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Image credit: Changi Airport Group

Image credit: Changi Airport Group

Robotics, automation, sensors and data analytics to ease the work of cleaners in Singapore

The National Environment Agency (NEA) signed Letters of Intent (LOI) with seven INCUBATE partners today to officiate the beginning of a series of trials that will be carried out at partners’ premises over the next few years. INnovating and CUrating Better Automation and Technologies for Environmental Services (INCUBATE) embodies the partnership between the technology providers and services providers, premises owners, and the government, to collectively innovate and curate better technologies, solutions and innovations for the Environmental Services industry.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Mr. Masagos Zulkifli, and Mr. Albert Chua, Permanent Secretary of MEWR, as senior representatives from each partner organisation commemorated this partnership at the launch event of the Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map.

The list of organisations participating in the trial are: 1) Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART), Changi General Hospital; 2) Changi Airport Group; 2) City Developments Limited (a Singapore-listed international real estate operating company); 3) NTUC Club (the leisure and entertainment arm of the National Trades Union Congress, established in 1986 to provide affordable lifestyle options for union members and the public); 4) Robotics Automation Centre of Excellence (an industry initiative to drive industry 4.0 change within Singapore and Southeast Asia region); 5) Sports Hub; 6) The Esplanade (a non-profit performance arts venue).

Through this partnership, the various stakeholders for the private premises will be able to collaborate with NEA in identifying challenge statements of common interest in the areas of environmental services and conducting trials for technology, solutions and innovations to address challenge statements, along with studying the feasibility of wide-scale adoption in their respective premises.

The participating entities will share information with each other and learnings from the trials and execute viable technologies, solutions and innovations in their respective premises when ready.

One of the INCUBATE partners, the Changi Airport Group (CAG), has been using technology, automation and data analytics in their cleaning and waste management operations. For instance, CAG is testing customised ‘fill’ sensors in some of its litter bins in T3. The sensors will alert cleaning staff when the bins are full. CAG plans to retrofit 150 litter bins in T4 with these ‘fill’ sensors for the next stage of the trial. If successful, the deployment of such bins will shift the clearing of the litter bins from a scheduled approach to an on-demand one, freeing up cleaners’ time for other tasks.

Autonomous Cleaners are also being trialled at CAG. The autonomous cleaning equipment (ACE) is a hard floor scrubber which can clean up to 1,600 sqm/hr. It can avoid obstacles and map new floor areas quickly, to make it more deployable to all the terminals. To ensure safety and security during cleaning operations, the machine is equipped with real-time monitoring and 24/7 remote manning service. To-date, the trial has completed approximately 1,500 cleaning hours and covered 1,500,000 sqm of hard floor (equivalent to about 230 football fields).

The power-assisted janitor cart is being tested. It is a battery-operated housekeeping cart designed to replace the conventional manual one. The cart is battery-operated (speed of less than 5km/hr) to enhance the mobility of the cleaner. It reduces cleaners’ fatigue and enhances performance and productivity.

In addition, CAG is already using data analytics for toilet cleaning. An Instant Feedback System (IFS) in the form of a small wall-mounted screen at the exit of the toilets, it allows users to give feedback easily so that issues in the toilet can be addressed quickly. CAG collates the data from the IFS and analyses it to plan for service improvements.

Some other examples of the upcoming project opportunities are as follows:

Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology, Changi General Hospital

  • Use of assistive technology (For example, exoskeletons, to aid senior healthcare workers in the cleaning and waste management operations)
  • Use of robotics technology for autonomous or semi-autonomous cleaning, disinfection operations and building maintenance

City Developments Limited (CDL) (CDL will explore the above innovations and solutions for its retail and office buildings such as City Square Mall and Republic Plaza, as well as its Le Grove Serviced Apartments.)

  • Call for solutions for maintenance-related challenges such as autonomous facade cleaning
  • Pilot in-sink grinders and on-site food waste digesters in serviced apartments to recycle food waste into compost which can be used as fertiliser for plants in the landscape area
  • Implement an integrated facilities management approach to improve service delivery through smart monitoring, fault reporting and analytics
  • Deploy robotics such as autonomous scrubbers for hard floor cleaning to achieve manpower savings
  • Explore implementation of outcome-based contracting
  • Application of traffic and ammonia sensor systems in toilets for more effective housekeeping and enhanced user experience
  • Rodent monitoring system to reduce pest manifestation and improve hygiene
  • Anti-smell tiles for urinal area in toilets to enhance user experience

NTUC Club

  • Deploy autonomous scrubbers around Downtown East
  • Trial use of smart watches by partner service providers to evaluate trends and deploy manpower more efficiently
  • Explore the implementation of technology such as smart bins and food waste digester to increase productivity and reduce costs
  • Call for tender for outcome-based contracting

Sports Hub

  • Explore the use of autonomous scrubbers and smart bins
  • Call for solutions for maintenance-related challenges such as self-cleaning system for facade cleaning
  • Deploy sensors to enable a targeted and effective control of rodent population through data analytics

Robotics Automation Centre for Excellence

  • Explore collaboration with cleaning companies to adopt automation and cleaning solutions to be used within attractions and shopping malls
  • Train and upskill the cleaning companies’ staff to embrace the use of robotics and automation
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