(Photo credit: Switch Singapore 2017 Facebook page)
By Yamini Chinnuswamy
Do Singapore companies have what it takes to take on the world’s technology disruptors?
The answer is a resounding yes!
At the second edition of the Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH) held from 18-20 September, these five promising local start-ups were among more than 300 exhibitors from around the world displaying their bold, game-changing ideas. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Taiger: Building smarter chatbots with “humanistic AI”
Artificial intelligence (AI) company Taiger was born in Austria, grew up in Spain, and is now making its mark in Asia from right here in Singapore.
Founder and CEO of Taiger Sinuhe Arroyo in a screenshot from an IMDA video.
Founded in 2009, the company specialises in developing “humanistic” virtual assistants, or chatbots, using computational semantics as well as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning.
“We apply four out of the seven disciplines of AI, including the lesser-known knowledge representation and reasoning. It’s a vastly different approach compared to most other AI companies, which tend to focus on data-intensive machine learning,” said Han Jiamin, Sales Manager at Taiger.
“A typical chatbot requires thousands of interactions before it gets up to standard. Our humanistic approach contextualises information, understands it, and teaches a system to understand it just like you and I do. That’s why we don’t require a ton of data and information — just like you and I don’t require a ton of information or millions of practices to get division right,” added Jiamin.
Basically, Taiger’s virtual assistants can read and understand information like a human does, and process and transform complex queries and data into useful information for businesses.
One of Taiger’s chatbots, called iConverse, can even process queries made in Singlish!
The chatbot, which works with major messaging apps such as Telegram, LINE and WeChat, is already being used by the Housing Development Board to answer customer queries on season parking and housing programmes.
While Taiger’s clients mainly come from financial institutions and government agencies locally and globally, Jiamin explained that the company’s solutions are versatile and can be adapted for any industry.
CashShield: Protecting businesses from fraud
Founded in 2008, CashShield is a global online fraud management company accredited by IMDA that has achieved tremendous success working with clients around the world, such as T-Mobile, Vodafone, Razer and 37Games.
The CashShield team in a meeting. (IMDA video screenshot.)
Its product – a fully automated real-time fraud-prevention solution – helps enterprises manage risks against fraudulent payments and accounts.
Melvane Ong, the company’s Head of Strategic Partnerships, explained that the strength of the company’s platform is in three aspects: passive biometric analytics, high frequency trading algorithms, and real-time pattern recognition.
“With our passive biometric analytics, we’re able to track user behaviour online in a passive and non-invasive manner; for example, observing the movement of their mouse or the timing between their key strokes,” Melvane said. “By tracking these minute changes, we are able to make decisions in real time on whether a user is legitimate or not, and distinguish between genuine and fraudulent transactions.”
According to Melvane, with these capabilities, the company does not need data scientists or fraud analysts as the algorithms are able to self-learn in real time.
The solution also looks at every transaction in terms of the risk-to-return ratio.
“For example, we often explain to our clients that by increasing fraud rate from 0.1 to 0.2 per cent, they could potentially increase their revenue by 20 per cent. So although there’s that additional risk, the client may find it worthwhile as we are also opening up their revenue streams,” he added.
DC Frontiers: Providing intelligent data
Companies are frequently made or broken based on their partnerships with other businesses.
DC Frontiers co-founders Charles Poon (left) and Daryl Neo (right) in a photo opportunity with Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary.
Handshakes — a corporate intelligence platform developed by IMDA-accredited fintech company, DC Frontiers — seeks to give enterprises the information they need about their potential business partners, customers, and even competitors.
“On our platform today, we bring together every kind of company — from sole proprietorships to private limited companies to listed companies — in Singapore, Malaysia and partially Hong Kong, into one connected network. It does not stop there as we are expanding to cover Indonesia, China and India next,” said Shawn Leong, Director of Client Coverage of DC Frontiers, which was set up in 2011 in Singapore.
Soon after launching Handshakes in 2013, DC Frontiers secured a license with Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) to resell corporate registry information. The company then established similar partnerships in Malaysia and the region.
“All this official information is curated automatically using our AI system. But the true challenge is in integrating different data sets together, say, Singapore data with Malaysia data. That’s the magic and unique value that we bring to clients — the ability to fuse these discrete data sets together,” Shawn said.
Handshakes is also capable of accurately reading, extracting and validating all the relevant information contained within documents — such as annual reports and public disclosures — and merging them seamlessly with data from ACRA and other databases.
