Updated: Jul 23
Technology and automation have become significant players in the world we live in today. Automation has received both positive and negative feedback - some appreciate the work it can do, while others fear losing income due to being replaced by machinery. The key is to upskill our workers to handle more advanced tasks, and optimise resources for repetitive tasks that can be more efficiently handled with machinery. Here we take a look at some ways Singapore has used automation for the betterment of society.
1. NLB Automated Book Readers
Created by local company Senserbot, this Shelf-Reading Robot is the product of a collaboration between the National Library Board (NLB) and A*Star to tackle a frustrating problem: The issue of misplaced books and the hours of unnecessary labour wasted on rearranging them on a daily basis.
Previously, this had to be done manually and as you might imagine, it was extremely labour-intensive. The robot, however, is able to do it faster and with better accuracy. The Shelf-Reading Robot is able to scan the RFID tags in library books on the shelves, making sure that they are in the right place, and in the right order. The robot has reported to be able to do this with 99% accuracy, making it an excellent replacement.
Tampines Regional Library deploys two Shelf-Reading Robots and together, they can scan most of the library's collection in one night. The next morning, the system creates a report, indicating the misplaced books and their location, to help library staff manually replace the books without wasting time finding them. Not only does this keep the library neat and tidy, but it also helps patrons locate their book on the NLB app itself.
2. The Mobile Bookdrop
Patrons of the Tampines Regional Library would be familiar with the next robot. As its name suggests, this is a book drop that moves — specifically between the library's more popular entrance and its sorting area — giving patrons more convenience and flexibility in returning their books. Unlike a conventional bookdrop, the mobile one can only hold up to 150 books.
Once it is filled, it returns back to the sorting area where staff will be alerted to replace the bin inside with an empty one.
Sure, automation may have replaced manual labour, but in this case, automation has made the jobs of library staff much easier. These robots have transformed the library, from old musty places to fresh areas for learning and exploration.
The library is not the only place that has gotten a refresher from automation. SMRT has recently released robot cleaners at all Circle Line stations, and have enabled the upskilling of cleaning staff to operate said machines.
3. SMRT Cleaning robots
The robots are able to clean large floor areas up to 3 times faster than their human counterparts. This frees up cleaning staff to focus on other more demanding duties, while upskilling themselves with the management of technology and basic troubleshooting. This move to automation comes at a prime time, where the COVID-19 pandemic has brought greater appreciation for clean spaces. With manpower already a limited resource in Singapore, technology and automation are key players to optimise costs.
In addition to the cleaning robots, SMRT has plans to install smart panels and ammonia sensors in most of the MRT station toilets, so that cleaning resources can be optimally deployed rather than relying on a fixed schedule for staff. This system will alert staff when the toilets should be cleaned on a need basis instead.
Automation has been at the forefront of our progression as a society, and it's time we embrace the technological shift. By equipping ourselves with the necessary tools to properly utilise and enjoy the benefits of automation, society would be able to benefit greatly from higher skilled workers and higher productivity. Thank you for reading our article on How Automation Benefits Our Society. Have a good weekend!