The topic of ‘AI in Asia’ usually revolves around the continuous domination of China. But there is another bubbling AI ecosystem in Asia that has yet to float into the mainstream—and it’s in Singapore.
As of 2019, Singapore ranks #1 in AI-readiness as it boasts Asia’s most progressive approaches to the industry. From nationwide cybersecurity strategies to the first framework in Asia on how to use AI responsibly, Singapore is positioning itself as a major player in the AI market.
To help you keep a keen eye on what’s happening in Singapore’s vibrant AI scene, here’s a glimpse into their AI-driven economy, government-led initiatives, and most promising startups.
Powering the economy with AI
Singapore has every intention of maximising the impact of AI to further their digital economy. Chinese tech giant Huawei estimates the AI market in Singapore to reach nearly 1 billion USD by 2022, with an annual growth of more than 42%.
With the government’s strong motivation to become ‘digitally ready’ by embracing AI, the country hopes to reinvigorate their economy and boost their industrial profits. They’re well on their way to achieving this, considering they’ve already made it to the top of the overall ‘AI readiness’ ranking—specifically in terms of consumer, business and government.
Singapore is also making moves to become a global leader in driverless technology with plans to deploy autonomous buses on public roads by 2022. These small, silver buses will scoot residents within their neighbourhoods and to nearby bus/train stations with the goal of improving accessibility and connectivity.
To add weight to this ambitious plan, a 2019 study on Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index ranked Singapore second in the world and first in Asia for its ‘brilliance in attracting investment from global technology leaders’ and being ‘proactive in thinking about the future of mobility.’
Becoming a Smart Nation
Establishing Singapore as a Smart Nation is a long-driven initiative that goes back to early 2014. Since then, the government has invested heavily in physical infrastructure and gradually implemented AI solutions for everything from predicting when roads need maintenance to what services citizens need.
Here are a couple ways the government is advancing Singapore’s vision as a Smart Nation:
‘AI for everyone’
The Singapore's National Research Foundation announced two initiatives to build local AI skills:
The first initiative seeks to enrol 10,000 students from secondary school to working adults so they can familiarise themselves with AI. The programme—offered for free—is designed to help locals understand the potential of AI and dispel fears of being 'replaced by robots’ at the workplace.
The second initiative is more industry-centric as it targets 2,000 engineers, software developers, managers and executives to boost their AI competency. This (paid) programme focuses on teaching software development so skilled professionals can build future AI technologies.
With these initiatives the government aims to build up their nation’s AI skills to fuel the local ecosystem. As AI Singapore's executive chairman, Ho Teck Hua, stated in the announcement:
‘AI has the potential to catalyse change. In an increasingly digital world, it is imperative that everyone is AI-ready so that they can benefit from the immense potential of AI’.
There has been increasingly more talk about regulating how businesses use AI. To further the country’s image as a Smart Nation, in January 2019 Singapore became the first in Asia to release an AI Governance Framework.
Essentially, this model provides a detailed guide to help businesses implement AI ethically and responsibly. According to a press release from the Economic Development Board (EDB), the framework is built upon two guiding principles:
- AI solutions should be human-centric.
- Decisions made or assisted by AI should be easy to explain, transparent and fair to consumers.
While the framework continues to evolve with the fast-paced digital market, its release marks an important milestone for modern business practices and puts Singapore at the forefront of regional efforts to define ‘responsible AI’.
Supporting AI startups
What would the AI scene even be without startups pioneering the tech of the future? Here are the top high-growth Singaporean startups you should keep on your radar.
Funding (USD): 14M
AI-driven retail services are expected to push 8 billion USD by 2024. With more and more consumers shopping on mobile, ViSense noticed an urgent need for retailers to enable product searches using images snapped from phones—not vague keywords typed in a search bar.
The startup’s platform combines deep learning and computer vision to streamline product search, discovery, and product recommendations. Even more impressively, their mobile-centric technology is already boosting conversions for big brands like Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, Zalora and Rakuten.
Watch this video to see how it works:
Billions of dollars are lost in sales every year due to inadequate stock management. So Trax came up with image recognition technology that captures products sitting on retail store shelves via photos taken on mobile devices, with stationary cameras or robots. This tech then digitizes the products and analyses them for insights on display strategy, distribution and even out-of-stock items.
There’s no telling how many people around the world lose their lives to preventable illnesses. To help solve this global plight, UCARE.AI created an advanced AI using deep learning and neural network algorithms to accurately predict future health risks.
This technology empowers patients to take control over their health. It also helps medical professionals provide the right treatments and quickly pinpoint the most at-risk patients.
Running AI algorithms demands time, significant resources and expensive data storage infrastructure. Sentient.io is Singapore’s first AI-as-a-service platform designed for software developers to easily embed complex AI algorithms in their applications. All they have to do is pay for the service and let the platform take care of the rest.
Fraud continues to cost businesses billions of dollars every year. But ADVANCE.AI is transforming the credit scoring system with specialised AI and Big Data. Their platform leverages deep learning and image recognition to accurately curb identity fraud, which is all too common in credit loan applications.
Insurance claims are rarely smooth-sailing and are usually peppered with attempted fraud. AIDA is harnessing the potential of AI and ML with a proprietary algorithm capable of accurately identifying inconsistencies in insurance claims. This startup’s AI-driven analytics aim to augment an expert’s ability to make informed decisions when revising insurance claims. (Fun note: their funding recently got a boost from a new investor: Mastercard.)
Only 1% of surveillance footage is actually watched, which leads to hopelessly ineffective security systems. In response, Vi Dimensions designed ARVAS using Big Data analysis and ML to autonomously turn all security videos into actionable insights rather than wasted bytes. Now cities and enterprises with a large network of cameras can pinpoint potential threats in real-time—without dedicated operators scanning the screens themselves.
These are just a handful of startups in Singapore’s blossoming AI environment, but it’s enough to show anyone in the industry that this small island has enormous plans for an AI-driven future and should definitely not be overlooked.
If you’re in the mood to know more about the AI ecosystem in this exciting region and beyond, take a look at the Top AI and Machine Learning Conferences of 2019 in Asia. For more news on what’s happening in the industry, subscribe to our newsletter.