The Home Team Science & Technology Exhibition & Conference for Homeland Security (SciTECHS) - Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for

Published: 10 July 2017



Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary for Science & Technology Mr William Bryan, colleagues, friends and partners, good morning. I am happy to be here with you to open SciTECHs.


Science and Technology (S&T) provides opportunities and challenges for the Home Team (HT). We really need to harness S&T for us to be effective in meeting the future challenges. We have good strong industry partnerships, and that is one of the ways in which we can help our continued strong focus on S&T. Therefore I think it is really important for us to have organised this dedicated S&T exhibition and conference. It showcases this conference, the journey that we have travelled, what we have achieved and also where S&T can take us to the future. It is a celebration of excellence in S&T in the HT and it is a celebration of 10 years of close, good and excellent cooperation between the HT and our very important S&T partner, the US Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology or US DHS S&T.




We are fortunate and honoured to have the US DHS S&T as a key and trusted international partner. Such an international partnership has been essential for our S&T journey and development. Our close relationship with the US, and other international partnerships as well, give us a deeper knowledge of S&T development outside of Singapore. They give a greater reach in our evaluation, development and test-bedding of technologies, and also critically, we can benchmark our technologies against the best in the world. That is true of our partnership with DHS. DHS has contributed significantly to the Home Team's S&T journey over the past 10 years. They have shared information, expertise and technologies with us. We have collaborated in trials and developed capabilities together. It has helped us to push our S&T frontiers in many areas – border security, infrastructure protection, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) detection and response and in human factors, which has become quite critical. I will share two examples.


The first is the Sentinel Puffer Portal. This is an example of an early collaboration with DHS and ourselves. Travellers who go through our land and sea checkpoints will be familiar with this. It is a walk-through screening system. You walk through and it releases gentle puffs of air, dislodges particles on clothing and human bodies and it can detect trace amounts of explosives and narcotics. It is a straightforward concept, makes a lot of sense. Less manpower is required, it is less intrusive to travellers than physical pat-downs and effective in detecting even very small quantities of the material that we are looking for. The idea is simple, but implementing the technology at our checkpoints was not a simple task. DHS worked with MHA. There was a one-month trial conducted in Singapore. The then-Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff himself came down. It showed the emphasis that DHS placed on the cooperation, that they took this seriously. They helped us evaluate and calibrate the system, based on leading technologies which DHS shared with us. This again showed the high level of trust between both sides that they were prepared to share this with us. Since then, the Sentinel Puffer Portal has worked very well for us. It is deployed effectively at all our land and sea checkpoints. So we thank DHS for that.


Last year we collaborated with DHS on the Radiological Multisensor Analysis Platform system. Essentially it is a vehicle, a prototype with advanced radiological sensors integrated with 3D-mapping technology. As the vehicle moves, it allows radioactive threats in the environment to be detected and shown on a "real-time street view". We used this vehicle to test at sea and land checkpoints. The system was able to screen passenger vehicles and cargo containers, and conduct searches for threats in urban areas. It has, in our view, the potential to become an extremely valuable tool to counter nuclear smuggling and terrorism.


There are many other examples of successful collaboration between the HT and the US DHS S&T. We really appreciate the 10 years of work with DHS and we look forward to continuing this excellent partnership, and likewise our many other partnerships. A number of them offer a lot of promise and we intend to cooperate, collaborate and work with our international partners because we see that as extremely important.




With the support of our partners, the Home Team has come a long way in the S&T journey. To continue to keep Singapore safe, to deal with the threats effectively, we will need to:

  •  "See First, See More" – it gives you better detection and situational awareness;
  • "Understand Faster and Better" – which means improved analytical ability; and
  • "Decide Faster and Act Effectively" – which means stronger operational capabilities.


It is going to require a quantum leap. S&T is the essential means of taking that quantum leap. So we have introduced the HT S&T Excellence Awards to recognise, promote and spur excellence in S&T in the HT. Let me highlight two winning projects to illustrate how it can contribute to an effective and efficient HT.


First , the Home Team Laboratory Network. This network of labs across our checkpoints play a critical role in dealing with two of our most serious threats – drugs and terrorism. These labs give us the capability to quickly and accurately detect an entire spectrum of CBRNE[1] threats, and conduct speedy accurate investigations based on very advanced forensic methods. And that helps us to respond decisively in the event of a terrorist attack. The labs also allow us to detect and analyse a wide range of narcotics, including New Psychotropic Substances (NPS), and this is a key capability in our war against drugs.


Second, ABBSS (Automated Biometric and Behavioural Screening Suite). It encompasses a state-of-the-art video analytics system. It can perform real-time facial recognition and cross-reference that against a large database. It can search recorded footages based on multiple parameters such as colour, size, shape, number plate, speed and direction of a moving object.


This is an in-house Ministry capability customised to our needs. If you visit any S&T security conference, you will find these sorts of things available commercially off-the-shelf. But then we found that the commercial systems don't work in the way we want them to. So we had to take some of it and customise it.


We have the busiest land border in the world between Malaysia and Singapore, a few hundred thousand people crossing every day. We have 50 million passengers through our airport, total 200 million passengers going through our systems. And the system has got to work. So we have customised it.


We have deployed this system at Woodlands Checkpoint. It has enhanced our capabilities. It has allowed us to identify many blacklisted travellers and really boosted the efficiency and effectiveness of our border security operations.


These are just two projects. They show how there is a direct linkage with S&T, the way we work and our security. We are going to need more of these. We are going to look and put in a lot more investments into this area.




These sorts of projects highlight the need for the HT to develop its own deep science and engineering skills. There are many cutting-edge technologies available on the market that can be used by the Home Team. But you need people who can understand and see how they can be customised and operationalised.


We will recognise the contributions of our HT S&T specialists at the inaugural HT S&T Excellence Awards that will be presented on Thursday. There are many others aside from the award recipients who have done well. Our S&T specialists are working on exciting, game-changing projects as part of the Home Team Transformation. One example is the Advance Passenger In-Car Screening (APICS) system. A prototype is available in the exhibition. That is just the beginning.




There is a clear sense of a journey, moving somewhere with vibrancy and energy within the Home Team, within the S&T sphere. We congratulate the opening of this conference.  I look forward to the continued good work of our scientists, engineers, and our partners, including DHS.


Thank you.


[1] Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive


Science and Technology
Managing Security Threats