Singapore

NEA inks deals with organisations to pilot new tech

In coming years, people may see robots cleaning and disinfecting hospitals, or older cleaners donning exoskeletons to give them extra support as they work.

These are examples of technology trials the National Environment Agency (NEA) is considering piloting at seven organisations - Changi General Hospital (CGH), Changi Airport Group, property giant City Developments, NTUC Club, the Robotics Automation Centre of Excellence, Singapore Sports Hub and the Esplanade.

Yesterday, agreements were signed between NEA and the organisations to make the partnership official.

This took place at the launch of the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Singapore, which aims to solve the manpower crunch in the industry, while driving innovation and embracing technology.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli unveiled a suite of strategies and initiatives for the environmental services sector, which comprises more than 78,000 cleaning and waste management professionals and more than 1,700 companies.

The main thrusts of the initiative are to drive innovation, have greater adoption of technology, upgrade skills, increase the productivity of the workforce and help companies here realise opportunities overseas.

By 2025, about 30,000 people in the sector will have higher-skilled jobs through the effort.

Said Mr Masagos: "In the near future, we can see autonomous cleaning equipment having the capability to 'talk' with one another and take the lift to other floors to perform indoor cleaning operations more independently.

"This will free up their human co-workers' time to focus on higher-value work such as equipment fleet management and maintenance..."

He said funds are available to help organisations adopt new technology, so that the cost is not passed to consumers.

Yesterday, the media was given a demonstration of the technologies such as smart bins and autonomous cleaning robots used by Changi Airport Group, one of the first adopters of technology.

Professor Teo Eng Kiong, chairman of CGH's medical board, called the collaboration a milestone for the hospital.

He said: "(We) are pleased to partner NEA to identify challenges in this area, develop solutions and innovations fuelled by technology that will enhance patient safety, reduce infection and allow staff to carry out their meaningful work in a safer, smoother and easier manner."

Mr Masagos added that the NEA will also be pushing for wider adoption of outcome-based contracts, where contracts are based on outcomes that cleaners need to achieve.

Mr Frank Ngoh, general manager of Tampines Town Council, said this will give cleaning companies more freedom to come up with creative ways to meet the expected outcomes.

Technology