Operations New Era (ONE) -Transforming the Maintenance of State Land and Properties in Singapore
Singapore Land Authority (SLA) manages about 7,700ha of state land, 150 vacant state buildings and 10 offshore islands. Given the scale of work, which is exacerbated by declining manpower, SLA urgently needs to augment current operations with technology and its ONE digital ecosystem (ONE) does just that. ONE is a ground-up initiative to leverage drones, machine learning, geospatial technology, applications, etc. for a synergistic and holistic management of vacant state land and buildings.
SLA engages contractors to carry out routine maintenance works, such as pest control, housekeeping, grass-cutting, and other activities. Management of contractors to ensure delivery of quality maintenance services and traditional physical inspections by officers can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, especially on the offshore islands. There may also be site constraints and safety considerations, which limit the ability of our officers to conduct inspections in a comprehensive manner. ONE transforms the current manual and manpower intensive maintenance regime to one that harnesses technology for greater productivity, effectiveness and quality.
Real Time Awareness
Using ONE, instead of physical inspections, officers can manage contractors remotely in real time as they will be alerted to view contractor’s coverage and have the option to view the contractor “live” via the CCTV app. Upon works completion, a report can be retrieved instantly (Annex A).
In the management of offshore islands, officers use ONE to monitor utilities levels remotely (Annex B) instead of traveling to the various islands to sight water and diesel tanks levels. SLA also completed a trial on the offshore islands where a self-charging drone will fly automatically based on pre-determined schedule and flight paths without the need of a pilot to physically sight the drone flight on the ground (BVLOS flight). Using machine learning algorithm, potential maintenance issues can be automatically picked out for officers to follow up in real time (Annex C). While SLA is looking to implement technology on the offshore islands, poor wireless internet connectivity is currently hampering technology implementation. To enable usage of technology on the offshore island, SLA is currently testing the use of TV White Space (TVWS) technology for stable wireless connectivity.
Rapid response on the go
With ONE, officers are able to receive and respond to public feedback rapidly. At the same time, ONE helps officers make better decisions on the go as officer can easily retrieve key geospatial information, tools and best practice guides at the click of a button. Officers are also able to create reports of their inspections in a fuss-free, yet comprehensive manner that can be immediately sent to the relevant contractor for immediate follow-up (Annex D).
Detailed inspections for preventive State Building maintenance (e.g. former schools, hospitals, etc) are labour intensive and requires machineries such as boom lifts to access hard-to-reach areas.
ONE uses drones, machine learning algorithm and 3D photogrammetry where potential maintenance will be automatically flagged out in 3D models for follow up. This method is safer and helps to resolve potential maintenance issues at its infancy so that they do not snowball into issues of greater concerns (Annex E).
The ONE Masterplan (Annex F) details the upcoming plans for the system where SLA will transit into Artificial Intelligence (AI)-led predictive maintenance regime, and eventually to an era where robotics and automation will handle routine maintenance tasks such as grasscutting, housekeeping, etc.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
ONE transforms traditional manual- and manpower-intensive land, building and contractor management processes into an efficient and effective one by synergising the use of drones, machine learning, applications, IOTs, geospatial, BVLOS drone and TVWS technology.
Most innovations serve just a single aspect of the overall workscope but ONE is co-created with the end users to serve holistic end-to-end needs. Not only are needs holistically catered to, the various technologies used are integrated to provide the end users with a positive user experience.
Moreover, SLA has also considered how innovation can be sustained as it evolves over time and so have set out a comprehensive and flexible innovation framework to drive the future of the ONE digital ecosystem.
Given that management of land, building and contractors is an essential scope of work in any part of the world, the ONE digital ecosystem has the potential to make a big impact when applied on a larger scale.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The first iteration of ONE is in operation, where SLA constantly solicits ideas from end users and conceptualises them into business cases. Lessons from the various aspect of ONE are evaluated and translated to enhancements or developed as additional features in ONE.
