Robot swans to measure water quality in Singapore

singapore swan robots measure water quality on resevoirs

Robotic swans are being deployed in Singapore’s reservoirs to provide real-time assessments of water quality. The project is the culmination of work by the city state’s national water agency and the National University of Singapore.

Despite the best efforts of conscientious scientists, not all IoT solutions blend into their environments. Technology and utility tend to be prioritized over aesthetics. Unless you live or work near Singapore’s Marina, Punggol, Serangoon, Pandan and Kranji reservoirs, that is.

A joint project involving national water agency PUB, the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Environmental Research Institute and the Tropical Marine Science Institute aims to gather data in a less conspicuous manner.

Read more: 100,000 IoT sensors line canal in China’s ambitious water diversion project

An elegant IoT solution

Designing a robotic swan that’s convincing to the human eye – albeit from a distance – is one thing. But the team behind the project has also fit each swan with all the tools it needs to move around reservoirs and sample water quality.

Using wireless technology, each swan is able to transmit live results to PUB, removing the need for teams to be sent out to take samples manually.

According to Channel News Asia, the SWAN project (Smart Water Assessment Network) will be used to monitor the City State’s fresh water pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll. All of these elements are used to determine the overall water quality.

Professor Mandar Chitre a member of the team behind SWAN from the National University of Singapore, said, “we started with a number of smaller bird models before we decided on the swan. It’s just the right size. If you look at it in the environment, it looks just like a swan swimming around.”

Read more: Underwater Antarctic robot Icefin prepares for Jupiter mission

Water-based robots combine with IoT once again

This is not the first time that scientists have looked to the natural world for inspiration when designing robots for use in water.

Last year, a similar project from EPFL in Switzerland developed a robotic eel to report on the water quality in Lake Geneva. Unlike the SWAN project, EPFL’s Envirobot was designed to mimic the movement of its real-life equivalent. But both have provided researchers with a way to measure water quality remotely.

With the addition of more data points and increased autonomy, it may not be long before more of these robots are spotted roaming our rivers, reservoirs and oceans.

Read more: Singapore companies settle on Sigfox for smart rodent control

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Internet of Business

Uber’s deal with a cab firm in Singapore helps the company offload the costs of owning cars

Uber has agreed to create a joint venture that merges its car-leasing subsidiary with major taxi firm ComfortDelGro.

Uber has sold a majority stake in its Singaporean car-leasing subsidiary to cab firm ComfortDelGro. As part of the deal, the two companies have created a joint venture — valued at $ 474 million — which ComfortDelGro will control with its 51 percent stake.

Uber will own the rest of the car-leasing company, called Lion City Rentals, while ComfortDelGro will take over operations and maintenance of the 14,000 cars that were once on the ride-hail player’s balance sheet.

That’s a big deal for Uber, which is eyeing a 2019 IPO.

The $ 69 billion ride-hail company saw its losses jump nearly 40 percent to $ 1.46 billion in the third quarter of 2017, and it doesn’t expect to be profitable in some of its major markets, including Southeast Asia, for at least another six months. Cutting down on losses has been a major focus for newly minted CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, as it was for predecessor Travis Kalanick.

That’s partly what led to the company’s decision in November to merge its Russia business with local competitor Yandex.

Southeast Asia, by Khosrowshahi’s own admission, is not an easy market to crack.

“The economics of that market are not what we want them to be,” Khosrowshahi recently said. “I think it’s over-capitalized at this point. We’re going in, and we’re leaning forward. But I‘m not optimistic that market is going to be profitable any time soon.”

The difficulty of facing off against a strong competitor, Grab, has been compounded by the high cost of car ownership in the region. That has made it harder for Uber to translate its model of turning casual drivers into commercial ones, especially now that Singapore has put a freeze on private car ownership.

Uber’s initial value proposition for investors was its low overhead, but in places like Singapore and India, the company had to take on the costs of owning and leasing cars in order to maintain or increase supply.

Now, under the chief business officer of Uber’s Asia operations, Brooks Entwistle, the company is shifting its strategy.

Not only is Uber offloading the costs of operating these cars in Singapore, but the company will have exclusive access to Comfort’s approximately 15,000 cabs and expects to strike more partnerships with cab companies in the future.

That’s counter to how Uber has operated since its inception. The company has historically leveraged public dissatisfaction with the safety and efficiency of cabs to attract new riders.

But places like Singapore have a robust and often reliable taxi industry, and it makes more sense for the ride-hail company to partner with the cab companies. That’s partly why Uber competitor Grab, formerly known as GrabTaxi, started off as a taxi-hailing app and continues to work with a number of cab companies in Singapore, except for Comfort.

Still, running a leasing company hasn’t been without its problems.

Lion City Rentals and Uber recently faced a firestorm of criticism when a car under lease caught fire. As the Wall Street Journal revealed, the company knowingly rented out cars that were under manufacturer recall due to an electrical component that could overheat and catch fire.


Recode – All

Razer Phone arrives in Asia, Singapore gets it first

After the US, UK, and a few other western markets, the Razer Phone is now available in Asia, with Singapore becoming the first market on the continent to get it. Pre-orders for the device are now live in the country through Singtel, with the window closing on November 26. Razer’s CEO had the following to say about it : “while we founded Razer in California, US, I’m a Singaporean still and I’m very excited to make Singapore the first country in Asia to release the Razer Phone.” First 200 pre-orders will get free Razer Hammerhead Bluetooth headset (worth $ 169). There’s no clarity on…

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Google Assistant now supports Singapore English on phones

Google Assistant’s language support between different platforms is a confusing mess that I won’t pretend to be able to understand, but the good news is that over the past year, more languages and variants have been added. We’ve seen Spanish and Italian recently, but today’s addition is different: Assistant on phones should now work in Singapore English.

So if you live in Singapore and have set your phone to Singapore English as a language, you should start seeing Assistant soon (already?) when you tap and hold the home button on your phones, instead of the Google Now on Tap / Screen Search that was before it.

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Google Assistant now supports Singapore English on phones was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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