulate that with the confluence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), immersive visualisation such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), the digital twin will no longer be just a mirror of the real world, but may evolve into the metaverse.

48.            What happens when we connect creative minds and cutting-edge space technologies? How will precise positioning and 3D mapping help shape our yet smarter cities of tomorrow?

49.         In our limited land with unlimited space, we hope to draw out limitless imagination and innovation as we challenge ourselves to build this futuristic world, with the basic lego blocks.

Thank you.