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Temasek’s Certis taps AI for security solutions

SECURITY provider Certis Group is gunning for strategic tie-ups in artificial intelligence (AI) applications, with a research facility opened on Wednesday.

The latest move from Temasek-owned Certis comes as Singapore embarks on a quest to become a global AI innovation hub, which Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-charge of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, described to Parliament in March.

Tapping both open source material and its own operational footage, Certis will attempt new security, surveillance and identity management solutions that use machine learning in AI, data analytics and robotics. The innovations, based on non-facial recognition - such as height and skeletons - for humanoid objects, could later be used for other sectors such as healthcare and transport, according to Certis.

The 8,720 square foot Certis Centre for Applied Intelligence in Commonwealth Lane - which houses testing areas for closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera surveillance, audio detection and robots, and employs some 120 developers, engineers and other staff - was opened on Wednesday morning by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.

Paul Chong, group chief executive of Certis, said in a statement that the firm would work closely with education and industry partners “to develop advanced AI-enabled security applications and solutions that are practical in our applications”.

Certis’ Singapore footprint includes security for Changi Airport, as well as mall operators such as CapitaLand and AsiaMalls. It also manages the Certis Cisco auxiliary police force privatised by Temasek from a former statutory board, while its other markets include Australia, Hong Kong and Qatar.

Applied AI is already being deployed at the Jewel Changi Airport mega mall, noted Fuji Foo, Certis Technology Services vice-president of business digitalisation. Certis has an autonomous robot dubbed the Patrol and Traffic Enforcement Robot, or Peter, in action there.

“A lot of times, organisations are literally just using robots as a ‘moving CCTV’, as a form of deterrence or force multiplier,” said Mr Foo.

“What we are planning to do is to fuse all the different parameters, from robotics, autonomous machines, together with AI, and then, of course, bundled together with the concept of operations.”

Replying to a question about privacy concerns surrounding the use of operational footage for machine learning, Mr Chong, the CEO, said that “all the data that we’re going to use here for research is with the consent and the approval of the owners”.

“In Singapore, the biggest challenge is of course having enough people, and this is where we hope, with introducing more technology - especially our applied intelligence - we will be able to help to alleviate some of the strain on the manpower,” he said.

He added that the technology would not necessarily replace staff, “but it augments what people do and makes people a lot more productive and effective”.

The United States Customs and Border Protection agency recently lost traveller-related data after a third-party surveillance contractor, which had transferred the information to its own network, was hit by a cyberattack.

When asked about the US border data breach, Mr Chong stressed that Certis already has experience in cybersecurity. Its Quann subsidiary was spun off last year into a pure-play joint venture with mainboard-listed StarHub’s Accel Systems & Technologies business.

“All the people who are doing research work here need to commit to undertakings regarding the protection of data which they would have access to,” Mr Chong said.

He added: “We have a cyber-secure infrastructure here - so the information is being kept on these premises. It is not taken - it cannot be downloaded.”

Mr Chong also told the press that regulatory guidelines such as the new Model AI Governance Framework “are very useful” and are supported by Certis.

“In fact, we have always been very concerned about how AI is going to be exploited and used, and I think those guidelines give us a very good baseline to work with the researchers.”

With around 20 research projects now under way, the new centre is carrying out work on advanced robotics with Zhejiang University and fish-eye cameras with Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University.

Other university partners include the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University and National Taiwan University.