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Japan's NTT Data to set up research centre in Singapore

[TOKYO] Top Japanese data solutions firm NTT Data is launching a centre of excellence in Singapore with LeapThought, a New Zealand strategic consultancy.

It is aimed at boosting the construction sector's productivity as well as resilience against Covid-19, labour shortages and supply chain disruptions.

NTT Data Singapore managing director Krishnappan Ramanathan told The Straits Times that the centre will open by next year, hire up to 40 engineers and focus on research and development, advisory services and business development.

"The aim is to accelerate the digital transformation of the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector in Singapore," he said, citing analyst predictions that the size of the sector will reach US$22.50 billion by 2024.

Touching on the potential for NTT Data's technology to transform the AEC sector in Singapore, Mr Ramanathan foresaw the entire process from pre-construction to post-construction maintenance becoming more digitised.

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This could be done through the use of systems such as building information modelling, which taps artificial intelligence to more efficiently plan and design buildings, and virtual design and construction.

This is part of NTT Data's plans to build up social infrastructure across South-east Asia, using Singapore as the springboard, added Ken Tsuchihashi, chief executive officer of NTT Data Asia Pacific.

"From Singapore, we are using new digital technology to conduct various proofs of concept across different countries in South-east Asia," he said, describing the Republic as Asia's "digital hub" with its Smart Nation Initiative.

Among other things, NTT Data is involved in education and remote connectivity projects in Singapore, and blockchain and fintech projects in Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

More recently, it has begun a project to preserve - in 3D for three-dimensional ones - the most fragile items in Asean museums, galleries and libraries using its Advanced Museum Library Archives Deposit (Amlad) technology.

Some 161 cultural assets from Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia - including Indonesia's 14th century La Galigo script that is listed on Unesco's Memory Of The World Register - have been digitised in the first phase.

The project will be expanded to include heritage items from Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos this year, and then to the remaining Asean countries including Singapore in future.

The shape, colour and texture of these items are captured in high-definition, and visitors to the Asean Cultural Heritage Digital Archive website can view them up-close, even turning them around to see them at different angles.

A NTT Data spokesperson said the goal was to prevent such assets from being lost due to disasters, accidents or ageing, and to preserve them for future generations.

NTT Data has used the Amlad archival system to preserve heritage collections at the Vatican, as well as the Japanese Diet library.

The Covid-19 pandemic undeniably has had a bearing on NTT Data's projected revenue, but Mr Tsuchihashi saw a silver lining.

"Businesses might postpone or hold back some non-essential projects, but on the other hand, they realise they need to be more serious about promoting their digital strategy, and this could have quite a positive impact for NTT Data," he said.

Mr Ramanathan added: "The conventional way of doing things will be less preferable to newer, more digitised and technological methods."

THE STRAITS TIMES

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