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A Quick Peek into the Future

last updated 03 November 2017
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Curious about what went on at the InnovFest unBound exhibition area? We bring you some cool highlights.

Scores of unique tech inventions, many of them designed locally, were on display at the InnovFest unBound exhibition which was part of this year’s week-long Smart Nations Innovations programme. 

The packed exhibition areas of InnovFest unBound were bustling with plenty of cool tech and thrilling demos.

We share some of the more interesting ones that gave a sneak peek into the future of tech.

Automated Guided Vehicles, Roll Out!

You don't need to be movie director Michael Bay to transform ordinary trolleys into automated bots.

Just add Axon, a revolutionary add-on kit that transforms ordinary wheeled platforms into intelligent automated guided vehicles (AVGs). 

Axon

Mr Hoe Yeen Teck from CtrlWorks: Axon can be used in the manufacturing industry to move materials around a warehouse or on the production floor.

It was developed by Singapore-based robotics startup CtrlWorks, which specialises in cloud-based applications with a focus on autonomous guidance and navigation systems.

“Axon can be used, for example, in the manufacturing industry to move materials around a warehouse or on the production floor. We also foresee applications in the hospitality and health-care industries,” said CtrlWorks’ Chief Executive Officer Mr Hoe Yeen Teck. 

With its low-powered onboard CPU, Axon is able to auto-navigate and avoid obstacles, as well as auto-dock for charging. It has a carrying capacity of around 300kg.

AVG technology is usually seen as costly with complex mapping capabilities and algorithms that consume massive processing power. However, Axon uses a proprietary cloud navigation engine, CloudNav, to offload the most computationally-intensive algorithms to the cloud through a wireless network. 

This helps keep hardware cost and power requirements low.

“The system is intelligent enough to recognise changes to its operating environment. If a new wall comes up or if there is an obstruction in its path, one Axon immediately informs all the others of the change automatically so there is no need for each to be reprogrammed,” said Mr Hoe.

It took the company three years to design Axon and most of the units sold so far have gone to local MNCs. However the company hopes to change that soon when it ventures into the United States and China.

Data Farming

Growing vegetables in Singapore is set for a major smart upgrade, using the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and data analytics to modernise the way intensive urban farming is done.

“With our automated systems, the crop yield can be 20 times higher than traditional farming methods which require significant space and manpower,” said Mr Vincent Wei, the co-founder of urban farm tech company Archisen.

Archisen

Mr Vincent Wei from Archisen: With the automated urban farming systems, the crop yield can be 20 times higher than traditional farming methods.

The company has two types of closed systems for indoor and outdoor high-rise farming. Sensors measure light, temperature, wind and moisture levels, creating optimal growing conditions while drip-irrigation and hydroponics feed the plants automatically, ensuring consumers get high-quality pesticide-free vegetables.

Crop-specific analytics are also used to ensure that the needs of each species are catered for to maximise growth, quality and taste. 

A cloud-based software platform crunches that data which is then pushed wirelessly to the urban farmer reducing the need for frequent manual checks especially during the crucial growing stages. 

“Our self-sustaining system provides a controlled environment for farming, removing the guesswork and the unpredictability of nature,” said Mr Wei.

Uber-cool taxi to grab the hot market

Electric cars are no strangers to Singapore, but one company hopes to market a green vehicle specifically targeted at taxi operators in tropical megacities like our little island.

“The hot climate here can reduce the efficiency of batteries in traditional electric vehicles (EVs). With the Eva Taxi, we have built in a special cooling system,” said Mr Peter Bartsch, laboratory manager at Tum Create, a research collaboration between the Technical University Munich and the Nanyang Technological University.

Long recharging times is another problem limiting the use of EVs, especially as taxis. 

“With our system, a recharge of just 15 minutes will allow the vehicle to run over 200km based on Singapore’s driving patterns,” said Mr Bartsch.

EVA Taxi

Mr Peter Bartsch from Tum Create showing the Eva Taxi's interior systems to IDA’s Executive Deputy Chairman Mr Steve Leonard.

With a body shell made of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer, the Eva Taxi weighs 150kg less than a traditional steel body of a similar size, translating into better mileage for drivers.

While efficient power management remains paramount to prolong battery life, the Eva Taxi comes packed with bells and whistles. It has a unique infotainment system which allows passengers to control air-conditioning and audio settings wirelessly with their mobile device,s while providing driving statistics and power-saving tips to the driver.

As many parents do not bring with them a child seat when travelling in taxis with their young ones, one of the Eva Taxi’s unique features is the ability to convert the back of the front passenger seat into a secure and comfortable child seat — complete with safety harnesses.

Water, water, everywhere

With water management and sustainability high on the national agenda of many countries, a local company has developed LEDIF (LED-Induced Fluorescence), an optical instrument which can provide real-time analysis of water quality, contamination levels and the growth of natural substances such as algae in reservoirs, coastal waterways and fish farms. 

SMART

Dr Kelvin Ng from SMART says LEDIF technology will help organisations to better manage the quality of their water resources.

It is also capable of detecting, measuring and 3-D mapping contaminants such as an oil spill.

“The technology allows us to develop portable devices or they can be installed in a fixed location or even put in an autonomous underwater vehicle depending on the customised needs of the operator,” said Dr Kelvin Ng, a research scientist at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART).

Currently, water monitoring involves the collection, transport and laboratory analysis of individual water samples – a time-consuming and costly process. Taking random samples from specific locations may also not be indicative of the quality of the entire body of water in question. 

“LEDIF provides continuous, real-time data for 24/7 surveillance of water resources. Beyond detection, its ability to provide a 3-D chemical mapping of the entire water body, which can be as large as two soccer fields, empowers agencies to better monitor the water situation on a large scale in the long term,” said Dr Ng.

Flying Fast Food

Drones may be relieving the labour crunch facing the F&B Industry sooner than you think.

Local start-up Infinium Robotics is currently testing its Infinium Service with autonomous drones delivering food from the kitchen directly to a customer’s table.

Infinium

Ms Florence Lee from Infinium Robotics: (The service drones) are programmed to avoid obstacles and make deliveries safely.

“The F&B industry has been facing a problem hiring and retaining its service staff. Our drones can carry about 1.5kg which is about one meal order or a couple of drinks. They are programmed to avoid obstacles and make deliveries safely. We have tested the system for several months now in a restaurant without any incident,” said Ms Florence Lee, the company’s content manager.

Beyond serving food with precision, Infinium Robotics' intelligent drones can perform other roles too. The company has also developed another fleet of smaller drones with LED lights to perform precision swarming flights for both indoor and outdoor events. 

“We had 25 drones fly in formation at an SG50 celebration last year. Our drones have also flown in other events and at product launches using our proprietary flight controller and flight algorithms,” said Ms Lee.   


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