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5G-Enabled Robots to Clean Singapore’s Rivers, Patrol Streets and Build Hyundai EVs

Expect to see robots patrolling the streets, cleaning rivers and building cars in 2023, following government funding for 5G projects in Singapore.

The three projects were supported by a S$30mil fund launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in 2021 to accelerate the adoption and commercialization of 5G solutions. A total of seven 5G projects have received grants under the scheme so far.

The scheme is one of two waves of funding from IMDA to support the growth of 5G. In total, IMDA has channeled at least S$70mil in support of more than a dozen projects that include building Singapore’s largest 5G smart estate and autonomous transport systems.

These investments aim to encourage industries to tap the 5G network here, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary in Parliament last Tuesday.

He added that Singapore’s first two 5G standalone networks have reached 95 per cent nationwide outdoor coverage.

River-cleaning robotic vessel

Unmanned electric vessels will be used to clean and inspect rivers in a partnership with Weston Robot.

Dr Janil said 5G technology allows for video analytics and high data transfers, allowing the electric boats to detect and remove rubbish, even outside of their mapped paths, and to respond to emergencies.

The project, which commences in August, will serve as a test bed for launching similar vessels for rubbish detection in other parts of the region.

These will be a greener alternative to petrol-fueled boats, which produce as much as 20 tons of carbon each year and cost up to S$12,000 yearly to maintain.

Electric vessels, which can cut carbon emissions of each boat by up to 80%, will gradually replace gasoline-fueled boats used to clean water bodies today, IMDA told The Straits Times. The electric boat is equipped with a mechanism mounted at the side of the vessel that picks up rubbish.

IMDA said the current line-up of boats cannot be replaced immediately due to the amount that has already been invested in them.

The autonomous vessels also relieve boatmen of long hours under the sun and reduce the risk of man overboard, said IMDA. “This will transform the nature of the job scope, as a single operator stationed at the command center can now pilot multiple electric vessels.”

Bots building cars

At least 100 5G-enabled robots will be deployed on the factory floor of the upcoming Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Singapore (HMGICS) to transport materials for electric vehicles in production.

5G will help enable seamless real-time communication across the bots and the automated control system, enhancing productivity and quality control, said Dr Janil.

Hundreds of robots will be communicating constantly, coordinating the movement of materials throughout the vehicle manufacturing process, said IMDA. “The reliability of 5G ensures that messages would not be ‘lost in transit’, which would otherwise cause unwanted delays in the manufacturing process.”

The robots will also ease the load on workers at HMGICS, which will be located in Jurong West and launched in 2023. The center aims to produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025.

The project will pave the way for Hyundai’s upcoming “built-to-order” vehicles for customers to customize newly ordered cars to their needs.

The South Korean car manufacturer plans to hire robotics engineers, data analysts and process engineers to work in the upcoming facility, Dr Janil said.

Bots on patrol

Surveillance robots are being trialled in South Beach and will be rolled out in May, patrolling indoor and outdoor venues, to help plug the shortage of security manpower here, which can make it difficult for agencies to deal with security breaches, said IMDA.

The robots, which come in the form of a small patrol car and a sentry robot, are nimbler than the ubiquitous fixed security cameras.

Security officers will be able to monitor multiple locations remotely, aided by video analytics that will alert them when a threat is detected. When needed, the robots can also be controlled remotely by officers, said IMDA.


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