Visual artificial intelligence has been a useful tool in commerce, helping retailers to keep shoppers engaged and manage their inventory. It also holds immense potential for the public sector in terms of enforcing public safety and security.

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) hopes to maximise this potential. Its Tech Acceleration Lab helps tech providers to test their Proof-Of-Concept (POC) on the Singapore government cloud and to comply with government security standards. This allows companies to determine whether their products are feasible for the government’s use.

Representatives from IMDA’s Enterprise & Ecosystem Development division explain how the Tech Acceleration Lab helped artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) company ViSenze to serve the public sector in record time.

Image and video analytics

Many governments worldwide use visual recognition and analytics in CCTV cameras to survey traffic conditions. This allows them to understand the causes of congestion, identify traffic patterns, and determine the possibility of accidents.

Another use of image and video analytics is to detect suspicious individuals and activity at airports. This allows security officials to quell any threats to national security before they escalate.

Although visual technology serves important functions in the public sector, it can help make the private sector more efficient as well. For instance, ViSenze’s Discovery Suite – Smart Visual Search allows users to search for products using images directly from their camera, photo gallery or social media.

Its AI and ML platform recognises the item in any image and returns the most relevant and visually matched products from retailers’ catalogues in milliseconds. This means that product discovery can happen anywhere and everywhere easily, Dr Guangda Li, ViSenze’s Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, says.

The challenges of working with government

Given ViSenze’s specialty in working with visual AI, Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) approached it to integrate its tech into an existing platform.

But while ViSenze has had extensive experience working on commercial clouds such as those operated by Amazon Web Services, it was the company’s first time deploying infrastructure on the Government Commercial Cloud.

ViSenze faced certain challenges in implementing its video- and image-based solutions on the government cloud. To assist it in meeting the requirements, IMDA suggested that GovTech deploy ViSenze’s solution via the Tech Acceleration Lab.

In Singapore, government agencies can test their tech solutions only on the Government Commercial Cloud, as authorities prohibit sensitive data from leaving the country.

In navigating these uncharted waters, ViSenze benefited greatly from IMDA’s help. Its Tech Acceleration Lab provided a staging environment similar to the Government Commercial Cloud for ViSenze to test its Proof-Of-Concept (POC).

“This helped to significantly reduce the risk of unforeseen issues related to the actual deployment and integration with the government cloud environment,” Dr Li says. At the same time, GovTech was able to test the solution safely and securely, he adds.

Another advantage is that the Tech Acceleration Lab helps to shorten the time required for government agency clients to procure and set up a new test environment. “Otherwise, they would need to spend months on exploring these complicated procedures themselves,” says Alan Tam, Deputy Director of IMDA’s Enterprise & Ecosystem Development division.

Security requirements

The second challenge that enterprise tech companies face is that they have limited knowledge of the Singapore government’s security policies, as such information is not readily available to the public. To tackle this problem, the Tech Acceleration Lab conducts advisory workshops on government security and deployment requirements.

It hand-holds companies such as ViSenze, reviewing their architecture against government security standards and providing recommendations to improve security. As a result, Dr Li says, “we could fulfil government requirements without much difficulty”.

Before the Tech Acceleration Lab, enterprise tech companies typically took anywhere from six to nine months to deploy their technologies. But now, they can do so in just under two months, Tam says.

“The Tech Acceleration Lab has created a win-win situation, where enterprise tech companies can shorten deployment timelines, while government agencies benefit from the cutting-edge tech of these solutions,” he says.

As for ViSenze, working with GovTech has helped to open up a new revenue stream for the company. In the past, it focused on helping businesses in the e-commerce and retail sectors only. But now, other local government agencies may also enlist its visual AI and ML solutions.

“It’s been an excellent experience working with the Tech Acceleration Lab, and their support and guidance were critical in making this project successful,” Dr Li says.

It’s not easy for enterprise tech companies to get a foot in the door of the public sector, but the Tech Acceleration Lab is helping them to do so. With its help, enterprise tech companies can more easily test and build technologies that comply with the Singapore government’s security requirements.