Singapore government kicks off 5G trials across multiple sectors

Various public-sector agencies have commenced 5G trials involving use cases for industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and construction, with plans for 15 pilots to run in Sentosa by year-end.

Singapore's public sector has kicked off 5G pilots involving uses cases for various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and construction. The government is targeting to run 15 live trials on the southern island of Sentosa by yer-end, before ramping this figure up to at least 30 by the first half of 2023. 

The first set of 10 already had started at Sentosa, with multiple agencies including the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), National Environment Agency (NEA) and Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technologies (Chart) under Changi General Hospital. 

These trials would see the use of 5G for autonomous robots, tele-operated vehicles, and augment reality applications, according to Government Technology Agency (GovTech), which is the public sector's CIO. 

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With Sentosa tapped as a testbed, it said the pilots would help drive 5G adoption on a large scale amongst government agencies and develop the local ecosystem ahead of nationwide standalone network rollouts in 2025. They would allow the public sector to trial use cases aimed at enhancing operational effectiveness and services, it added. 

5G also would further boost the collection and processing of sensor data in real-time via GovTech's Smart Nation Sensor Platform and introduce new operational support in areas such as traffic management and urban planning. 

Trials on the island would run on Singtel's network and edge cloud infrastructure, while Sentosa provided a unique environment in which applications and services for enterprise and lifestyle experience could be evaluated. 

GovTech's chief executive Kok Ping Soon said: "5G is a key component of the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, which allows us to tap the full potential of sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) systems to facilitate the real-time sharing of operational data, generate new insights, and deliver better citizen-centric public services."

The current 10 ongoing trials looked to leverage 5G's touted benefits of lower latency, higher speed, and broader bandwidth, GovTech said. 

For instance, BCA is working with the builder of Sentosa's North-South Link project, Gammon, to test the use of 5G for construction applications. The trial include the deployment of fully autonomous robots with mounted 3D laser scanner so work can be remotely monitored as well as drones with live video feeds to aid site inspection. Augmented reality technology also is used for real-time quality control of building installations. 

The use of mixed reality (MR) technology will further enable users to visualise and guide installation works, by overlaying a digital model virtually on actual physical worksite through a wearable head-mounted display. This allows the user to obtain geometry alignments during installation. As the operation requires very low latency and high bandwidth, 5G networks will be able to users to access real-time inputs from the cloud server into the head-mounted displays, allowing for a smoother site inspection experience. 

Noting that 5G could drive robotics and automation, BCA's programme director of digitalisation Tan Kee Wee said: "Such applications typically require a large amount of data to be transmitted in real-time, which 5G would be able to support. We are excited to see the results of these trials on how 5G technology can improve site productivity and safety, transforming the way we build."

NEA is partnering Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to trial the tele-operation of autonomous environmental service vehicles used for road-sweeping. The high bandwidth and low latency facilitated by 5G will enable live camera feeds to be streamed from the vehicle to the off-site operator. Haptic feedback and vehicular commands also can be transmitted. 

In the trial with Changi General Hospital's Chart, a robotics platform would be jointly developed with Integrated Health Information Systems, Open Robotics, and Hope Technik, to respond to mass casualty events. 

In such scenarios, medical crew would perform identification and triaging of casualties into different prioritisation zones. With 5G, information on the casualties would be digitally logged and tracked by a system integrated with the robotics platform through a smart tag. Critical information needed for identification and administering of medical care, such as medical history and diagnosis, could be accessed via the system. 

Aided by robotics technologies and an intelligent dashboard, the system would provide an overview that to facilitate quicker decision making on-site and could be further integrated with hospital platforms to enable seamless flow of critical information.

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