How MINDEF Singapore is using technology to enhance quality and ability of soldiers

How MINDEF Singapore is using technology to enhance quality and ability of soldiers

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is leveraging wearable
technology and data analytics to deliver targeted and effective training for its

This was among the initiatives mentioned
by Second Minister for Defence Mr Ong Ye Kung during the Defence Committee
of Supply (COS) Debate in the Singapore Parliament on 2 March, where technology
is being used to prepare more effective and capable servicemen

Second Minister Ong highlighted the challenge of falling
cohort sizes and a shrinking enlistment pool and said, “The future capability
and effectiveness of the SAF will not be based on the number and quantity of
people we have, instead it will be based on their quality and their ability.”

Targeted training using wearables and data analytics

Today wearable technologies can be used to capture physiological
information such as heart rate, body temperature, calories consumed and
physical activity levels (such as distance travelled, speed and altitude). Through
data analytics, the soldiers’ physiological data can be analysed to gain new
insights into training effectiveness, human performance and injury prevention. Applications
can be loaded onto the wearables to translate real-time findings into prompts
and alerts, allowing soldiers to manage their training independently.

The new Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP)
is adopting this kind of a scientific, data-driven approach to optimise the
performance of every soldier. It uses wearables and data to better understand
each individual soldier's physiological condition, and then prescribe more
effective and progressive training, while minimising the risk of acute injury.
The training can also be customised to what the soldier is supposed to do, the
vocation and the task.

The CESP will be launching
a multi-phase project to introduce wearable devices and data-driven approaches
into training. The first phase which will kick during 2018, involves an
observational study to examine the correlation between training, performance
and injury risk in a small group of approximately 150 soldiers. Based on the
insights gained, the CESP will assess the utility of extending wearable devices
to other training schools and units.

Data-Driven Training Management System/ Credit: MINDEF Singapore (

MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) is also starting a pilot on the
use of wearable technology at SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) Fitness Conditioning
Centres and SAFRA

This will allow NSmen (National Servicemen) to choose the
type of exercise they prefer or need – cycling, running, weights, interval
training – instead of adhering strictly to the SAF-conducted IPPT (Individual
Physical Proficiency Test) Preparatory Training, or IPT regime. When NSmen
clock their IPT sessions using the fitness wearables at the FCCs and SAFRA
gyms, the data that is stored on the device will be used to register for the
IPT session using online fitness applications. As long as they achieve the
required calories and intensity, it will be considered a valid IPT session.

In the next trial phase, digital identification technologies
will be used to tag the device to the individual NSman so that they can be
registered automatically for their IPT sessions via online fitness applications
at all FCCs and more gym locations, increasing the flexibility of fitness
training for our NSmen.

Reviewing vocation

Technology is also allowing MINDEF to review vocation
requirements, because a firm line can no longer be drawn between combat-fit and

For example, the personnel operating autonomous systems in
the control room are in combat, even though they are not physically exerting.

“So many more servicemen can now perform what could have
only been done by servicemen who used to have to meet the most stringent
physical requirements. For example, physical requirements and demands for
vocations such as combat engineers and security troopers are now much less as
we leverage technology,” said Second Minister Ong.

This has opened up opportunities for MINDEF to deploy
national servicemen more meaningfully according to their fitness and abilities.
Since last year, the SAF has deployed more than 600 servicemen to vocations
that they were previously ineligible for. This number is expected to rise.

MINDEF is also leveraging NSFs' (National Servicemen
Full-time) talent in niche areas, such as cybersecurity through the Cyber NSF
Scheme announced
two weeks ago. The scheme aims to develop committed and skilled Cyber NSFs to
defend Singapore’s military networks. The scheme has been launched as a pilot
trial for those enlisting in the later part of this year.

The Minister said that there has been an overwhelmingly
positive response since the Scheme was announced, with numerous pre-enlistees
writing in to express interest. The applicants will be put through a rigorous
selection test on their skills and their aptitudes.

Saving manpower and
improving the National Service experience

MINDEF is also
deploying technologies that can reduce the demand on manpower, while maintaining
or enhancing operational effectiveness.

An example is Smart naval bases, which use a next generation
screening system, incorporating technologies such as biometric authentication,
facial recognition, and automated threat analysis system. These improvements
will reduce the number of security personnel required in the naval bases by 70%.

Besides enabling manpower savings, MINDEF is also using
technology to make NS a better experience, and raise morale.

Last year, an e-fitting system was introduced at Central
Manpower Base (CMPB). Previously, pre-enlistees had to go through the tedious
process of measuring all their body dimensions manually. This is now done by
infra-red body and foot scanners, to quickly and accurately fit pre-enlistees
to their uniforms and sports shoes. The e-fitting system has also successfully
reduced kit exchanges at BMTC from 20% to 6%.

MINDEF is embarking on trial to further enhance the
experience at CMPB. It is looking to optimise visitor flow and shorten waiting
times by using facial recognition and real-time queue management technology.

Another innovation is an AI-enabled chatbot called "NS
Buddy". At any time of the day, the servicemen can ask question to the NS

“For example, he can ask “What is BTP?” The Buddy will then
explain that it stands for Basic Train-fire Package, and it will present the
facts, and then also give him advice to say "aim properly. Don't be a bobo
shooter. Safety First!””, Mr Ong explained.

In the next phase of the trial, the NS Buddy will be further
enhannced, expanding its content base and adding more SAF lexicons.