This combination of data can help businesses multiply efficiency in their compliance, due diligence and business lead generation functions.
“Our vision for the future is to make data accessible to everyone in a meaningful way,” added Shawn.
Imme VR: Bringing spaces to life
Once upon a time, designers, architects and property developers had to rely on hand-drawn sketches to communicate their vision to customers.
Over the years, that progressed to rendering digital sketches, animated walkthroughs — and now, augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR respectively).
Imme VR, a local company, started out providing animation services for the real estate sector. It recently began moving to VR upon requests from their clients in the sector, which include architects, designers and property developers.
Team Imme VR exhibiting at the Switch 2017 conference. (Photo credit: SWITCH Singapore 2017 Facebook page)
The company leverages its comprehensive image and model library for home/property designs – born out of years of experience in the real estate sector and providing a level of detail and range that is not offered by most general VR vendors – to help clients turn their real estate ideas into (virtual) reality.
Detailed 3D models and images are highly sought after for VR and AR projects as developing them from scratch is a laborious and time-intensive process.
“Once a design is confirmed, a client can ask us to replicate it into different VR [platforms], according to his or her budget,” said Sophie Wong, Business Manager at Imme VR. These platforms include the high-end Oculus Rift system or Cardboard, Google’s low-cost alternative.
“Additionally, our prior experience in real-estate animation means we are well-versed with what architects, designers and property developers want.”
The 15-person team recently worked on a project with an international hotel chain, which involved turning their plans and blueprints for a new hotel project into an immersive VR experience — a more comprehensive and flexible approach than a typical, physical showroom.
An aspect of the platform that’s still a work in progress is AR visualisation.
“Once a client confirms the design and gives us the floor plan, our studio will transform it into a 3D piece,” Sophie said.
“Once that’s done, the idea is to allow our clients to scan the floor plan — even a hand-sketched version of it — on their phones and let buyers ‘virtually’ experience the layout of a particular room using VR goggles.”
Sophie explained how this works: For instance, if a buyer is interested to purchase a unit of a condominium that’s still under construction, a developer simply needs to scan the floor plan on his mobile phone to let the buyer virtually experience the unit’s space and layout using VR goggles, instead of setting up an expensive and static showroom that potential customers have to physically visit.
In essence, Imme VR’s technology brings the showroom to the client.
KroniKare: Diagnosing wounds with smartphones
Diabetes, along with other major chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, is a leading factor in the cause of chronic wounds, such as foot and leg ulcers.
Such wounds, if left untreated or misdiagnosed, could result in amputations – contributing to the sobering statistic that every 30 seconds, a leg is amputated somewhere in the world due to diabetes.
Assessing a single chronic wound is a time-consuming and low-tech process: it takes about 30 minutes per wound, and disposable paper rulers are currently used to measure wound dimensions.
Mr Hossein Nejati at the KroniKare booth at SWITCH 2017. (Photo credit: SWITCH Singapore 2017 Facebook page)
While half an hour may not seem like much time, the shortage of healthcare professionals and high rates of diabetes in Singapore and around the world make it a struggle to keep up. “Usually, nurses need to travel to discharged patients’ homes to check on the wound. Fifty per cent of diabetic wounds get infected because they were not monitored enough. Because these are [as a result of] chronic diseases, it’s a real and heavy risk for a lot of patients,” said Hossein Nejati, KroniKare Founder and CTO.
This is where local AI start-up KroniKare comes in.
It has developed an AI mobile application that can more accurately assess chronic wounds, present a preliminary assessment to healthcare professionals, and help collate the data for future insights.
The application is equipped with an infrared camera add-on and is powered by machine learning, image processing and data science technologies.
“The app can also detect complications; for example, if there’s an infection in the wound. We’re also able to customise reports according to the formats or templates used by hospitals,” he added.
Patients too can use the app; they just need to take a five-second clip of their wound, which is analysed within 30 seconds. Based on the video, the app can estimate the size and depth of the wound, so that patients can get help.
The collated data is sent to a back-end dashboard, including patient history and past cases. Larger datasets can then be made, which head nurses and medical directors can use to get answers to bigger-picture medical questions – for instance, to get a holistic look at the occurrences of infected wounds in patients as well as what foods they have consumed, or if the occurrence and recurrence of chronic wounds have worsened or improved over a given period of time.
Currently, KroniKare is running the solution in partnership with St Andrew’s Community Hospital.
The company plans to roll out the “snap-and-diagnose solution” sometime next year, and hopes to work with more hospitals, nursing homes and patients.