In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute reported that Southeast Asia was just beginning to feel the impacts of AI and machine learning. The report stated that AI startups in Southeast Asia would need to invest more in talent pools, identify specific business uses for AI, and build more robust data ecosystems, to compete with the US and China, where AI development had already taken off.
AI in Singapore
Fast forward to 2020, and Singapore is a frontrunner in AI experimentation amongst ASEAN countries. It has made significant developments in identifying which sectors to focus on, and Singapore’s AI vision is clear: “By 2030, Singapore will be a leader in developing and deploying scalable, impactful AI solutions, in key sectors of high value and relevance to our citizens and businesses.” The island nation has laid out a very specific strategy, with five different projects, outlining how it will achieve this in the next ten years.
Intelligent freight planning
The aim here is to increase revenue and productivity for businesses while reducing traffic congestion and improving domestic logistics, which benefits citizens. AI and machine learning will play a key role in optimising transport and urban planning, from assigning trucking jobs to intelligent routing.
Seamless and efficient municipal services
Municipal bodies always aim to serve the public better, and increased adoption of AI in Singapore will make this happen. Services will be streamlined, making it easier for individuals to report municipal issues, and have their estate better managed. Additionally, it will give citizens an all-round optimal experience, offering facilities more suited to their needs, by way of intelligent insight gathering.
Chronic disease prediction and management
AI in Singapore Healthcare is currently in the spotlight with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also set to improve services for chronic disease sufferers. Through increased productivity, early detection and prevention measures, and tools for self-management, all aided by AI, Singaporeans can look forward to better health outcomes.
Personalised education through adaptive learning and assessment
Adaptive Learning, Automated Marking Systems, and AI Learning Companions will all revolutionise education in Singapore, reducing routine assessment tasks for teachers, and tailoring education to the child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Border clearance operations
Faster, safer, and more secure immigration protocols at checkpoints via automated systems and AI-assisted border controls should be in place over the next decade in the island nation.
Emerging Singaporean AI startups
The Singaporean Government’s strategy is transparent and undoubtedly attracting investment into the AI arena. Let’s take a look at five leading AI-based Singaporean startups, who have benefited from and are contributing to, the government-supported ecosystem.
Active.AI is a Singapore-based Fintech startup with subsidiaries in the US and India. They offer Conversational Banking Services using machine learning and advanced NLP technology. Banking customers can have ‘natural’ conversations via messaging, voice or IoT devices, enabling them to intuitively and intelligently engage with their bank for service needs.
Advance.AI’s mission is to Use AI to “disrupt and transform businesses for better delivery of information, products and services”. They use their knowledge of big data, AI and credit scoring to provide various services. Their goals are to provide customers with products to lower the rate of fraudulent applications, provide AI consultancy services, and foster alliances between data acquirers and providers.
Tookitaki is using machine learning to develop software solutions to create sustainable compliance programmes for the financial services industry. Tookitaki means ‘hide-and-seek’ in Bengali, and the company’s main mission is the fight against this human behaviour, aka money laundering in the financial industry. They are revolutionising how Fintech companies operate within the regulatory arena, making the process more effective and efficient.
Visenze offers e-tailers an opportunity to improve conversion rates by using intelligent image recognition solutions. Every image or video is a potential engagement opportunity for retailers. By using Visenze to simplify search experiences, via deep learning and computer vision processes, companies can convert these engagements to sales.
KooBits is an AI-driven home learning startup. Their vision is to make ‘tomorrow’s education’ accessible today. Their data-driven and behaviour-shaping technologies aim to encourage children to learn at home with limited adult involvement, making the process of knowledge acquisition a more independent journey.
The Future for AI in Singapore Post-COVID-19
With a supportive regulatory structure and a forward-thinking government, the Singaporean AI ecosystem looks set to grow over the next ten years. However, there are still stumbling blocks to overcome. One of these barriers is the widespread distrust of AI amongst the Southeast Asian population, which has only been fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for cybersecurity.
Despite this blip, Singapore is one to watch in AI experimentation, and if technology eventually has a role in national recovery from COVID-19, we are bound to see more widespread trust and adoption.