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[Media Release] Home Team's Force Multiplier to keep Singapore Safe and Secure through Science and Tech

[Media Release]

 

HTX – HOME TEAM’S FORCE MULTIPLIER TO KEEP SINGAPORE SAFE AND SECURE THROUGH SCIENCE AND TECH

1,300-strong HTX will develop S&T capabilities to solve crimes, save lives, secure borders, safeguard public spaces

Singapore, 2 December 2019 – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially launched the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX), a statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs, today. HTX will harness science and technology (S&T) to exponentially enhance the Home Team’s operations to keep Singapore safe and secure. It will be the Home Team’s Force Multiplier.

The 1,300-strong HTX is an amalgamation of S&T units from the various Home Team Departments, e.g., the Police, SCDF, ICA, Prisons, CNB, and Ministry HQ. HTX will integrate a full range of S&T capabilities in homeland security to solve crimes, save lives, secure borders and safeguard our public spaces. Information on some of the technologies that are being developed by HTX is in Annex A. 

HTX’s scientists and engineers will work hand-in-hand with the Home Team’s operational forces on the ground. In so doing, they will understand intimately the challenges faced and are better able to anticipate the S&T needs of Home Team Departments. It is thus well-positioned to develop customized solutions for use by the Home Team and grow new and deep organic capabilities in S&T for homeland security. Some of HTX’s capabilities include biometrics, smart sensors and robotics. More information about the range of HTX capabilities is in Annex B. 

Building on the Home Team’s current partnerships and collaborations, and fostering new ones with industry, research institutions, academia and start-ups, HTX will be able to integrate new and good ideas to augment the Home Team’s capabilities. HTX will also help to manage the Home Team’s procurement functions.

HTX will facilitate greater co-operation and synergy across the entire homeland security ecosystem, and galvanise the different Home Team Departments to work together even more effectively. This will augment the One Home Team concept and empower Home Team Departments to support one another in their common mission to keep Singapore safe and secure.

HTX Leadership

Mr Chan Tsan is the chief executive of HTX. He is concurrently the Deputy Secretary (Development) at Ministry of Home Affairs. HTX has a Board of Directors made up of 13 leaders in industry, academia and the Home Team. It is chaired by Mr Chew Hock Yong, the Permanent Secretary (Development), Ministry of Home Affairs and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social & Family Development.

 

 

 

Annex A

INFORMATION SHEET ON TECHNOLOGIES AT THE “SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR A SAFE AND SECURE SINGAPORE” EXHIBITION

 

A. Solving Crimes with Science & Technology

1. Latent Fingerprinting: Getting More Out Of Fingerprints 

Latent print enhancement and analysis is an essential forensic science tool to identify suspects and victims.  In our pursuit to push the boundaries of forensics science, the HTX Forensics Centre of Expertise worked with Nanyang Technological University to develop an innovative method to extract more than a person’s identity from the prints and obtain investigative leads from smudged and low quality latent prints, surpassing the capabilities of conventional latent fingerprint examination.

The new method uses a novel nanopowder formulation and a method of analysis via mass spectrometry to obtain further investigative leads off such prints. After the print is dusted and lifted, it is fed into a mass spectrometer to detect the residues of interest, including those from explosives, narcotics and drug metabolites, and even endogenous secretions that determine the gender and ethnicity of the fingerprint donor. We also plan to expand its capabilities to include lifestyle biomarkers, which will further supplement intelligence.

When implemented in one-two years’ time, there will be automated protocols to process and analyse data obtained from the prints. Home Team officers will be able to retrieve targeted information on their own without relying on forensics officers.   

Singapore is one of a few security agencies in the world pursuing this research.

 

2. Lab-On-Chip DNA Phenotyping: Generating Leads Better & Quicker

Conventional DNA analysis treats DNA samples from crime scenes as markers to match with known individuals. However, when met with a suspect who is a ‘cleanskin’, meaning the suspect was not known, or when the DNA is too degraded, conventional methods will not be effective in the identification of suspects.

To overcome the current limitation of DNA analysis. HTX Forensics Centre of Expertise is working with Veredus Labs to develop a DNA Phenotyping Lab-On-Chip technology to amplify DNA and identify unique forensic markers such as gender, blood type and blood group, and biogeographical grouping technology. This approach utilises microfluidic technology, which means only a small amount of fluid is required to run multiple analysis simultaneously, all within a thumbnail-sized chip. Using this method, in the event that a match cannot be found, the analysis can still provide quick and key information about the donor to support investigations. The entire analysis takes less than 3 hours, which is a considerable improvement in efficiency compared to conventional method of analysis, which can take up to a day.

The Lab-on-Chip system comes in a compact form, which offers potential for deployment for real-time analysis at the crime scene. We aim to implement the capability in 2020 to support the Home Team’s operations. We are also working towards patenting the technology within the next few years. 

 

3. Digital Forensic Kiosk & DIGEST: Digital Forensics On-Demand 

In our push to increase the efficiency of digital forensics support for investigations, the HTX Digital and Information Forensics Centre of Expertise will be introducing the Digital Forensic Kiosk and DIGEST, a new Digital Evidence Search Tool, to help Home Team transform how it undertakes investigations involving electronic devices and media. This new approach enables the frontline officers who are untrained in forensics to conduct evidence review on their own and generating leads faster.

