AI in Singapore

Information & Communications Technology and Media  |  19 Dec 2019

Artificial intelligence in Singapore

Singapore is hoping to advance as a leading digital economy and Smart Nation. AI was identified as one of the 4 core technologies essential to Singapore’s push towards being digitally ready. To this end, Singapore is the first Asian nation to develop an AI framework with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution, enabling the country to continue investing in and building AI capabilities, and remain competitive on a global scale.

According to a report by Accenture, AI can potentially reinvigorate Singapore’s economy and add up to US$215 billion in gross value across 11 industries by 2035. AI is one of the fastest growing sectors and no country has the necessary number of qualified workers to meet current demands. Singapore is looking to change this with several initiatives under the TechSkills Accelerator programme.

READ ALSO: What is AI? 


Which Singapore industries are benefiting from AI capabilities?


Robots are already helping to teach in some preschools. KIBO has been designed to allow young children to construct the robot and use wooden blocks to programme sequential instructions for the robot. KIBO is not even the first robot to help pre-school teachers. In 2016, 2 humanoid robots called Pepper and Nao were sent to two schools to take part in a 7-month trial. Another way AI impacts the education sector is through the global need for more AI talent through public awareness and education. Schools are now incorporating coding classes as part of their curriculum.



Machine learning (ML) and AI has been applied across the financial industry, delivering better customer service, reducing operating cost and detecting fraud. E.g. ML has been applied to call centres to forecast manpower allocation, allowing flexibility through the highs and lows of demand (link).

The industry is also using facial recognition technology (link to previous article) to resolve issues of verification, speeding lending processes. Other business services such as real estate, accounting and legal fields benefit from document mining, pattern recognition, information extraction and analysis, transforming and innovating the generation of insights.



AI tools are now able to detect skin cancers, analyse chest x-rays or perform diabetes screens from a patient’s retina scan. In a few short years, doctors can count digital tools as indispensable as their physical ones. PWC’s report highlights 8 ways healthcare is being transformed: Keeping well, early detection, diagnosis, decision making, treatment, end-of-life care, research and training. Here are some examples how AI is transforming healthcare in Singapore.

1) AI filters vast amount of papers and reports, helping doctors make the best decision when choosing new treatments. Dr Joanne Ngeow Yuen Yie, senior consultant at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, thinks that the extensive body of available medical literature is a huge cognitive overload for physicians. “Nearly 60 percent of doctors are walking out on healthcare because they feel overwhelmed”, she said in SGInnovate’s Health Futures: AI & Genomics seminar.

2) In early 2018, scientists at the A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore developed new ML computer models to accurately pinpoint cancer mutations (link).

3) Steve Leonard, CEO of SGInnovate, believes that the Singapore is positioning itself at the avant-garde of a healthcare AI revolution. He shared of a Singapore-based surgeon who reduced his patients’ recovery by using robotics in his surgery, freeing up beds for other patients. The doctor was “able to get patients out the same day, when it used to take four days for them to recover” (link).

READ ALSO: AI trends 



Over 100 global petroleum, petrochemical and specialty chemical companies are housed on Singapore. According to Economic Development Board, Singapore is the world’s 5th largest refinery export hub and amongst the top 10 global chemical hubs by export volume (link). Accenture’s research calculates Singapore’s manufacturing projected growth with AI in 2035 to increase by 40 percent: that is US$101.1 billion, compared to US$71.3 billion without AI.

In late 2015, A*STAR started a Future of Manufacturing (FoM) Initiative with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, EDB and then-SPRING Singapore under the government’s Research, Innovation & Enterprise 2020 plan. The goal of the initiative is to sustain Singapore’s competitiveness in manufacturing and technology innovation as the location of choice for developing, test-bedding and deploying advanced breaking-ground technologies in the manufacturing sector.



In 2015, a self-driving car company that focuses on developing software for autonomous vehicles and mobile robots, began testing self-driving cars in Singapore. Shortly after, they partnered with Grab to make autonomous taxis available to the public.


In Mr Ng Chee Meng, Singapore’s former second minister for transport, said in a speech at the Committee of Supply Debate 2018, “We are focusing on self-driving technology in a big way because they have the potential to dramatically improve public transport. Initiatives are underway to develop self-driving buses and to explore how the technology can be applied for use in freight transport and utility vehicles.”

Airport operations are also implementing AI technologies, particularly with the use of facial recognition to get passengers from the terminal to the aircraft in shorter times. E.g., Innovative CT X-ray machines which do not require passengers to remove their laptops from their bags.



The shopping experience has changed vastly from the past as retailers go digital, and the experience continues to be enhanced with integrated AI capabilities.

In Singapore, a company called Untitled Project is using sophisticated suggestion tools and self-learning AI algorithms to allow consumers find their way easily across the store, improving their overall shopping experience. The services it offers help retail companies to improve everything, from the supply chain, to a customised shopping experience, and enabling predictive modelling. Crayon Data, another startup, is using big data and AI to map the personal tastes of customers to create personalised, digital experiences each time they connect digitally with the retailer of their choice.




This article is contributed by Moses Ku, Manager (Engagement), IndSights Research.

Register your interest to participate in upcoming research & polls