Dr John Kan Chief Information Officer of A*STAR (Agency for Science Technology and Research)

Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) Technology Projects

CXO THOUGHTS
CIO1-e1556279917593 Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) Technology Projects
Dr. John Kan, Chief Information Officer of A*STAR (Agency for Science Technology and Research)

The Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore’s lead public sector agency that drives mission-oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, we collaborate with our partners in both the public and private sectors to bring science and technology to benefit the economy and society.

FIST has successfully deployed the below projects, as part of Digital Transformation initiatives, and also for improving the productivity of staff. These technologies can be adopted for other organisations too.

Digital eWallet (DEW)

ITSS has successfully rolled out the new DEW in Fusionopolis One, the latest FIST project piloted by ITSS since September 2018. Staff in Fusionopolis One can now use their personal mobile devices, such as smartphones and selected smartwatches as a “Security Pass” to access their offices in Fusionopolis One.

The DEW system eliminates the need for physical card access management in the long term for A*STAR and JTC. It provides immediate convenience to users by giving them fewer items to carry, while allowing long read range access (Bluetooth). This also allows easy reporting, disabling and replacement of digital keys in the event of loss or theft of mobile devices. It also holds great potential for future service access control integration with other Corporate IT Services, such as Multi-Function Copiers (MFC) access across Whole of A*STAR (WOA).

CIO1-e1556279917593 Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) Technology Projects

Mobile App Claims Processing (MACP)

 In line with improving staff productivity in filing claims, ITSS’ FIST team has introduced the Mobile App for Claims Processing (MACP).

The MACP was developed to overcome the cumbersome limitations of the current ESS Portal and Fiori claims process, which requires both VPN and SAP authentications each time a claim is made. The MACP only requires a one-time registration of SAP ID and Mobile number, which greatly simplifies the staff claim processing.

The simplified entertainment claim process provides convenience to senior management on claim submissions and reducing the backend claim processing time. This further improves staff productivity with savings in time and cost, which aligns with current A*STAR ‘Go-Green Environment’ initiatives.

Staff can submit the Snap and Send entertainment claims using their mobile devices in 4simple steps, without needing to scan the receipt and manually attach them in the A*SAP system.

CIO1-e1556279917593 Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) Technology Projects

Virtual Receptionist System

Did you know that visitors’ inquiries can be attended remotely using the iPad’s video call features?

A*STAR has implemented an interactive real-time multimedia Virtual Receptionist system, which has been introduced at Fusionopolis and Biopolis to replace, reduce and ease the physical receptionist’s duties across A*STAR’s campus at One North.

Visitors can now call through the Virtual receptionist, and a high-definition video and voice call will be initiated to the receptionist or host directly, without any assistance from the officer-in-charge.  This system also allows remote management of unmanned lift lobbies to provide a better 2-way communication experience for visitors, who may have ended up at the wrong building/floor or the wrong timing for meetings with A*STAR’s staff.

CIO1-e1556279917593 Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) Technology Projects

FormsFlow System for ASTAR

A*STAR management recognizes that all departments are facing the issue of manually approving multiple forms every day. Significant time has been spent on capturing data information of various forms on the online system for storing and archival purposes. Hence, the management is keen to reduce the printing and paper consumption in the workplace, and thus are working towards a green environment and improve staff productivity.

There are many manual form approval routings within the departments of Corporate Groups whereby forms are done in hard copies, making it difficult to keep track of the whereabouts of the forms as well as who is the rightful approver of the form. If left unaddressed, processes will be delayed, leading to significant time loss from redoing the forms and administrative issues (eg. Forms not signed in time for processing).

This project on Automation and Digitalisation is part of A*STAR’s “Paperlite” initiative, which seeks to promote the digitization of workflow improvements and incorporate OCR-RPA technologies in the process.

FormsFlow is an existing system that some Finance users have been already using it. Together with Admin as the business owner, ITSS has worked with the various Corp Groups departments to identify the common forms and adopt them via the FormsFlow System to transform their manual routing and approval process online.

There was a challenge in introducing FormsFlow system to all departments since forms came with the different approval process. The approving staff had to verify the manual signatures on hard copies. These issues were addressed by streamlining to the necessary approval.

Impact of FormsFlow:

  • Electronic routing of forms – Reduces paper handling and manual routing; eliminates errors and reduces the lifecycle of document, content and forms processing.
  • Audit trail – Electronic workflows effortlessly create audit trails at every step in a process by automatically attaching information such as date, time, owner, and other data to each completed field
  • Real-time status tracking updates by both requestor and approver via system dashboard

Benefits:

  • Central repository of all forms digitally for easy retrieval and processing.
  • Accessing the forms from anywhere, on any device.
  • Support Audit trails of the approval history.
  • Automation &Digitalisation (eg. “FormFlow”), as part of our A*STAR “Paperlite” initiative.
  • Initiative on Green Environment
  • Improvement of staff productivity: Save manpower, time, cost, paper, etc

Efficiency gain:

  • For forms that require 2 to 3 approvals, there is a 50% efficiency gain.  A reduction from 2 days to 1 day or less with Forms flow has been observed.
  • For forms that require 4 to 10 approvals, there is a 40% efficiency gain.  A reduction from 5 days to 3 days or less with Forms flow.

A*STAR Board Room Enhancements

A*STAR Boardroom (FP1, Level 21) has gone through several tech-refresh initiatives to provide an enhanced boardroom experience for A*STAR senior management and visitors. The boardroom is equipped with a Virtual Receptionist (VR) device that is powered by Cisco Jabber to provide staff/visitors with self-service help when performing A*STAR staff contact lookup on-demand. This has greatly reduced the need for human intervention when looking for staff, thus increasing work productivity. The boardroom has also been retrofitted with high-speed Cisco IEEE 802.11ac dual band (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) wireless Access Point, with maximum data throughput of close to 2.6Gbps for last mile access. The high-speed wireless access is intra-connected to the internal EXANET at 10Gbps, which caters to large scientific data transfers across the whole of A*STAR’s entities.

A Cisco Webex Board was also deployed, allowing meeting attendees to wirelessly present, use a whiteboard, engage in video or audio conferences, and even annotate shared content. To further enhance the multi-user wireless presentation experience, Future Info-Comm System Team (FIST) is conducting a new trial based on Mersive Technologies Inc. –  SolsticePod that allows for any number of connected users to share unlimited content, including streaming device screens, videos, individual application windows, and web content, while bridging them all into meetings seamlessly. Currently, the FIST team is also working with Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC)to plan for the implementation of remote video streaming between ARTC and L21 Boardroom.

 The FIST team is also exploring the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools including installing Amazon Echo.Dot as well as Google Home appliances in the L21 Boardroom which provides just-in-time answers to common queries related to A*STAR on demand. Future enhancements will target to further integrate Echo.Dot/Google Home with Boardroom AV / Room Facilities for voice activated boardroom meeting management.