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Detecting and keeping bio agents and contraband from our shores
By Lin Jiasheng
Kemberly_Hud_HTX_SPH Scholars Choice
Ms Kemberly Kay and Mr Hud Syafiq Bin Herman use their skills to protect Singapore by ensuring that threats to the country – be it airborne or online - are kept at bay. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA/FRENCHESCAR LIM

These HTX officers are developing advanced technology to neutralise chemical and online threats for Singapore’s safety and security

From a purpose-built vehicle to counter rogue drones, to an intelligent chemical sensor that detects abnormalities in the air, as well as the Multi-Modal Biometrics System used by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to enhance border security, a team of scientists and engineers at HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency) are developing out-of-the-box solutions to augment the operational abilities and efficiency of our nation’s Home Team frontline officers.
Let’s hear how these two HTX officers work on exciting projects behind the scenes to safeguard the nation.

More on this topic: His future career in robotics will contribute towards a safer Singapore

Countering biological warfare agents

In a densely populated and globally connected city like Singapore, a biological threat can devastate our city-state easily. Having witnessed the Covid-19 pandemic and how it disrupted lives and the economy around the world, the importance of harnessing science and technology to quickly counter its spread cannot be overstated.

How can we better prepare for future threats that may be even more virulent or deadlier? Ms Kemberly Kay and her team at HTX are looking for a solution.

As a research scientist at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Centre of Expertise, Ms Kay is part of the team that worked on a first-of-its-kind bio-agent detection device which can autonomously detect malicious bio-agents in the air.

Once deployed, the device will operate 24/7 at high traffic areas and remotely alert frontline officers to the presence of bio-agents in the atmosphere, facilitating the authorities to quickly investigate the event and quarantine affected members of the public.

“Singapore’s high population density means that any threat will affect the country disproportionately,” says the 26-year-old.

“The CBRNE team develops proprietary and cutting-edge technologies to detect, identify and manage, if not outright neutralise, these new and evolving threats,” she adds.

Ms Kay also works closely with officers from ICA to detect contraband substances, including narcotics and malicious bio-agents, that may be imported into Singapore. She is usually based at Woodlands Analytical Laboratory but may move to other checkpoints, depending on operational requirements at any time.

“At HTX, we are always scanning the horizon for unknown and evolving threats – from CBRNE agents to the malicious use of new technology.”

– Ms Kemberly Kay Xuan En, research scientist at the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Centre of Expertise at Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX)

Besides the bio-agent detection device, Ms Kay has also conducted research on protective suits that keep workers on the frontlines safe against potential exposure to dangerous chemicals like hydrochloric acid while they are on dangerous operations such as responding to industrial accidents.

For her efforts, Ms Kay represented HTX and won the Best Poster Presentation Award at an international Nuclear Biological Chemical (NBC) symposium held in Finland in June 2022. More importantly, the results of her work contributed to the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s deployment strategy of protective suits that help to maximise the safety of its operators as well as the efficiency of its various operations.

“At HTX, we are always scanning the horizon for unknown and evolving threats – from CBRNE agents to the malicious use of new technology,” says Ms Kay. “While my colleagues and I may be working in different scientific fields, we are united with a common mission to use our knowledge to protect Singapore from harm.”

Using a bot to flag contraband items online

With the rapid digital and technological advancements in today’s world, HTX officers are always at the forefront of these important advances to help keep our nation safe.

An artificial intelligence (AI) engineer with HTX, Mr Hud Syafiq Bin Herman plays a critical role in developing solutions to ensure Home Team departments have access to the latest technology and tools to safeguard Singapore.

One of Mr Hud’s projects is an automated program which can process large volumes of e-commerce listings. Through analysis of pictures, item descriptions and profiles, the program can flag listings of contraband items being sold online. This allows authorities to quickly remove them before they endanger the public.

“With this tool, we will be able to force multiply the Home Team and allow officers to focus on other urgent matters,” says the 26-year-old.

Mr Hud is also working on bringing new capabilities to the Home Team departments via cloud computing. Cloud platforms allow low-latency, high-volume remote computing, which facilitate new technology like Natural Language Processing (NLP), used to quickly summarise text and convert speech
to text.

“I like that I have space to grow professionally in the data and computing field, and that my work is purposeful.”

– Mr Hud Syafiq Bin Herman, AI engineer at the xData, Enterprise Group at Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX)

A recent project that Mr Hud worked on included prototype programs that leverage machine learning forecasting models to predict traffic flow and use computer vision to automatically identify number plates. These digital aids can augment efforts in crime solving and enhancing the general safety of the public.

These projects energise Mr Hud’s commitment to empower Home Team departments through data science.

Having graduated from Imperial College London with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in business analytics, Mr Hud continues to supplement his knowledge in computer science and artificial intelligence by attending courses to keep up with the rapidly evolving tech capabilities.

“I am glad that HTX has a conducive learning culture which encourages us to attend courses to upgrade ourselves and keep abreast of the latest developments,” he says.

“HTX is a budding organisation and we are building a culture of learning, experimentation and openness. I like that I have space to grow professionally in the data and computing field, and that my work is purposeful.”

About the HTX scholarship
HTX is looking for passionate individuals with scientific, engineering and digital backgrounds to join them in harnessing science and cutting-edge technology to safeguard Singapore from current and future threats. Outstanding students are invited to apply for the HTX Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship for STEM disciplines.

This article is brought to you by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency.

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