Singapore and Chongqing firms ink 17 technology deals

– A Mandarin-speaking AI assistant for the elderly and an interactive platform touting Singapore's attractions to Chinese visitors on WeChat are among the products that could be launched as a result of tie-ups inked between Singapore and Chongqing companies.

A total of 17 memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed as part of the third annual Smart China Expo (SCE), which was held in a virtual format for the first time.

The conference and exhibition, which saw the participation of 32 Singapore companies and organisations, was streamed live on Tuesday using a dedicated data link between the south-western Chinese city Chongqing and Singapore that was launched last year.

Last year's edition was held in Chongqing, which is a strategic node of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“Covid-19 has made ‘going digital' central to everyday interaction. Like China and other economies, Singapore is keen to turn adversity into opportunity,” said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Tuesday during the event's opening ceremony.

“This is even as we explore the use of digital technologies to unlock new value and business models in every sector of our economy.”

Mrs Teo also pointed to the data link between Chongqing and Singapore, which is China's first point-to-point link with another country, as a key pillar of the two cities' shared commitment to be at the forefront of digital connectivity.

Among the MOUs signed on Tuesday was one between local technology company AFPI and Chongqing tech firm Listen Data Technology to build a smart elderly home care system powered by AI.

AFPI is building the as-yet unnamed device which will be able to understand voice commands in Mandarin such as “I need help” or “call my family”, while its Chongqing partner will help gather the large amounts of data, such as voice samples, that the device needs to do its work.

The device must be able to recognise different kinds of voices and intonation, for example.

“Our partner has all the contact points so that makes (collecting data) much easier than if we had to do it ourselves,” said AFPI senior vice-president for business development John Tan.

He added that AFPI is aiming to roll out its first devices within a year.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based technology start-up Fooyo is developing an interactive platform that will promote Singapore's tourist attractions to potential visitors from China.

Fooyo, which also has offices in Chongqing, is working with tourism companies TTG Asia Media and TriStar International Event Management.

The platform will sit on China's most popular messaging app WeChat, which has more than one billion active users.

Users can input their budget and intended length of stay into the platform, which will then generate a customised itinerary based on users' preferences.

There are also plans for the platform to serve as a channel for Singaporean businesses to sell their products to potential Chinese tourists, said Fooyo co-founder Liu Yangfan.

Mr Liu said the company is betting on China being one of the first countries to open cross-border travel with Singapore when the Covid-19 situation allows.

“With our platform, we're looking at and preparing for the potential resumption of travel after Covid-19.”

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