From 12 to 14 June 2020, 370 teams comprising 1244 students from junior colleges, polytechnics and universities participated in “SCDF X IBM Lifesavers’ Innovation Challenge: Call For Code 2020”, a 48-hour virtual hackathon jointly organised
by SCDF and IBM.
The event was initially planned as a physical engagement that included SCDF’s immersion programme, IBM’s coding seminars and of course, the hackathon itself. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it became an online platform to ensure the
safety of the participants.
The teams of teenagers and young adults competed by leveraging technology and designing solutions to address future challenges relating to emergency response and civil defence in Singapore. They did so by utilising Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning
and Internet-of-Things capabilities from IBM’s cloud technology.
Ms Natasha Kwan, General Manager of Enterprise Public Sector, IBM Singapore [front row, left] and DC Teong How Hwa, Deputy Commissioner (Future Technology & Public Safety) [front row, right] with members of the champion team.
In July this year, the result of the hackathon was announced and a team of 5 students from the Singapore Management University (SMU) emerged as the champion, winning a cash prize of S$10,000 and USD$120,000 IBM cloud credits.
“We are very honoured to have won the competition. We feel that three things set us apart — our good mix of diverse skills and specialized knowledge, our creative and open mind, as well as our determination to succeed,” said Vinnie Chu,
Master of IT in Business (Analytics) at SMU.
“Most of us are in our senior year at the university, and we were on the lookout for opportunities to apply our skills and knowledge to solve real world problems using technology. Thus, when the competition was announced, it was a timely moment
for us and we signed up,” said Ong Yan Kai, team leader and a double major in Information Systems and Analytics at SMU, when asked about his motivation for taking part in the hackathon.
The team’s prototype, dubbed as Dr Watson, is a smart evacuation and rescue system that utilises building infrastructures such as embedded sensors to increase the efficiency and safety of emergency evacuation and rescue.
“During a fire emergency, panic can cause stampedes and choke points which could result in people
getting hurt or trapped. Moreover, during an evacuation, the lack of real time direction and unfamiliarity with the building layout could result in people entering unsafe zones, endangering their lives. Therefore, by tapping on existing smart infrastructures,
safe evacuation can be further streamlined by leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning,” said Patrick Lim, Master of IT in Business (Artificial Intelligence) at SMU.
Deputy Commissioner (Future Technology & Public Safety) Teong How Hwa highlighted that SCDF always has a strong culture to innovate and adapt. He cited the myResponder mobile app, which was launched in 2014, as an example where the Life Saving Force
has successfully leveraged technology to adapt and create meaningful solutions in emergency response and civil defence.
“We recognise that skills and knowledge that have served us well in the past may not be as effective in the next 10 or 20 years, as technology is advancing rapidly and challenges will constantly evolve,” said Deputy Commissioner Teong. “Hence
we need to tap on the technological expertise and creativity of those within and outside SCDF as much as possible. One of the ways is through this Innovation Challenge for we believe in engaging the public to co-create solutions with us.”