The Digital Forensic Kiosk extracts contents from various evidence sources such as mobile phone, storage media and other devices. The Kiosk is a self-service platform for officers to easily retrieve and analyse information from digital devices. Designed specifically for non-technical users, the Kiosk will assist officers to scan for possible evidence based on the type of case or data.

We are also in the midst of developing DIGEST, a Digital Evidence Search Tool, to complement the Forensic Kiosk. DIGEST will automate the forensic processing of voluminous data. The system works by ingesting the data required for examination. Once the data is processed, the officer will be notified and he/she will be able to access DIGEST at any time to review the data via a user-friendly interface and generate a customised report.


B. Saving Lives with Science & Technology

Bio-inspired Robots for Search and Rescue Missions 

Urban search and rescue scenarios are extremely dangerous, particularly when entering buildings where no prior intelligence is available. The HTX Robotics, Automation and Unmanned Systems (RAUS) Centre of Expertise is exploring the adoption of biologically-inspired robots to function as first responders to support disaster rescue efforts and save lives. One of the robots is a four-legged robot that resembles a dog, aptly named Rover-X and the other a life-detection robot that crawls. Both robots have the ability to move and manoeuver like their biological counterparts, which is advantageous for deployment to unstructured hazardous terrain and places that are unsafe for humans.

 

1. Rover-X (Robotic Dog)

Rover-X is capable of walking on different types of terrains as well as climbing stairs. It has life detection capabilities. We have customised the robot with technologies such as thermal cameras and sensors to reduce the time required for effective life detection.  We are also equipping Rover-X with the capabilities to map its surroundings and navigate autonomously with minimal operator intervention. Rover-X is a collaboration between HTX, Ghost Robotics and Klass Engineering and Solutions.

 

2. Life Detection Robot 

The Life detection Robot is able to crawl through tightly packed debris and rubble. Equipped with thermal camera for detecting heat signature; sensors for detecting human metabolites; and HD cameras and microphone for visual and audio detection, the robot is capable of search and detection of life in a disaster zone. A salient feature of the robot is its on-board laser range finder capable of re-producing 3D maps of the explored environment to generate paths for the rescuers. Currently, this prototype, a collaboration with Hibot, is going through evaluation trials for further refinement.

 

C. Safeguarding Public Spaces with Science & Technology

1. XENTINEL: Countering Drones On-Wheels 

Traditionally, countering drone threats requires the deployment of a team of officers in the vicinity of the incident location or event space to detect drones with the use of ‘human-in-the-loop” sensor capabilities. Should interdiction be required, the officers are equipped with “drone jammer guns”. This mode of operation is labour intensive, and requires significant resources for larger locations and events.  Reliance on human senses limits the detection of the drones at several hundreds of meters at best, with very short time windows for effective interdiction. 

The HTX XENTINEL Mobile Response Vehicle, developed by the HTX Land Systems Centre of Expertise, is the first of its kind counter-drone vehicle. The XENTINEL has capabilities to detect drones up to 1km, thus allowing officers to have more time for effective interdiction, if required.  XENTINEL is designed to be ready within minutes and only requires one officer to operate, therefore creating a multiplier effect to our counter-drone capabilities.

In the next few months, the XENTINEL will be qualified for roadworthiness and ready for operational trials with the SPF. We foresee the development and trial evaluation to complete within a year.

XENTINEL is a joint collaboration between HTX, DSO and ST Engineering. 

 

2. Drone Box concept with UAVs flown Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)

HTX RAUS Centre of Expertise is currently exploring an advanced mode of unmanned flight operation using a Drone Box concept. Drones can operate autonomously from a backend Command and Control or C2 Centre, and can fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). This will expand the capabilities and capacities of the Home Team to deploy drones for long-range complex operations out-of-sight from the drone operator.   

Autonomous drones facilitate the viewing of difficult-to-access areas, providing a safer and more cost efficient way of gaining greater insights in critical operations. Without the need for an on-site operator, these drones can operate safely in the most hazardous and remote sites. There is huge potential for BVLOS application in public safety, search and rescue and delivery of supplies.

RAUS is currently working with Home Team departments to design and customize a BVLOS solution for their specific needs and requirements. For instance, we are exploring the use of such technology to deliver Automated External Defibrillators to achieve a shorter response time. 

The solution from Airobotics, featured at the HTX Launch Exhibition, is one of the Drone Box solutions HTX is exploring at the moment.

 

 


Annex B

INFORMATION SHEET ON CENTRES OF EXPERTISE

 

1. Biometrics and Profiling

Biometrics and Profiling advances technology adoption standards and R&D efforts in biometric identity management, credibility assessment, and the classification of intent. We support front-line officers by improving their decision-making abilities to authenticate the identities of human subjects, sieving out those with malicious intent, in an efficient and non-intrusive manner.

