HDB and A*Star team up to advance smart-construction know-how

THE Housing & Development Board (HDB) and Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) on Friday announced that they have inked two collaborations - one to develop and adopt 5G-enabled smart-construction technologies, and the other, to facilitate partnerships and commercialisation of the research outcomes developed by agencies under the Ministry of National Development (MND).

The first collaboration involves a research collaboration agreement (RCA) between HDB and A*Star's Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) for the development and adoption of 5G-enabled robotic, drone, and artificial-intelligence technologies to raise productivity and improve safety at construction sites.

The second is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two, bringing together the research community, agencies and industry partners to facilitate partnerships in technology transfer and translate research and development (R&D) outcomes into commercially-ready products.

Frederick Chew, chief executive of A*Star, said the agency is "collaborating closely with HDB on introducing innovative technologies in the built-environment sector, and catalysing more public-sector collaboration with industry".

"We also aim to work with HDB to translate public-sector R&D into positive impact on our society and economy, through such collaborations," he added.

Under the RCA, HDB and A*Star's I2R will seek to research and develop a system which will capture videos, images and data through the use of sensors on robots and drones.

For instance, HDB is studying the possibility of using drone fleets and robotics systems to monitor various aspects of a construction site. These pieces of equipment will be fitted with light detection and ranging (LiDAR) laser scanning technology. The automation of the process would enable the on-site scanning and mapping of a construction site into a 3D as-built model.

To do so, A*Star will develop a 5G modem prototype module with low latency and a robust communication link to undertake on-site scanning, mapping, as well as real-time monitoring of activities. HDB will also leverage 5G technology to allow the drones and robots to function smoothly.

HDB, by using 5G technology, will explore the deployment of multiple drones or robotics systems simultaneously, to allow the real-time monitoring of a site environment.

Additionally, artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies will be applied to the live video feeds captured by the cameras mounted on the drones and robotics systems, to identify safety lapses and potentially unsafe behaviours and conditions at HDB construction sites.

Trials will be conducted at a selected HDB construction site that has ready 5G coverage; the research study is expected to span 21/2 years. If the trials prove successful, HDB will consider extending the system to more construction sites.

As for the MOU, HDB has been appointed as the lead agency for intellectual property (IP) management and technology transfer for the agencies under the MND, due to its prior experience in IP management.

Over the years, HDB has filed over 30 patents for its innovations, such as the Prefabricated Extensive Green Roof Tray System and the Floating Solar System (FSS).

HDB developed the FSS, which supports solar panels on water bodies to harness solar energy, in a push to generate more clean energy and accelerate solar adoption in Singapore. Following the successful test-bedding of the FSS in Tengeh Reservoir in Tuas, HDB collaborated with local company ISO Landscape to deploy 5 megawatt-peak (MWp) FSS off the coast of Woodlands.

The MOU will tap A*Star's expertise, connection with the industries and the local science and technology ecosystem, to facilitate collaborations to commercialise MND R&D outcomes and IPs.

This includes facilitating knowledge-sharing and organising joint events to build up a network of industry partners for MND agencies. Where needed, A*Star will also further develop MND IPs into commercial solutions or products with practical applications for industry.

Said HDB's chief executive Tan Meng Dui: "HDB constantly seeks to leverage innovative technologies and smart solutions that can help us deliver quality homes for Singaporeans.

"We will continue to work closely with industry partners to accelerate technology transfer, so that the built-environment sector can benefit from our R&D outcomes."

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