Home Team to set up new science and technology agency, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Home Team to set up new science and technology agency

This article is more than 12 months old

Robots can be stationed at protected areas to deter potential perpetrators, or be sent in to deal with dangerous situations such as bomb threats, but they will not replace Home Team officers, said a Home Affairs Ministry (MHA) official.

Mr Lee Guoming, senior assistant director for robotics, automation and unmanned systems at MHA's Science and Technology Group, said yesterday that officers perform roles that involve complex human interactions and relationships, which robots cannot undertake.

"As of now, robots do not have the capacity for emotional relationships, as well as the ability to understand the context of what the job requires, such as comforting the next of kin of a deceased," added Mr Lee, 38, who has worked at MHA for around seven years.

He will be among the officers joining the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, or HTX, which will be set up by December.

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo told Parliament yesterday that there will initially be 1,300 officers from various Home Team departments in HTX.

Mr Lee, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2006 with a degree in mechanical engineering, said in a recent interview that the new agency will allow closer collaboration among experts from different fields.


"It's an exciting time for scientists and engineers because we get exposure to other technologies, for example, data science and AI (artificial intelligence)," he added.

"The fact is that any solutions we develop for the Home Team are unlikely to be on their own - they are likely to have different components."

Mr Lee said robots can be stationed at protected areas for perimeter security as they can provide a persistent presence that is not susceptible to human fatigue or error.

"By using robots to enhance the presence in a protected area, we can ideally prevent crime," he added.

Ms Tan Joe-Lin, 34, who supervises a team of crime scene specialists under the Singapore Police Force's Criminal Investigation Department, will also be part of the new science and technology outfit.

She said technology has always been a game-changer in crime scene investigations.

For instance, a tablet-form handheld 3D scanner introduced last year complements the existing 3D terrestrial laser scanner, mounted on a tripod, in documenting crime scenes.

"It is difficult to bring the larger terrestrial scanner into certain places, such as onto a large vessel," she said.

"The handheld scanner allows us to scan hard-to-reach places, and we can immediately see what was scanned and redo if need be, reducing the time taken to process a scene."

Another example is the use of a portable kit to recover fingerprints at the scene instead of back at a lab as it was done in the past, which saves a few hours.

These few hours right after a crime is committed could be critical as in some cases, the perpetrator might leave the country, said Ms Tan, who joined the police in 2012 and specialises in blood stain pattern analysis.

Ms Tan said her role at HTX will allow her to delve deeper into her specialisation and research technology that can improve crime scene investigation processes.