Exclusive: Singapore pilots autonomous wheelchairs

By Charlene Chin

Mark Lim shares his priorities and its potentials at Innovation Labs World.

Singapore plans to pilot autonomous wheelchairs, Mark Lim, Director of Government Digital Services said at Innovation Labs World. “What if we could make the wheelchair move on [its] own?”, Lim said.

“There is a proper use case for it, because today we have limited health care workers”, he added. “These nurses are more precious in doing their work - in taking care of the patients - than pushing them around in the wheelchair”, he said.

Lim’s team is exploring work with healthcare agencies to pilot this wheelchair, he revealed. The project is set to be completed by March 2017, and will combine computer vision, robotics, machine learning and cloud computing technologies.

It is the first project from the new GovTech Agency that combines digital technologies with hardware to build new services for citizens.

The team is also working on a “smart walking stick”, he said, which has the “ability to track elderly who are very mobile, but [need] some support”, Lim said.

It will use GPS tracking to detect falls and trigger alerts. On the digital side, government is prioritising an API gateway to enable data sharing.

“What we wanted to do was to really create this thing called the government API economy,” he said. The gateway would allow us to exchange data between different government agencies.

It also allows us to exchange data with private entities and also individuals,” he said. “The movement behind this was not building everything ourselves but allowing creative businesses to leverage on this to build a better business model”, he noted.

Lim highlighted the potentials of this platform: “A creative startup or even an individual developer could now make use of this.

At the same time, maybe talk to the bank and integrate the bank API, and talk to real estate agents to integrate their API, and provide a seamless experience on their app”.

Citizens will get “a single, integrated experience because we provide different APIs for the different services to be consumed” - or what Lim calls “microservices".

“We are moving towards a very strong, modern approach to microservices, versus full deployment of huge government websites and huge government applications”, he said.

Innovation Labs World is a festival of public service innovation organised by GovInsider. It was held on 27 September in Singapore.