Singapore will set up a lab to prototype and develop artificial intelligence and analytics in defence use.

The new lab will be part of the Defence Science and Technology Agency, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen announced on Friday at the budget debate.

It will receive $45 million funding annually, he said, and will be used to experiment, build prototypes and develop tools using cross-disciplinary approaches.

“The Analytics and Artificial Intelligence Lab will exploit the mega-volumes of real time information that can be derived from the Internet of Things and platforms,” said Dr Ng.

For example, the lab engineers are pulling in data from different sources, like cameras and “ground sensors” from various agencies, to detect terrorist threats and improve counter-terrorism responses.

AI is also being used in Singapore’s anti-terrorism efforts. In 2015, a software helped detect a potential ISIS supporter on board a tanker in Singapore waters.

“We are at the frontal edge of this and it is not as if you can buy commercial software easily, so you will have to invest resources to kick-start the process,” Dr Ng said.

Separately, the Defence Science Organisation will set up a robotics lab, which will receive $45 million of annual grants. It will be used to prototype, simulate and test systems before they are trialled in the field by the Singapore Armed Forces.

The agency’s scientists are already working on drones and unmanned ground vehicles that will work together as a team “without heavy reliance on human operators”.

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