 

2. CBRNE

CBRNE develops capabilities and proprietary technologies in Operations, Research, Technology Deployment and Training in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) against the entry of threats, whether it is a civilian or terrorist threat in nature. As a dedicated team of scientists and engineers, we operate a network of CBRNE laboratories round-the-clock to support ICA for border security, as well as SPF and SCDF for CBRNE-related investigations.

 

3. Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I)

C4I drives the development of C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) systems across the entire Home Team by integrating various technological solutions to gather relevant data, share information and communicate it in the most effective and efficient manner. C4I is key to the enabling of the One Home Team approach in joint operations.

 

4. Cybersecurity

The Cyber Security Centre of Expertise steers the development of a comprehensive suite of cybersecurity services and technologies to protect Home Team’s ICT systems against cybersecurity threats. We also develop strategic partnerships with an ecosystem of partners across industry, research and academia to advance and innovate new S&T Cybersecurity capabilities as force multipliers for Home Team Operations.

 

5. Data Science and AI

The Data Science and AI Centre of Expertise develops technologies that are deployed in Policing, Counter-Terrorism, Emergency Medical Services and Fire-fighting, Border Operations, Rehabilitation, Corrections, and Drug Control, to enable them to harness immense amounts of information and make more informed decisions to improve internal and mission-based operations.   

 

6. Digital and Information Forensics

The Digital and Information Forensics pushes the boundaries of digital investigation with the adoption of cutting-edge technologies to enable the Home Team to acquire and analyse digital evidence effectively. We employ a multi-disciplinary approach involving on-scene, laboratory, and digital forensics, to maximise evidence recovery and analysis to produce fast and actionable leads for our investigators, enabling them to solve crimes more expediently.

 

7. Forensics

The Forensics Centre of Expertise develops forefront capabilities to provide scientific and technological forensic analyses and deliver accurate and prompt intelligence for crimes to be solved faster. We support the Home Team Departments by providing forensic analyses and intelligence in crime scene investigations and criminalistics, DNA, narcotics, fire and document forensics. Leveraging on the growth of emerging forensic science and intelligence capabilities, we ensure that the Home Team is adequately positioned and appropriately resourced to deal with a shifting law enforcement environment.

 

8. Human Factors and Simulation

Human Factors and Simulation drives the application of a human-centric approach to machines, systems, work processes, and environments that aims to boost performance, productivity and safety in Home Team operations. Our work is focused on three key—Human Augmentation and Exercise Science, Human-Technology User Interface-User Experience (UI-UX) and Extended Reality (XR) Simulation Systems. Human Augmentation and Exercise Science develops innovative solutions to boost endurance, operational performance and minimise injury and fatigue for our frontline officers. Human-Technology UI-UX studies how human interacts with machines to promote better user experience and process efficiency. XR Simulation Systems supports the development of interactive and immersive training environments that mirrors real-life situations to better prepare the frontline officers for dangerous and demanding situations. 

 

9. Land Systems

Helming the development of new high tech vehicles and weapons is HTX’s Land Systems Centre of Expertise. Land Systems leads the exploration and adoption of technologies on vehicular platforms, weapon systems, and armament to support Home Team in tactical operations on the ground. Combining innovation and technical excellence, we design and customize robust platforms integrated with cutting-edge technologies to respond to emergencies, and deter and disrupt threats with better precision and speed. 

 

10. Marine Systems

Marine Systems is a technological hub for Maritime Security as well as Fire Fighting and Rescue at Sea. We work with the Home Team Departments to strategise and plan for future needs and support them to resolve technical challenges in their everyday operations to keep Singapore safe and secure. Our cutting-edge marine craft technologies enables our front line departments—PCG, to secure our borders and defend against intrusions; as well as for SCDF, to effectively fight fires and handle Chemical, Biological and Radiological incidents at sea.

 

11. Protective Security and Safety

HTX’s Protective Security and Safety Centre of Expertise develops long-term capabilities and solutions to protect Singapore’s critical infrastructure, high profile developments and major security events from terrorist threats and to address fire safety risks in buildings.  Our three domains—Protective Security Engineering, Fire Safety Engineering, and Shelters and Civilian Protection—work in tandem to keep our buildings and public spaces safe.

 

12. Robots, Automation and Unmanned Systems 

Robots, Automation and Unmanned Systems constantly pushes the limits of machine-human collaboration to enable Home Team officers to do more with lesser human resource and drive greater efficiency in Home Team operations. We develop technological solutions such as robots, drones and counter-drone systems, to support the Home Team Departments in policing, search and rescue and firefighting. Innovative automation solutions are also being developed for various operational tasks to allow manpower to be deployed for higher value-add work. 

 

13. Sense-making and Surveillance

Sense-making and Surveillance innovates visual, audio, and other non-visual sensing solutions to support the Home Team in crime deterrence, crime solving, and the delivery of more efficient and coordinated responses to incidents. The primary focus of our work lies in the development of different surveillance technologies integrated with Artificial Intelligence to strengthen our homeland and border security. We also support Home Team Transformation initiatives such as the ‘Prison Without Guards’ concept, where technology is used to pick up patterns of abnormal behaviour in prison cells allowing for earlier intervention before incidents happen.