From the stakeholder engagements, SLA has also set out a masterplan with detailed strategies to guide and prioritise future development of ONE based on the current needs and technological trends. The masterplan is kept simple to retain flexibility within the framework; it is also reviewed periodically for adjustments in line with changes in technology trends and operational needs.
At each stage of the masterplan, a detailed plan will be co-developed with the stakeholders to map out the details of development, done via workshops, focus groups, etc (Annex G). A steering committee made up of senior representatives from operational and technological stakeholders has also been set up to drive the current detailed plan.
Collaborations & Partnerships
SLA worked closely within its operational departments to co-create ONE. Inputs provided were instrumental in mapping out detailed future plans. They also proved invaluable during technology tests. GovTech, the government’s IT arm supporting the development and implementation of technologies across Singapore’s public sector, was also a key collaborator. SLA also worked with various system vendors and consultants, who in turn collaborated with GovTech, to define and refine different aspects of ONE
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Through the digitalisation of processes, one of the greatest beneficiaries of ONE are the contractors carrying out maintenance of State land and buildings. ONE enhances their productivity and quality of work, while cutting effort, time and manpower to compile reports for SLA’s review. ONE also supports the Singapore government’s drive to optimise manpower. Maintenance issues are detected and resolved earlier, and with less reliance on human intervention, equating to savings for the State.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
ONE saves SLA about 7,500 man-hours and $600K a year. These stem from reduction in both time needed to conduct detailed and routine inspections, and travelling time particularly to the offshore islands, reduction in rental and transportation of equipment costs, as well as savings due to early detection of maintenance issues. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used to collect comprehensive and consistent images of areas difficult to access (e.g. rooftops, building facades) eliminates safety risks to officers, while improving data quality. In the next iteration of ONE, predictive maintenance is estimated to reduce frequency of routine maintenance-related works, with officers focused on handling system-triggered work.
Further down the ONE masterplan, when robotics can take over routine maintenance works, officers can focus their attention on higher value work e.g. engagement with the public. Transmitting the usage of ONE along the government ecosystem could also reap further benefits.
Challenges and Failures
One challenge when it comes to using drones is ensuring conformity to airspace regulations. Presence of flight area limits within Singapore potentially challenges the scalability of drone operations. Another challenge is that robust wireless data connectivity is required for technology implementation on the offshore islands, however intermittent and poor connectivity presents a challenge in technology deployments. We are currently trialling the use of TV white space technology as an affordable and reliable solution for wireless data connectivity. Along the way, we also learnt the importance of user-centric designs and to design with the end users in mind. Investing time in user engagement and incorporating user feedback into the design and development of any application is important in ensuring that intended users use the products. Active user engagement has allowed the team to glean insights for continual refinement of the applications.
Conditions for Success
Leadership and Guidance: Strong leadership and guidance towards innovation is critical as it provides aligns and motivates the stakeholders to move towards a common objective. It also provides the clear vision, support and collective drive to sustain such innovations over the long term.
Human and Financial Resources: The initial conceptualisation and development of each innovation usually requires investment of human and financial resources. We are lucky that the management is willing to provide seed funding for testing of technology for us to access the feasibility of actual implementation and the availability of seed funding within government that to help get our projects off the ground.
Personal values and motivation: Setbacks and hurdles are often encountered when pushing the boundaries of innovation, hence, personal values and motivation is essential so that one can still find a way to deliver despite the constant and often unforeseeable setbacks and hurdle.
This initiative is highly replicable because many agencies and companies, in the public and private sector are required to manage land, buildings and/or contractors.
SLA believes that no innovation should be deemed unrealistic and be censored upfront as it may simply be that the time for such innovation has not arrived. However, the bigger and bolder the vision, the more complex it becomes. Hence, it is important that one should plan and execute the plan towards the grand vision in smaller phases and be prepared to make adjustments along the way. SLA also believes that innovation should be sustained over time, so the appropriate support structure to drive innovation needs to be in place so that there is a collective will and drive to push the boundaries over time.